Here are our top five favourite walks for the winter season with food and walking tips.
The feasting is done for another few days. Dust off your walking boots, dig out the wet gear, and hit the road! There’s nothing so bracing in the winter as an invigorating hike in the countryside or by the beach. Followed by some great grub in the open air.
Here are some favourites:
Sheep’s Head Peninsula, West Cork. The whole walk around this magnificent peninsula is just over 200km (approximately). But there are lots of smaller walking trails where you can take in the Wild Atlantic Way in all its glory. The peninsula is narrow, so the ocean is always close by. Zig zag your way along, following the dedicated signposted walking trails. Take in the fresh air. Enjoy the extremes of nature. This is no chocolate box pretty. Here is powerful raw beauty, difficult to harness in a few sentences. Stone circles, ancient pathways, heather covered hills. Little villages like Ahakista, Kilcrohane and Durrus where an Irish pub will be waiting to welcome you, and miles of ocean. Find out more on www.thesheepsheadway.com
Glendalough in Co. Wicklow is one of Ireland’s prettiest spots. There are nine designated walks in this region. You can stroll for half an hour or so, or take a four hour hike across the hills. Easy to moderate walks include The Miner’s Walk (5km), and Poulanass and St.Kevin’s Cell (1km). If you’re in the mood for a longer walk try the Derrybawn Woodland Trail, which is a ramble taking in Poulanass Waterfall and Derrybawn Mountain, where you get great views of the whole of Glendalough (8km). Check out www.wicklowmountainsnationalpark.ie/walkingtrails.html
Glen of Aherlow, Co. Tipperary. A looped walk of 11km for those who like to be out and about! It’s classified as a moderate walk in terms of suitability. It takes about three hours to do the whole stretch and you really will feel you’ve walked off the turkey and Christmas pudding afterwards. Starts at Christ the King in the Glen of Aherlow and takes in the loop around Ballinacourty and the productive Ballyhoura region. Superb views of the Galtee Mountains. Find this included in the top ten walks of Tipperary on www.discoverireland.ie/tipperary10
Ventry Strand Looped Walk, Co. Kerry. Nothing like a bit of bracing sea air to shake off the Christmas party lag! This walk starts on Ventry Strand on the Dingle Peninsula. A little path leads to the long golden beach, where you can press your toes in the sand and have a paddle if the Atlantic Ocean is kind enough! The return walk is via the scenic road, to take you back to where you started. It’s described as a moderate walk (5.3km long in total). Walking maps for this and other top Kerry walks can be found on www.walkingroutes.ie/WalkingTrails/Kerry
Beech Hill Donnelly Trail, Derry, Northern Ireland. This walk is situated in the grounds of Beech Hill Country House, one of our members. It’s a short walk of 1 mile, taking you through beautiful woodlands in the grounds of the hotel. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and the paths are wide and flat. Afterwards, enjoy some refreshments at this historic country house hotel. Check out the walk on this link
If you’re eating on your hike or walk, you will need a backpack for your picnic. The important thing is to pack food that is going to sustain you, rather than stodge that sits heavily in the stomach and makes it harder to walk. Also remember you have to carry your picnic with you. Don’t pack heavy stuff you’ve got to lug around. Think practically. Pack light. Use greaseproof paper instead of plastic boxes to wrap your food.
A flask of warming soup never goes amiss.
Going out on a walk or hike provides a great opportunity to use up the turkey and ham from Christmas for sandwiches.
Keep it simple with a picnic of leftover Christmas cheeses, cured meats and crackers, with a flask of tea or coffee to accompany. Pick your picnic spot and tuck in.
Fruit like bananas provide great energy while walking.
Yes you can have a treat! A piece of Christmas cake or a mince pie with your tea or coffee will be walked off in no time.
On looped walks, you can leave your picnic in the car and enjoy it when you get back. In this case, just make sure you take a bottle of water and perhaps a piece of fruit or a healthy snack like oat flapjacks to nibble on as you go.
TOP WALKING TIPS
Check maps and weather forecasts before you leave.
Take a torch and high visibility vests so you can be spotted easily if you’re still out when dusk falls.
A map of the area is essential.
If children are accompanying, choose an easy walk everyone will enjoy.
Dogs can also enjoy the day out. But they must be kept under control or on leads in some cases. Always observe the rules of the place you are walking in.
Always remember to take your rubbish home with you.
And finally, enjoy the fresh air and be mindful of the birds and animals that occupy the place you are walking. This is their home, so treat it respectfully.