What To Wear When Hiking

Here is some advice on what you should wear when hiking in the West of Ireland. Note that the main weather characteristics of this corner of the world are that we have a lot of rain, quite a bit of wind, not very hot temperatures and not very extreme conditions either (rarely below 0 Celsius, unless you’re climbing mountains in winter, where you’ll suffer wind chill factor, but rarely any snow worth talking about).

From the point of view of terrain, much of the far west of Ireland (especially west Mayo) is covered in blanket bog, with pools and puddles on the waterlogged ground, much of it hidden under sphagnum moss clumps. Apart from bog, we have (mostly) limestone rocks jutting from the ground all around, perhaps most famously in our scree covered mountain slopes, from about 400 – 500 m altitude up.

So, let’s go from the feet upwards.

1. Hiking boots – This is essential kit. Get ankle high, waterproof hiking boots. Buy a pair that is at least one half to one full size too big for you, so you can wear two pairs of good socks and feel nice, comfortable and secure within. I wear Meindl.

2. Hiking socks – Do not try to wear your regular socks, no matter how thick you might think they are. I have tried and continue to use a wide variety of hiking socks inside my boots. I have absolutely no preference between synthetic and wool, nor between twin- and single-layer. I use all the pairs I have interchangeably. The only criterion for me is that they are thick and comfortable. What I do is wear a relatively short inner pair and an outer pair that are as long as possible, so I can pull them up to my knees if feeling cold, or fold back down as required.

If you have a stronger opinion on socks, I’d love to hear it!

2 bis. Gaitors – Forget about them. I had a pair, but gave up wearing them. They just annoyed me. Mind you, others swear by them.

3. Waterproof pants – I use a pair with a membrane, from The North Face, called HyVent. The pants are 100% nylon on the outside and the inner mesh (membrane) is 100% polyester. They’re brilliant in rain and wind, but truly terrible in dry, warm weather when you’re hiking up a hill, because your thighs get ‘stuck’ with each step. I made that mistake just once. In good weather, I just wear a pair of O’Neill’s GAA tracksuit legs, in 50% polyester, 50% nylon.

4. T-shirts – Definitely do not choose cotton, or indeed polycotton. Why ? They take in your sweat and the rain and hold on to them jealously. Cotton takes much too long to dry out and leaves you cold and wet, especially when the wind strikes. Wear 100% nylon or 100% polyester tees. They dry out quickly. I wear a light Regatta or a heavier O’Neill’s GAA t-shirt, both in 100% polyester.

The trick is to bring more than one t-shirt, perhaps including one that has long sleeves, and to peel them off or put them back on, depending on conditions. Wear the long-sleeved one under the short-sleeved others, if you think you’re going to be cold. That way, you can peel off, without having to go bare chested as you do so.

5. Sleeveless Softshell – I wear a Regatta 100% polyester fleece-type soft shell. As opposed to the boots, earlier, this should be a snug fit, so that when zipped up, it really does give you warmth. It’s sleeveless, because it doesn’t restrict movement and you can always allow for this by bringing along a long-sleeved t-shirt or sports jersey. Personally, I never feel the cold on my arms, so this one is perfect.

6. Waterproof Jacket – Not quite as critical as the boots, but good to have. Getting wet on the chest and back is not as bad as in the feet, in my opinion. Anyway, I have a good 100% nylon outer, 100% polyester inner mesh (membrane) from O’Neill’s. It’s no Berghaus, The North Face or Regatta, but it’s good enough for me.

7. Hats and Gloves – Woolly hats are best for warmth, but they do get wet. Gloves should be able to keep a reasonable amount of water out, but they won’t manage that forever either. I always bring the woolly hat, but don’t bother with gloves unless it’s deep winter and I’m going above, say, 400 m.

In most conditions, I actually prefer a baseball cap. But I never go without a woolly in the rucksack.

8. Rucksack – Mine is a Eurohike, which I think is a brand of Millets outdoor shops, but I can’t find a website for that, so apologies. Anyway, the one I have is a Weekender 35 litre and its most important feature is the rain guard that you can pull over it if the weather gets wet. My advice : start your walk with a half empty rucksack, so it has space to take the layers, as you peel them off.

Your comments are welcome.

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Dates Change – Western Ocean Walking Weekend

Please note the slight change in dates for my next Western Ocean Walking Weekend.

The dates are now from Thursday, August 12, thru Sunday, August 15. Come and enjoy a great weekend of walking on cliff-top walks (much higher than the Cliffs of Moher, by the way), on a stunning once-inhabited island and on lovely beaches and low-lying hills on perhaps Ireland’s most interesting peninsula, The Mullet of NW Mayo.

You can be picked up from and dropped back to Castlebar train station.

Just Get Out There

Last evening’s RTE programme Tracks and Trails was a nice ad for Mayo outdoor and active holiday breaks. It’s a pity, however, that they didn’t cover just a little bit more of the terrain than the Cycleway. And did you notice the ridiculous and unattractive fencing along the track, immediately on both sides ? Not exactly pretty.

