My father introduced me to hillwalking many years ago. I remember struggling up a small hill and from the top looking down on a beautiful corry lake right beside a beautiful beach. The views were fantastic; I was hooked and still am.
For me there is no greater freedom than walking in the hills and breathing in the fresh air. Coupled with magnificent scenery and like-minded companions, hillwalking is just magic.
Hillwalking will make you fitter. It will give you a fairly rigorous workout depending on your motivation or you can have a pleasant stroll in the hills without too much effort. Hillwalking is a great way to get your body into shape. Unlike running, it does not put huge amounts of pressure on your knees or feet.
While there is no doubt that it will improve your cardiovascular fitness levels and reduce your body fat, hillwalking offers additional benefits. You are in the midst of nature with the added benefit of fresh clean air. More importantly the therapeutic benefit of walking in the natural environment will allow you time to think and this helps to release tension naturally. This added benefit of the relief of stress in our modern hectic lives is incalculable and certainly should not be underestimated.
Hillwalking is a relatively inexpensive activity to partake in, the biggest initial outlay being good boots and raingear. Hillwalking can range from short walks taking a number of hours or longer more difficult full day walks into the remote uplands. On a hillwalking outing you will encounter views that only a small section of the population will ever see in real life. You may also encounter archaeological and historical sites, coastal views, moorland and flora and fauna. I once rounded a small bend on a trail and came face to face with a badger. We both eyed each other carefully for some time then it moved away. That is a moment that will stay with me for all time.
Sharing the pleasures of the hills with friends is to be recommended. Things can go wrong so it is important to have company on your walks. Also, let someone know what time you expect to return. Always carry a whistle to summon help if needed and of course something to eat and drink. If you are new to hillwalking then joining a club in the area will give you a great advantage. Clubs organise walks for their members on a regular basis. Membership is relatively cheap and you will make new friends and enjoy our uplands in a safe environment. Contact details for clubs in Ireland are to be found on www.mountaineering.ie.
In Galway we are spoiled for choice for places to walk in the uplands. We are only minutes away from The Burren, Connemara, Mayo and the Galtees to name but a few. These areas each have their own appeal and you will never be disappointed with the views on a clear day. They will all provide a great day out.
Since my initial climb up a small hill, which I thought at the time was akin to Everest, I have walked on many of Ireland’s mountains. I have been privileged to walk with a great bunch of friends on many mountains overseas. I have been to the Drakensberg in South Africa, Kilimanjaro twice, Elbrus, Mount Blanc, Aconcagua in South America and Nepal. I have been in a few places and on mountains when it was not a good time to be there due to weather. I have seen some wondrous sights and made wonderful friends all because of hillwalking. I encourage all to try it out. Contact your local club and give it a go.