WITH Cork Walking Week underway, the benefits of getting outdoors are being emphasised to people of all ages.
John Healy of SimplyMountains.com says: ‘Hiking outdoors offers a wealth of health benefits that are not just physical. It improves your self-esteem, mental agility and self-awareness. It’s a great stress-buster and a full-body workout, so it’s good for your general wellbeing.’
He has been working with Cork’s Cope Foundation developing their latest fundraising campaign, 5 Peaks 1 Week, which sees teams of people scaling some of the country’s tallest mountains by simply walking close to their home, and making good use of their stairs. For more see cope-foundation.ie. And now, with travel restrictions lifted, John shares his list of five of Cork’s best walks and trails:
*The Sheep’s Head Way
This spectacular peninsula juts out into the Atlantic, with incredible views of the ocean and the mountains of West Cork. The network of local walks has a great variety of length and difficulty and will surely have something for everybody.
For more information, see http://thesheepsheadway.ie/.
Nestled in the cradle of the River Lee, Gougane has a welcome treat for all visitors. A haven of family-friendly trails, a local cycle-route, more challenging mountain walks, and the pure tranquillity of the lakeshore and pilgrimage sites.
For more information, see https://www.coillte.ie/site/gougane-barra-forest-park/.
*Blackrock Castle Loop
If it’s challenging to get away from the city, this loop walk offers a little escape. Following the edge of Cork Harbour and the old railway line through the eastern city, this walk is great for escaping the traffic and enjoying the open air along Lough Mahon’s shore.
For more information, see https://www.corkcity.ie/en/things-to-do/parks-outdoors/cork-city-walks/.
*The Ballycotton Cliff Walk
On the Cork coast, this little gem offers views of the shoreline and islands, nature in abundance, and plenty of exercises as the trails rise and fall along the coastline.
Combined with a visit to some of the other local sites from Midleton to Youghal gives a great day out visiting East Cork.
For more information, see https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/ireland/county-cork--2/ballycotton-cliff-walk.
This more challenging mountain trail offers a hardy day out in the foothills of the Boggeragh mountains of Cork’s north-west. Starting in the town of Millstreet, it takes you on a journey around Claragh hill. The diversion to the summit is well worth taking in, to look out on the beautiful countryside and mountains of counties Cork and Kerry.
For more information see https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/walking/trails/claragh-loop-millstreet.
There are a few essential things you should consider before going off-road:
1. Most public amenities, parks and trails have now reopened. However, it is worth checking in advance to avoid disappointment.
2. Make sure to get a weather forecast and bring appropriate clothing and footwear for the conditions. Be prepared to turn around in bad weather and be particularly aware of the risks of wind and rain on a mountain and coastal trails.
3. Park responsibly in designated parking areas – do not block roads or gates that may be needed by farmers or emergency services.
4. Do not light fires or place portable barbeques on the ground - or better still, don’t use barbeques at all!
5. If bins are full or not available, take all your rubbish away with you – including biodegradable waste.
6. Be considerate of other trail users. Follow social distance and other public health guidelines. Keep dogs under control, ideally on a leash, and collect and dispose of dog litter properly.