Walking Tips to Help You Stay on Track
From following waymarked trails to understanding access to private land, here is the essential information you need to keep yourself on the right track in the outdoors.
While some walkers prefer a rambling route with clearly marked waypoints and markers, others love nothing more than to find themselves in the wild with only a map and compass to help them get home. When you find yourself off the beaten track there are a number of things you need to consider to keep yourself safe, in the right of way and out of private property.
Walking On the Side of the Road
As much as we would all love to see footpaths or some sort of parallel walking routes along roadways, sometimes our chosen tracks can bring us along the roadside. According to the Road Safety Authority of Ireland, if there is no footpath, pedestrians should walk/run/jog on the right hand side of the road, facing oncoming traffic and keeping as close as possible to the side of the road. Keep in mind this is different for cyclists who should always be travelling with the flow of traffic.
As it’s possible that you could find yourself walking along the roadside at night on your return journey, be sure to pack a hi vis bib or jacket in your bag to help increase visibility.
If your route takes you across rural areas that have gates in place to stop livestock escaping, a good rule of thumb is to leave it how you found it. If you come across an open gate, leave it open and close any gates you have to open yourself. Look out for any signs or notices that indicate otherwise.
It goes without saying that you should leave all crops and animals alone and pass through their ecosystem without disrupting the area. If you are stopping for a moment to eat, leave no trace of yourself behind and check to see you’ve left no litter on the ground.
Respecting Private Property
On some of the most popular walks that we have featured on the OSi Blog, sometimes key features of the trail such as local landmarks or monuments can rest on private property. Although most private walking clubs or rambling groups will advise their members to respect private property, sometimes user generated trails online can fail to mention when a route crosses into a non-public area.
Thanks to the Irish organisation Leave No Trace, there is more information available than ever before on the matter of private property and other sustainable hill walking practices. Here are some of the most important things to know about access and land ownership (that you can also print here):
All land in Ireland is in private or state ownership. In some cases, upland areas (hills) might be owned in what is known as commonage, this is land that can be owned by a number of parties collectively.
Hillwalkers and other outdoor enthusiasts might be surprised to know that there is no legal right of access to the Irish countryside. When a trail crosses private property in the countryside those that follow the trail are doing so under the permission of the landowner. This right to admission is reserved and can be withdrawn by the landowner.
Ireland has 44 waymarked trails spread across the country. These are a collection of medium-distance and long-distance walking routes. These routes are known as “permissive routes” that have been developed with the landowners’ agreement. This is not the same as the public having a right of way.
You can see the full network of waymarked trails here.
Things to Note
Don’t forget that just because a route is included on a map or in a guidebook it shouldn’t be assumed that you have full access to the area, or that the party that owns the land has offered blanket permission to access. This goes for websites or any other online publication too.
Also keep in mind that when any semi-state organisations offer access to grounds or parkland etc. this still falls under permissive use and the public does not necessarily have a right of access.
To be on the safe side, always ask permission from the landowner if you get the chance, especially if you intend to bring a large group such as a club or a school trip through their land.
Enjoying the Outdoors with your Dog
Bringing a dog out on a hike can be a great adventure for you and your pet and by enjoying this experience responsibly you can ensure that other recreational users of the trail and landowners can go about their day unhindered.
The rules in the suburbs and the city are the same in the countryside when it comes to tidying up after your dog. Bring some litter bags with you and hold the waste until you can dispose of the dirt in the nearest bin.
Using a Lead
When walking along a trail, it’s advised that you keep your dogs on a lead for the consideration of other trail users, their companions and their own pets. If you enter a large recreation area such as a public park be sure to check if there are any local restrictions on pets that you need to be aware of. If your dog does come off its lead, try and ensure that it is trained to follow your instructions and will heed your call when you tell it to stop or return to you.
Animals such as sheep and cows can become distressed when they come into contact with barking dogs that are trying to be playful. So even if your dog is on a lead, it is generally appreciated by farmers that you avoid walking your dog near these animals if it can be avoided.
Map and Compass
Don’t forget that your smart devices mightn’t always give you the coverage you need when out and about, so check out our guide on learning how to use a map and compass here. These skills are eternally useful and can lead to a new sense of enjoyment in the outdoors as well as equipping you with a way to keep yourself out of danger.
Whatever your level of experience, make sure that you know how to stay safe. Read our Essential Guide To Walking Safety before you head off on your next walk.
Visit our Online Shop and find our full range of Tourism and Leisure paper maps and continue your outdoor adventures.
Disclaimer: Walkers use these tips entirely at their own risk. No responsibility can be accepted by landowners or by Ordnance Survey Ireland, for any loss, damage or injury caused or sustained during walks.