Hiking is one of the best ways to get out into nature and get some fresh air. It has been shown to have a number of mental health benefits like improving mood, reducing anxiety, and boosting self-esteem, as well as physical benefits like increased cardiovascular health.
The hike life is not just about the act of hiking though. It's also about being outdoors and getting in touch with yourself through the natural world. The hike life is about making time for yourself and taking care of your mental health.
Particularly beneficial for our wellbeing is time spent around trees. Forest bathing is a term for walking in the woods, which has been found to have many benefits for mental and physical health. A study from Japan found that forest bathing can lower blood pressure and improve immune function. It also helps with stress relief and improves moods. Forest bathing can also help with depression, anxiety, and mental clarity. It is a great way to get some exercise while getting some fresh air and being surrounded by nature.
Now you know why it's so good for you to hike among the trees, here's some of our favourite forest hikes around Ireland to get you started.
The Glendalough hike is a scenic walk in the Wicklow Mountains. It takes you through a valley with a lake, which is surrounded by mountains and forests. The path is well-marked and easy to follow, so it shouldn't be too difficult for anyone who's up for a challenge.
This hike starts at the car park at the end of the Glenmalure Valley Road, which can be accessed from several points but most easily from Laragh village. The route takes you through some stunning scenery as you walk along the banks of the loughs through Glendalough Valley (the valley where St Kevin founded his monastery). The ruins of the monastery include a round tower, a stone church, two high crosses and a holy well.
Killarney National Park
Killarney is absolutely my favourite place in Ireland and right at the heart of the national park is Reenadeena yew forest. Thought to be populated by trees between 150 and 300 years old it immediately inspires a feeling of magic and enchantment especially as it is the only significant area of yew woodland in Ireland and is one of just three pure yew woodlands in Europe.
It's possible to walk here or bring a bike. I recommend starting here and exploring the Yew and Oak woods before heading higher into the mountains and the wonders Killarney has to offer.
Located between Skibbereen and Baltimore in West Cork, Lough Hyne is Ireland's first Marine Nature Reserve and a unique sea-water lake. Surrounding the lake is Knockmonagh wood, a wonderful mix of sessile oak and broad leaf trees that lead to Knockmonagh summit. The summit offers fantastic views of the lake and surrounding landscape of Cork.
As the land of saints and scholars, the Irish countryside has inspired through the ages from the song of Amergin to WB Yeats. When hiking these trails It's easy to understand how the druids created such a rich mythology in Ireland. Let us know what's on your list for the best hikes in Ireland.