Anyway, Mayo has what it takes to pass some wonderful outdoors days. Getting out into the fresh (yes, often wet) air does wonders for your mind and body.

Get Out There in Mayo - Clew Bay & Nephin Beg Mountains

Get Out There in Mayo - Clew Bay & Nephin Beg Mountains

If you’re in the area, join me for a guided walk on waymarked ways, hills, cliff-tops and so on. I will show you a Mayo that is off the beaten track. We’ll venture into the remote Nephin Beg Mountains or skip along high ocean cliffs. The important thing is to get out into our wild spots and breathe in that unique Mayo air.

You’ll enjoy the break and re-charge the batteries.                                                                             

But also, check out these local providers of outdoor pursuits and great Mayo fun.

Saoirse na Mara sea kayaking –

Call Ali and book a day out on Clew Bay.

http://www.irelandwestseakayaking.com/

Electric Escapes electric bike hire –

Call Paul. http://www.electricescapes.ie/

Clew Bay Bike Hire –

Call Travis. http://www.clewbayoutdoors.com/

All Play wind surfing –

Call Cathal. http://www.allplay.ie/

So, whichever activity you fancy, come to west Mayo for your fix of guided or self-guided walking, cycling, sea kayaking, wind surfing and others like horse riding, sailing, sea fishing, etc.

A Great Weekend in West Mayo

Last weekend was excellent fun. I led guided walks on The Mullet on Saturday and Sunday, treated myself to the Ceathrú Thaidgh cliff-top walk on Sunday and completed the wonderful Glendahurk Horseshoe in the Nephin Begs on Monday.

You’d never know, but the fabulous weather we’ve been having to date might just as quickly come to a shuddering halt in an Irish summer, so better to take full advantage while it’s going !

Floral highlights of the weekend included the many orchids now in bloom, the strange Ragged Robin, St. Patrick’s Cabbage at 700 m altitude and the stunningly beautiful Common Mallow.

Fauna of the weekend included one Fox, several Hares, fantastically aerobatic Ravens and one solitary Golden Plover. Unfortunately, no Seals were spotted at Erris Head, but you can’t always be lucky.

Erris Head – A guided walk of Erris Head (with another guide, not me) takes place, as part of Féile Erris Beo, on Sunday, June 20th. Contact Erris Tourism, on 097 – 82292.

Ceathrú Thaidgh – I will guide a walk of this cliff-top trail, also as part of Féile Erris Beo, on Thursday, June 17th, beginning at 6 pm. Again, call Erris Tourism, on 097 – 82292.

10HD – A Full Day Out in West Mayo

Just four weeks to go to a lovely Ten Hour Day out in wild west Mayo.

Join us at Newport on Saturday June 26th for a 90-minutes cycle into the hills, then a 6-hour hike up Nephin Beg mountain, then a 90-minute cycle back to Newport. This is NOT a race. This is NOT a competitive event. It’s a day out in fabulous country, with great views over lakes, mountains, bog and out to the coast, with Achill, Blacksod and the Reek in the distance.

If you like your outdoors, take a look at the event poster, by clicking below, to learn more.

10HD poster

10HD – Mayo Outdoors Event

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10HD is an active day out, combining cycling and walking, pencilled in for Saturday, June 26.

Based out of the lovely little village of Newport, west County Mayo, 10HD will have you on a bicycle or your feet for the whole day – more or less 10 hours.

10HD is most definitely not a race.

This is a relaxed event to see some of the wonderful views Mayo has to offer. Get on your bike in Newport and ramble towards the Nephin Beg mountains, which stretch out above the northern shore of Clew Bay. Take in Loughs Furnace and Feeagh. After around 90 minutes, dismount and hike part of The Bangor Trail, surely Ireland’s most isolated waymarked walking trail. Then hill walk up Nephin Beag itself, at 627 m, to get great views out over the vast blanket bogs and scenic coastline of North Mayo, towards Croagh Patrick, Clew Bay, Achill Island, Blacksod Bay, The Mullet peninsula and the Iniskea Islands beyond (extent of views is weather and visibility dependant).

10HD comprises approx. 90 minutes on the bike, followed by 6 hours hiking, followed by another 90 minutes return to Newport via a different route on the bike, with breaks along the way.

The cost of this10 Hour Day active day out is Euro 50 each and the number of places is strictly limited. Packed lunch, bike hire and full guiding throughout are included. We leave Newport at 9 am sharp and will be back at around 7 pm. Newport offers various accommodation alternatives, should you wish to overnight.

Pictures from Cong Lakes Walks

Here are some pictures from our lovely weekend of walking around the shores of Loughs Corrib and Mask last week. We were blessed with the weather, only being subjected to two showers. Both of them hit us when on the first walk and pretty much under trees, so their effect on morale was nil.

Please scroll down below the pictures for upcoming dates of these guided walking events.

Our next Cong Lakes Walks events take place on the following dates :

Thu June 10 thru Sun June 13.

Bank holiday weekend, Fri July 30 thru Mon August 2.

Mon August 9 thru Thu August 12.

Thu September 23 thru Sun September 26.

Thu October 14 thru Sun October 17