The longer days and slightly slower pace of life are finally upon us as we are now well and truly into enjoying the summer months. One of the things I most enjoy about this time of year (besides not making lunches – yay!) is that, with the falling away of the children’s activities at weekends, we seem to have more time for ‘family days out’.
My personal favourite days have always involved walking or hiking together as a family. It’s those trips to Wicklow or even just in and around Dublin that I relish most, armed with a picnic and a rug, with the purpose of doing just a simple one or two hour walk, and then a restful pit-stop near a body of water – a waterfall, river or lake will do nicely. At the end of these days, I always feel incredibly satisfied and happy that it was a day well spent. And I hope these will become fond memories for my children as they grow older (not the ones where their mum or dad were grumpy or scolding them for not tidying their bedrooms!).
I really urge you to give it a go. If the sun shines, the day can transcend into one of those ‘magical’ days, one that you’ll probably always hold as the ‘gold standard’ for other family days out [and of course, there wasn’t one argument, or tantrum or disagreement along the way, right? Because it was just ‘perfect’.]
Take a Hike – The Health Bonus
Walking has been long considered one of the most effective forms of exercise and, even better, it suits all ages and fitness levels, meaning children can enjoy a day of walking alongside their parents (our four year old’s stamina always surprises us, helped along with a few surprise treats in the bag of course!). If you walk at a relatively brisk pace, walking/hiking offers a great aerobic workout, while toning your muscles and improving your general physical condition into the bargain. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll be burning around 65 to100 calories per mile walked, and so a 500-calorie burn can easily be worked off in a few hours.
Take a Hike – Getting away from Chores
As a mum of three, I have to admit to sometimes not being great at ‘relaxing’ when I’m at home. I am trying to get better (as part of my ‘saying no’ endeavour from a recent blog but, when I’m not sleeping, a lot of my time at home does tend to involve chores – you know the ones; making food, cleaning up after the food, making more food and then hoovering and sorting clothes (followed by making more food – and then a yell at my children to not ask me for ‘ONE MORE THING’ or I’ll snap! I’ve already snapped at that stage).
For me, therefore, getting out of the house for one of these meandering hikes is a win-win. I become ‘fun’ again. I’ve no chores or distractions. I listen better. I laugh more. But it’s not just me – I notice we all tend to relax. There’s just something really unique about spending a day in stunning scenery that we are so lucky to have on our doorstep in Ireland.
Take a Hike – What Level to Aim For?
It all depends where you’re fitness is right now. If you’re relatively unfit, don’t be put off. Start on the trails near your house – short, easy, well-marked hikes for an hour or two are great places to begin. If you live in the city, there are always walks like these within driving distance. If you live in the country, of course, you will have an even wider network of walking opportunities.
Once you’re confident at climbing up hills, and enjoy the thrill of reaching the top, you may all be ready to then tackle a mountain, perhaps even the Sugar Loaf in Dublin or, some day, Croagh Patrick in Mayo. It’s fantastic to have goals like these – either for you to achieve on your own, or as a couple or entire family. These kinds of climbs are great for older children, teaching them how to set goals and then seeing the sheer pleasure they get from achieving them.
Exploring new places around where you live, or further afield, can be very exciting for young and older children – it also takes them away from the tech life, which is becoming increasingly important to parents who are concerned that their children are too ‘connected’ these days. With this in mind, maybe consider that everyone – bar one – leaves their phone at home? If there’s something urgent, you have one phone to use and that is adequate (plus hopefully you won’t use it at all).
Also, if you don’t have children, walking or hiking is a brilliant way to meet like-minded people. Lots of people joing hill-walking and hiking clubs for the social benefits. You can even make it a weekend camping trip, taking the opportunity to explore remote, uninhabited areas or Ireland or further afield, or to endeavour for more energetic climbs, such as the highest peak in Leinster, Lugnaquilla, or the highest peak in Ireland, Carrauntoohill – both are very manageable with a reasonable level of fitness.
Take a Hike – Get the Gear
Although you may not want to spend the money, it’s well worth investing in good gear, especially for the adults (since the children keep growing!). Do ensure the children have waterproofs (pick some affordable ones up in Dunnes, Lidl or in Capel Street in one of the outdoor shops) and decent runners or hiking boots (well worth the investment if you plan a few hikes).
Take a Hike – The Essentials
– Backpack – avoid rigid metal frames to make the backpack lighter and more flexible. Don’t forget the basics – water and sunscreen. Pack a picnic to savour will make the day even more enjoyable.
– Two or even three layers on top – choose fleece or microfleece which are light but also great insulators.
– Jacket with hood – this must be waterproof obviously, but also make sure to choose a breathable fabric for summer.
– Walking boots – waterproof, well-fitting, with good grip.