When I was planning for my trip, I saw that every packing list, blog, and guidebook said to bring hiking boots when traveling to Ireland. I, like many of the others on my program, wondered whether these would really be necessary if we were not planning to be hyper-athletic. As a fairly cautious person, I decided to go ahead and get some good ones. So here I am now to give you a definitive answer on whether or not you need hiking boots and for what reasons.
Do I need hiking shoes?
YES. You probably expected this. But I want you to understand that I am generally a fairly frugal person, and there are things that those books will tell you to bring that are thoroughly unnecessary. These are not some of those things. My roommate brought fairly good shoes, and the sheer amount of walking and the terrain we covered resulted in the image you see below. She exercises regularly and did absolutely nothing wrong. Ireland is simply that brutal.
I admit, I am not an athlete. At home, I drive/ am driven most places and consider a two mile walk to be a bit much. I knew coming in that I would probably need to get more accustomed to walking while abroad, but I don’t think I truly understood just what all that entailed. My experiences are not universal, but I’ve seen some amazing places, and they would have been impossible without good shoes.
Okay, but where will I really need them?
Everywhere. Okay, not everywhere. But most cool places. I would suggest that you wear them on any treks in Dublin that will be longer than three miles, on any mountain hikes (the most obvious uses), at any castles you will be exploring, at all cliffs, in the woods, and in the hills. So, basically anywhere that isn’t on a campus or in the city.
In my first week in Ireland, I averaged five and a half to six miles each day on cobbled streets, at best. Following that, weekends were long, walking around four and a half miles each Friday and Monday up steep mountains. Yesterday, we had a special weekend trip that took us both up and down mountains and around part of the coast of Inishboffin, a beautiful island on the western coast of Ireland. It was one of the best days I’ve had so far in my trip, but I spent a lot of the time thinking about my feet, shoes, and where to step to not kill myself for the six miles that we walked. Consistently, the travel in Ireland is beautiful, but rough. There are rarely real paths, and even if you are lucky enough to find a day that it isn’t raining, you will probably still walk through several rivers. All of this adds up to my supreme love for my good hiking shoes.
Rocks move. Mud will make you slip. Rabbit holes will show up where you do not expect them to. The ground will be covered in sheep poop. You do not want to have to stare at the ground with every step you take while you are in the midst of what I consider to be the most beautiful landscapes in existence. Ireland is a rugged beauty, but that ruggedness will take you out if you are not careful, so I beg you to do yourselves a favor.
Bring good shoes so that you can see all of the beauty that is Ireland.