How to get started with hiking
Keeping fit while admiring Ireland's natural beauty
Hiking allows you to get into nature while keeping fit at the same time. We’re lucky to live in Ireland which is home to some of the most beautiful hills and mountains around. To start off with, and based on your fitness, you may like to begin with some of the easier walks and trails, before tackling some of the more strenuous hikes. There are plenty of options out there, and whether it's rain or shine, so long as you have the right equipment, you can hike in any weather.
Trying to decide where to start? Here's a list of some of the best places to hike in Ireland.
Why start hiking?
Some of the benefits to hiking include:
- Getting outdoors and breathing in fresh air
- Spending time in nature
- Boosting your mood
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Improved cardio-respiratory fitness (heart, lungs, blood vessels)
- Improved muscular fitness
- The opportunity to explore new places
There are so many reasons why hiking can be good for you. You will discover the benefits yourself once you get out there and go on your first hike.
How to get started
Getting started with hiking can be pretty simple - just get out to a trail and start walking. However, there are some things you can do to ease yourself into the activity and make sure you're prepared.
Start off on the easy trail and work your way up
It might be tempting to pick the more challenging trail, especially if you think this will be more rewarding. If you're new to hiking, start off on one of the less strenuous trails. Completing this trail will be just as rewarding for you as a more difficult one, and it will give you an opportunity to get used to hiking. Every hiking trail will have something worth seeing, and even if it's a short one, you can make it last longer by taking your time to appreciate your surroundings as you work your way through.
As you get used to hiking, you can start to move up to the more difficult trails. No matter what trail you do, take your time. This isn't a race, it's a chance to enjoy being out in nature.
Bring a hiking buddy
It's always best if you can take someone with you on your hike. They will keep you company, give you some encouragement on the more difficult parts, and can be someone to share the experience with. It's also good to have someone with you in case anything goes wrong. If you twist an ankle, your phone dies and you're not sure where you are, or you need assistance, having someone with you means there's always someone there to help.
Know before you go
Take time before you go to find out about the trail. Here are some things to find out:
- If there are maps available in the area
- If the trails clearly marked
- Which trail you want to do
- Where the facilities such as toilets are (if any)
- How to get there and how to get home
- If there are opening and closing times in parks
- If dogs are allowed, and if they must be kept on a leash
Being prepared means you know what to expect when you get there and you won't be caught by surprise.
Always check the weather
Keep an eye on the weather in the days running up to your hike, and even check again on the day. Irish weather can be unpredictable, and you want to sure you have everything you need.
Wear the right clothes
It's incredibly important that you're dressed for the activity. A pair of converse or vans are not ideal for a hike. If you can, get a pair of hiking boots (you can sometimes get affordable options in Aldi or Lidl), or wear proper walking shoes or runners with the right support and non-slip soles.
If the weather is warm, wear light, breathable clothes. Long trousers are better than shorts because they help to avoid bug bites, but if you want to wear shorts, make sure to put on bug repellant. If it's wet, bring a good waterproof jacket. Check the weather and be prepared for any type of weather.
Always clean up after yourself
Respect the environment and your surroundings and always clean up after yourself on a hike. If you bring a picnic, make sure to pack up everything you used. If you have rubbish, put it in your bag until you find a bin or bring it home. There may not be people around to clean up after you, and leaving rubbish behind ruins the experience for other hikers.
What do I need to go on a hike?
Here are some items that are essential for every hike:
- Good walking shoes or hiking boots, preferably waterproof
- A backpack
- Plenty of water (bring two bottles if you can)
- Bug spray
- A waterproof jacket or poncho
- A fully charged phone
- A map of the area, either on your phone or printed out
Try not to load your bag up with too many unnecessary items. This list may seem like a lot, but try to keep it as light as you can.