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Hill Walking in Ireland

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Hillwalking in Ireland

Ireland is one big playground for enthusiastic hillwalkers. Not only is there is a path or track suitable for all walking abilities, there is also a shade of green to please every eye. From Mizen Head to Malin Head, Belmullet to Hook Head there are a multitude of options to hillwalkers; in fact, 678 walking routes are available to you across the country.

Walking Cork

Cork is a walkers’ paradise. The river Lee splits in two channels, north and south, to cradle the island of the city. The north and south channels join again at the docks. Both the historic and modern aspects of the city blend seamlessly together. Following the river to its source in the mountains out at Gouganebarra will bring you across the county to the stunning scenery that is West Cork. In my humble opinion, Cork is the most beautiful county in all of Ireland.

The Beara Peninsula in West Cork is the most popular walking path in the west of the county. The Beara Way is a part of the Breifne Beara Way. It incorporatesleevalleyireland.jpgthe historic march route of O’Sullivan Beara’s clan and army in 1603. The scenic walk shows magnificent panoramic views of both Bantry Bay and Kenmare Bay. The route winds through Castletownbere, Glengariff and Kenmare with access to Dursey and Bere Islands. A cable car connects Dursey Island to the mainland, while a ferry crossing takes you to Bere Island.

Hillwalking Clubs

Many towns have their own hillwalking group or club. These are affiliated with Mountaineering Ireland. The priorities of every walking expedition are enjoyment and safety. Groups and clubs have a season itinerary they follow. Perhaps they start on the east coast and choose tracks that lead them westwards. Others opt to alternate the tracks according to the walkers’ degree of fitness; one weekend would see a ‘B’ grade track and the following outing might be an ‘A’ level route. The ‘B’ level would be for the leisure walkers with a lower grade of fitness. The ‘A’ level route are for the high fitness walkers. The main thing is to be honest with yourself and the group leader about your fitness. This will ensure your enjoyment of the walk and your safety on the route.

In case of emergency

In the case of emergency, the skills of the Irish Coast Guard will be called upon. To read more about this skilled units, see February’s blog post. They work in tandem with both the Mountain Rescue Teams (MRTs) and the Irish Lifeboats (RNLI). Mountain Rescue Teams are all voluntary units that receive funding for training and equipment from the Irish Coast Guard(IRCG).

To help prevent emergencies, the hillwalker, has to be adequately prepared and kitted out. Every hillwalker needs good walking boots and socks, light trousers and two tops. Wear breathable base layers that dry quickly, unlike cotton. The boots need to be worn a few times before their maiden hill walk. Thick boot socks will be the saviour of feet as they are thicker to help prevent painful blisters. Rainwear and backpack are the next items on the list. Rainwear – need I say anymore? The backpack needs to be water proof or to contain a bag-liner.

Backpack essentials

  • gloves and hat
  • extra fleece top
  • blister plasters
  • spare socks
  • medication
  • lunch – a sandwich, fruit and chocolate
  • two litres of water – at least
  • a flask of hot drink
  • basic first aid kit
  • head-torch
  • emergency rations – just in case…
  • whistle
  • plastic bag

The plastic bag is to hold any wet items, such as socks. Bonus extras are non-essential to some people or sometimes it will depend on the route of the walk. These include walking poles, camera and gaiters. It is advisable to bring a change of clothes and stow them in the car while you enjoy your walk.

Happy walking!

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  • caitriona@leevalley.ie (caitriona hurley)
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