WRAP UP AND WALK: FIVE WIN­TER HIKES

En­joy spec­tac­u­lar views from Cliffs of Mo­her, an abun­dance of na­ture in Gal­way and more

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - OUTDOOR - Heather Snel­gar Heather Snel­gar ed­its the out­door and adventure web­site Out­sider.ie

The win­ter months bring with them short days, un­pre­dictable weather con­di­tions and a re­sult­ing lack of mo­ti­va­tion when it comes to get­ting out there for a brisk walk or a hike. But once you get those boots on you will never re­gret the de­ci­sion to leave the house.

How­ever, you should take a few ex­tra pre­cau­tions when head­ing out on a hike in the win­ter months. Bring enough warm cloth­ing, food and wa­ter with you. Make sure some­body knows where you are go­ing. Have a map and com­pass with you (that you know how to use), even if you know the route just in case the weather closes in on you.

And be sure not to bite off more than you can chew when it comes to your route. With lim­ited day­light hours you don’t want to find your­self caught out in the moun­tains af­ter dark.

Here are five short- to medium-dis­tance walks that are per­fect for a win­ter’s day.

1 Cliffs of Mo­her Walk, Co Clare Dis­tance: 5km or 10km OS Map: 51 and 57 Of­fer­ing some of the best views in Ire­land, this flat walk along the windswept cliffs is a great way to clear the head on a win­ter’s day. The Hag’s Head end of the cliffs in the quiet lit­tle neigh­bour­hood of Kil­con­nell has a small carpark and is an ideal start­ing point for this hike. Seen in sil­hou­ette the head­land looks like an old woman look­ing out to sea, giv­ing the place its name.

The walk fol­lows the short but spec­tac­u­lar line of the cliffs to the Cliffs of Mo­her In­ter­pre­tive Cen­tre and be­yond to O’Brien’s Tower look­out point which was built as an ob­ser­va­tion point for tourists in 1835. The walk to O’Brien’s Tower is 5km. Here you can ei­ther turn on your heel and re­turn to the car or ven­ture fur­ther on if you have ar­ranged a shut­tle ser­vice among your group to take you back to the start point. 2 Por­tumna For­est Park, Co Gal­way Dis­tance: 10km OS Map: 53 Por­tumna For­est Park cov­ers al­most 450 hectares of which the ma­jor­ity is dom­i­nated by conif­er­ous wood­land. This is great for a wet win­ter’s day as it means you will get some shel­ter from the el­e­ments.

Na­ture lovers will be in their el­e­ment here. Ash, beech and sil­ver birch are dot­ted along the lake­side while an­i­mal species in the area in­clude red squir­rel, fall ow deer, f oxes, badgers and a white-tailed sea ea­gle who nests there.

There are four walk­ing trails of vary­ing dis­tances in Por­tumna For­est Park. One is the Rin­ma­her Walk­ing Trail, a long sin­gle-track loop with great views across Lough Derg. 3 Fairy Cas­tle Loop, Dublin Dis­tance: 5.5km OS Map: 50 Tic­knock of­fers a great net­work of moun­tain and for­est walks just a stone’s throw from Dublin. Nestled in the hills just be­yond Sandy­ford in south Dublin, you can drive to Tic­knock from the city cen­tre in about half an hour but the walk will make you feel like you’re lost in the wilder­ness.

There is about 10km of walk­ing trails through forests and moun­tains with in­cred­i­ble views of the greater Dublin area from the top of Three Rock Moun­tain. You can do an out and back if you don’t want to go too far, or there are plenty of loop walks in this area like the Fairy Cas­tle Loop which is 5.5km long.

The trails are fairly well main­tained, with some rocky and muddy sec­tions, and are of mod­er­ate dif­fi­culty with some steep climbs. The main for­est roads are very doable for chil­dren and fam­i­lies.

4 The Avon­more Way, Co Wick­low

Dis­tance: 12km OS Map: 56 and 62 The Avon­more Way is a rel­a­tively new trail along the beau­ti­ful Avon­more river in Co Wick­low. De­part­ing from the Troop­er­stown carpark near Laragh, the route fol­lows a mix­ture of mi­nor roads, for­est roads and tracks as it skirts its way around Troop­er­stown Hill. It then winds its way through the beau­ti­ful Clar­avale Na­ture Re­serve along­side the peace­ful Avon­more river, pass­ing by the pic­turesque set­tle­ment of Clar­avale.

Views of the sur­round­ing Wick­low Moun­tains and the ma­ture oak woods of the Clar­avale Na­ture Re­serve are spec­tac­u­lar.

This route is fully marked and will take ap­prox­i­mately four hours to com­plete. It is a one-way route which fin­ishes at the Stump For­est en­trance near Rath­drum so you will need to ar­range a shut­tle with your hik­ing bud­dies.

5 Omey Is­land Loop, Co Gal­way Dis­tance: 8km OS Map: 37 Largely aban­doned in win­ter, Omey Is­land in Claddagh­duff, Con­nemara, is a gor­geous spot to ex­plore on foot. This is an easy but re­ally spe­cial walk as you’ll head off across a sandy cause­way that is ex­posed when the tide is low. Be sure to check the tide times so you can get back and be pre­pared for plenty of wa­ter and tidal pud­dles on the route!

You’ll leave from Sweeney’s pub on the main­land and head left along the road be­fore tak­ing a right at the chapel to head to the shore to cross the sands fol­low­ing the marker posts.

Once on the is­land, head right, ig­nor­ing the road lead­ing in­land, and con­tinue walk­ing along the beach, fol­low­ing the north­ern coast­line.

You will come to one beach, then an­other. Where a fence turns in­land above the sec­ond beach, fol­low it to the re­mains of Team­pall Féichín. This me­dieval church was built on the site of an ear­lier monas­tic set­tle­ment founded by St Féichín. Then head back to­wards the beach to con­tinue the loop.

Keep your eyes peeled for St Féichín’s well, where pil­grims have left some strange trin­kets. You will even­tu­ally come to a road ( there are two mo­bile homes on it), turn left and fol­low it back to your start­ing point.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: GETTY IMAGES

The Cliffs of Mo­her walk of­fers some of the best views in Ire­land.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: GETTY IMAGES

Na­ture lovers will rel­ish ev­ery­thing Por­tumna For­est Park in Co Gal­way has to of­fer.

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