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Ireland’s hikers, surfers, cyclists and yoga instructors on why you should practice

Ireland’s hikers, surfers, cyclists and yoga instructors on why you should practice


by Michelle Hanley
28th Jul 2023

We pick the brains of some of the island’s most inspiring movers and shakers to tap into the benefits of their practice and share some gorgeous gear inspired by their adventures.

Heading for the hills? You’re not alone, according to the Central Statistics Office, as hiking is up 24 per cent post-lockdown.

THE MUSE The benefits of hiking are manifold for Mel McDermott, who finds her mind is clearer when she hikes, “especially on those wild, wet and windy days on the mountain. I can make sense of things a lot easier in the rain.” The founder of women’s adventure community Galz Gone Wild, Mel’s love of hiking began with a photography assignment for college on Fairy Castle. “It was atop of the mountain where I had my ‘aha, I’m home’ moment.”

THE ADVICE “Be mindful of the difficulty of your first hike, especially if you are joining a new hiking group. I joined about five different groups before I set up Galz Gone Wild, for those wanting to get to the next level. Do your mountain skills training. Having these skills will increase your confidence on the mountain and will enable you to hike more difficult and challenging trails.” galzgonewild.com

THE DESTINATION The Wicklow Mountains.

The sea sport is thought by medical professionals to be as beneficial for the mind as it is for the body, helping to lower anxiety, reduce stress and release endorphins.

THE MUSE For surfer, author and scientist Easkey Britton, surfing taps into a feeling of freedom. “Imagine how a seabird must feel when it is gliding effortlessly on an updraft of air,” she muses. The new mum and author of Ebb & Flow (Watkins Publishing, approx €13) was born to pioneering surfer parents and named after a famous west coast surf break, so her life has been shaped by water. It reminds Easkey of the importance of play, “where your playmates are the ocean waves”.

THE ADVICE “Spend time getting to know the ocean. Listen, observe the tides, winds and currents and learn how to read surf conditions. This is what helps build connection so you feel more at home and at ease in the water. Let go of control and soften into the water, don’t resist it. It seems counterintuitive at first but it’s how you find your flow.” easkeybritton.com

THE DESTINATION Bundoran, Co Donegal.

More and more of us are looking to this mood-altering activity as an eco-friendly way of getting around but have you ever considered racing?

THE MUSE Back in the saddle again after a devastating crash last year, Imogen Cotter is reaching new heights on her bike with no lack of enthusiasm for her chosen sport. The road from childhood hobby to beloved full-time profession started for Imogen when she moved to Belgium in 2019. “I loved the cycling culture there and decided to try my hand at racing.”

THE ADVICE “Consistency is key to building up resilience. If you’re like me, then you’ll like pushing yourself to new levels and finding out what your body is capable of. I find it exciting to do hard and painful intervals. Because I started cycling relatively late (24 years old), I feel like I’m still unearthing my potential.” imogencotter.com

THE DESTINATION The Black Head Loop from Ballyvaughan to Lahinch, Co Clare.

If adventure sports are a bit of a stretch, then make like Sinéad Mooney and try taking your yoga mat outside.

THE MUSE Meditation instructor, yoga teacher and studio owner, Sinéad has been working in the wellbeing space for over a decade. Initially attracted to the physical challenge, she admits that “the beautiful thing about yoga is once you fall into your practice, it’s very hard to ignore the deeper true meaning; the philosophical approach to living.”

THE ADVICE “This island has many beautiful and powerful places but any small area of land offers the grounding power of earth beneath your feet and freeing sensation of wind in your hair. Keep your eyes on your own mat. Yoga is an immensely personal practice and although often enjoyed in the warmth of fellow students and the guidance of a teacher, you are engaging with the practice to engage with yourself. Progression will naturally occur as things strengthen and open up, but the process really is the destination.” moonsyoga.com

THE DESTINATION Achill Island, Co Mayo.

Portrait of Easkey Britton by Sean Jackson.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of IMAGE Magazine.

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