Eight great outdoor activities to try this autumn and winter

Warm to trail-walking, swimming, cycling and climbing on the cooler days ahead

Hike one of Ireland's waymarked trails. Photograph: iStock

Hike one of Ireland's waymarked trails. Photograph: iStock

 

If you are looking to stay active over the winter months here are a few ideas to get you out the door on a cold day

1. Hike one of Ireland’s waymarked trails

Cost: free
There are 42 waymarked trails across Ireland. These long-distance trails are fully marked, and offer a great challenge for those looking to up the ante. The trails range in distance with the Ulster Way taking in a whooping 1000km. Covering a more modest 40km, the Dublin Mountains Way is a great one to start with.

2. Take the plunge

Cost: free

Catching the sunset at Meenogahane Pier. Photograph: Wild Water Adventures
Ready for the sea at Meenogahane Pier. Photograph: Wild Water Adventures

The popularity of sea swimming has exploded this summer. And as a long- standing advocate of the activity, I am not surprised. Plunging into the cold waters of the sea, a lake or river helps to clear the head and leaves you feeling exhilarated. And there is no reason to stop once the summer comes to an end. Set yourself the goal of swimming once a week, and before you know it you will have swum through the entire winter. Plunging into cold water has been proved to have a host of physical and mental health benefits, including staving off the common cold.

3. Go everywhere by bike

Cost: free

Freedom on two wheels 

Another trend to emerge from lockdown is cycling. But as winter looms the car can seem like the more appealing option. However, set yourself a small goal to begin with of using the bike to run two or three errands per week. Cargo bikes and panniers attached to your regular bike fit a surprising amount of groceries. As you take more trips by bike you will be surprised at how much your fitness and overall wellbeing will improve, and you will begin to notice it is often far more time-efficient (not to mention cost-efficient!) than the car. Just be sure to invest in a really good bike lock, lights and a high-vis vest as we head into the shorter days.

4. Surf’s up

Cost: from €20

Surfing lessons: taking to the waves at Lahinch, Co Clare. Photograph: Eamon Ward
Surfing lessons: taking to the waves at Lahinch, Co Clare. Photograph: Eamon Ward

Many of us are unaware that we are living in one of the world’s top winter surf destinations. Every year the world’s top big-wave surfers flock to the west coast in search of monster breaks. And while surfing waves the size of houses isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, there is an abundance of fantastic beach breaks that offer safe surfing for beginners and intermediates. Surf schools across the country are open all year round, and offer all the equipment you need to stay cosy in the water, including winter wetsuits, hoods, booties and gloves.

Resources:

5. Hit the trails

Cost: from €30
Those who have really caught the cycling bug should try their hand at mountain biking. It offers the same adrenaline rush as skiing or snowboarding without needing to board a plane. And it’s a great activity in bad weather. In fact, the muckier the trails the better! While mountain biking is still a relatively new sport in Ireland, its popularity is on the rise. Ireland is now home to a number of mountain biking centres around the country including Castlewellan (Down), Rostrevor (Down), Ballinastoe (Wicklow), Ticknock (Dublin), Ballyhoura (Limerick), and the Slieve Blooms (Offaly). All of these destinations offer parking, bike rental and fully marked trails.

Resources:

6. Conquer Ireland’s highest peaks

Cost: free

Carrauntoohil. Photograph: Getty Images
Carrauntoohil. Photograph: Getty Images

One great way of keeping the winter blues at bay is to set yourself a challenge that runs over several weeks or even months. Winter is the perfect time to climb the highest peak in each of our four provinces: Carrauntoohil (Munster), Mweelrea (Connacht), Slieve Donard (Ulster) and Lugnaquilla (Leinster). If you are taking on the challenge be sure to familiarise yourself with the route in advance, check weather conditions before you go, and bring lots of warm layers, food and hydration with you.

7. Catch a sunrise

Cost: free

A winter sunrise As you watch the sun peek above the horizon you will be reminded just how great life can be!
A winter sunrise 

One benefit of the short days is the fact that you can watch the sunrise without a 5am wake-up call. Keep an eye out for a clear morning on the weather forecast, pack a flask of tea and some goodies and head for either the hills or the sea. As you watch the sun peek up above the horizon and slowly light up the surrounding landscape you will be reminded just how great life can be!

8. Moonlight adventure

Cost: free

There is no reason not to head out after dark for a night hike
There is no reason not to head out after dark for a night hike

The short days can limit our opportunity to get outdoors, but with the help of a good head-torch there is no reason not to head out after dark. The landscape looks stunning under the silver glow of the moon, and you are likely to have the entire route to yourself. Navigating in darkness is more difficult so be sure to head out with an experienced hiker who can navigate. And it goes without saying that good clothing and equipment is a must in the colder weather.

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