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  • On Foot in Ireland
Walking in Ireland with Kids
Fast Facts




Fun Family Trips
Family Travel Tips
Walking in Ireland with Kids

The Causeway Cliff Path, Giants Causeway


Photo by Rebecca Allen

Walking is a great way to discover Ireland. And Ireland's dramatic landscape and temperate climate make it an ideal country for walking. Even for little feet. Rugged coast, rolling hills, woodlands, moorlands, loughs (lakes) and canals. Hill walks, forest walks, single day loops, inn-to-inn hikes, long distance treks and urban walks. Self-guided hikes, guided walking tours and walking festivals. And if you are traveling with children aged 7 and up, develop a theme - history, archaeology or mythology - and turn your outdoor adventure into an educational trip.
Getting Started
There are a plethora of walking trails and a variety of hiking trips - single day loops, hill walks, forest walks, urban trails, inn-to-inn hikes and long distance treks - in Ireland. Some are graded easy, others extreme. Thus before you book a walking holiday or begin your search for the optimal hiking trail, accurately assess the interest and ability of the kids, establish any trip priorities such as the number of hours of each you would like to walk and review them with your partner and children. Take one or more similarly graded walks, both in terms of length and difficulty, before you book a walking tour in Ireland with kids.
The Right Trip
Whether you prefer a self-guided, supported or guided walking holiday it is important to select a trip that is appropriate for the slowest and least skilled walker in your family. Kids can't walk as far as adults in a day or an afternoon. Grading systems will get you started but may not provide sufficient information to make an informed choice. If you are engaging an outfitter discuss your child's interest and ability with the trip coordinator or guide via email or telephone before you book. Independent travelers take note. You may need to dig a bit further to find the information you require as to difficulty, conditions and accessibility. Local tourism offices and walking clubs are a great place to start. Posing questions on a local forum may take time but is likely to yield insight from parents who have actually hiked that trail.
Plotting your Route
There is no right or wrong time to walk in Ireland. While it is generally warmer and drier in summer than in winter, weather conditions can change frequently during the course of a single day and rain, even if only a quick shower, is likely even in June. Check the weather again before you set out, conditions can change quickly. Know what time the sunrises and sets and plan to finish your walk long before it gets dark. Avoid being cut off by rising water; check the tides before you depart on a coastal walk whether you plan to hike along the Atlantic Ocean or the Irish Sea. Ordnance Survey maps, produced by the Government mapping agency, cover the entire country and mark all rights of way with meticulous detail. Remember to plot alternate routes that will get you off the trail quickly should the weather deteriorate.
Travel Gear
You don't need a much in the way of specialist walking gear to walk in Ireland but there a few things to keep in mind when walking with kids. Little feet grow quickly. Have children try on their hiking boots and break in new walking shoes before you depart on a walking holiday. Not all child carriers are the same. Select a model with adequate suspension as well as padded shoulder straps and waist belt. A rain hood is necessary on all walks in Ireland. If you are carrying a child in a kid carrier for the first time, try it out before you hit the trail. Families departing on a multi-day trip should consider comfortable and well-made hiking boots that provide adequate ankle support as well as properly fitting and sufficient capacity backpacks. Trekking poles are both fashionable and fun but are hardly a necessity on short hikes with kids.
Packing Tips
The basics for any walk include: map, compass, food, water, rain gear (waterproof jacket, over trousers and gaiters), extra clothes and socks, whistle for each child, first aid kit, waterproof matches, pocketknife, garbage bag and camera. If you are hiking in summer add sun protection (sunglasses, hat, sunscreen) and insect repellent (midges and flies) to your list. At any other time of the year pack a hat and gloves for each member of your crew. Pack your gear in one or more plastic bags or waterproof liners that fit easily into your backpack. Pay particular attention to the weather when selecting clothing. In Ireland, you can experience all four seasons in a single day. Layered clothing - cloths that can easily be put on and peeled off - works best. Families hiking with infants and toddlers should also include the items they need for a day on the town (diapers, wipes, etc). Distribute the content according to age and ideal weight; kids can't carry as much as adults!
Health & Safety
Walking is a great way to introduce the kids to the outdoors. Yet it is important not to exaggerate. Select a trail that matches the interest and ability of the kids and pace the hike to the slowest walker or youngest child. Don't wait until you are tired to take a break; short legs will be fatigued first. Stop frequently for water and snacks. Check on children regularly. A sleeping child but can be hot, cold, or uncomfortable no matter how peaceful they may be. Be sure to check the weather before you set out, watch for any changes and if conditions deteriorate be prepared to alter your route or turn back. Use a map and compass to monitor your progress and ensure you are following the right path. Check your first aid kit as part of your pre-trip planning. Teach the kids to walk safely and responsibly and make sure they know what to do if lost before you depart on a hiking trip.
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Travel Trivia
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