“Any mug can be miserable” a wise outdoor leader of my acquaintance was fond of saying. To enjoy the outdoors, and be safe, misery should be carefully avoided whenever possible – and a very big part of this is having the right clothes. For these walks expensive kit is not required – most people will already have the basics – the trick is having what you need with you when you need it.
This is very closely related to weather – rain, wind, sun and, frequently in these parts, all three arrive on the same day with sleet and snow sometimes thrown in as well. The weather when you leave home is unlikely to be the weather when you start walking and even less likely to be the weather you get all day. So I always take a small rucksack with enough clothes to deal with the most extreme weather I might encounter. Carrying all your clothes on your back is a sure route to misery – and probably sooner rather than later. Being too hot can be as uncomfortable as too cold (take off a layer). Getting sweaty climbing up can lead to you getting chilled when stopping to rest or eat – so put on a layer. Rain or strong wind – get your waterproof on before you get wet or chilled. Temperature drop / wind chill – get your hat and gloves on.
For some people the compass comes into the same category as algebra, foreign languages and computer programming – hard stuff! This is unfair as it is a wonderfully simple (and useful) device – all it does is point North. However, it does it in the dark, in the rain, when you are stressed, when you have no batteries (or signal) and, in particular, when you are lost!
You will find many opinions on this blog from everything about what constitutes a ‘grand day out’ to the advisability of carrying a simple compass (and knowing how to tell where North is with it)! Some of these opinions will relate to commercial enterprises – for example flagging the presence of a cafe, a public transport option or suggesting a source of suitable maps. These opinions are exactly that – personal views based on limited experience at a particular point in time and should be treated as such. They are not ‘personal endorsements’ and most certainly they are not ‘paid endorsements’ – this blog does and will not contain any form of advertising or paid promotion.
Why include mentions of commercial offerings then? Simply because they enhance the way for the traveller and, the traveller, by using them, can give something back to the people who live and work in the places they visit. See the blog post “Do I Feel Welcome” for some more reflections on this issue.
A number of the walks described in this blog follow the coast and therefore will be impacted on by the tides. The tide cycle will almost always affect the opportunities for wildlife spotting and change the coastal landscape. However, in extreme cases, they may make certain routes impossible or ill advised.
Bearing in mind the general dearth of rights of way for the foot traveller in NI, you will often find yourself relegated to the foreshore, the strip of land between spring low and high tides. Generally this is crown property and public access is permitted. However, by definition, there will be times at high tide (and onshore strong winds) when access is impossible or at least ill-advised. Hence, when walking on the coast check the tides and avoid walks which are limited to the foreshore in places at high spring tides or in high winds.
Checking the tides in advance is much easier nowadays with online tidal predictions readily available either on the web or via smartphone apps. Free data tends to be limited to about a week ahead so if you are arranging a walk some time in the future you may need to use a paid service.
Finally, tidal predictions will be for specific ports and not individual points on the coast. As high tide times can vary substantially along the coast it is wise to check times for points either side of your walk unless your are close to a listed port.
I have found the websites / apps below useful in the past (please note this is not a ‘product endorsement’- see our post on “Opinions not Endorsements” for further explanation of this issue).