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Looking for a way to deepen your hiking experiences? Would you like to combine your meditative and mindfulness practices with your love of hiking? This is your Beginner’s Guide To Hillwalking for Mind, Body and Soul. In it, you will find everything you need to know to begin integrating these two powerful practices for your health and well being. I have used these practices when hiking near and far and confidently recommend them.

Hill walking for mind means connecting your thoughts to your steps in meditative ways. Hill walking for your body and soul means connecting your physical body to your spiritual practices. Combined, they align and integrate your experience and provide a wonderful opportunity for self-healing.

Hill Walking For Mind will bring you to beautiful Irish country sides, like this one with picket fences reaching across the horizon
Wild Atlantic Way, Glencolmcille, Ireland

Hill walking in any part of the world is rewarding. However, if you have the chance to go hill walking in Ireland, take it!

Northern Ireland is dubbed ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ for a reason. Sweeping vistas, miles of untouched landscapes and beauty are everywhere. A visit here will conjure an imagine of what the land looked like centuries ago.

Mindful Hill Walking

These conditions make for the perfect hiking conditions, for body, mind, and soul. Although it remains a temperate climate, the change in weather can still trigger those with autoimmune challenges. Nevertheless, I experienced no health issues, and was fortunate to experience these inspiring European hills.

Ireland is friendly and rewarding for all visitors. It’s an amazing trip for people from every background. I began my personal journey to the land as part of my ancestry research.

It all began with spitting into a plastic test tube then waiting. Science reported my chromosomes as 98% Irish and English. County Dublin and County Donegal were listed as the two top regions of my ancestral lands. Excited, I immediately booked a trip to Ireland.

I began my travels in Dublin then took a bus to Glencolmcille. As far as I can tell, this Irish village is the most magical place on earth. Although it’s off the beaten path, it is well worth the effort.

Within fifteen minutes of arriving in County Donegal, Ireland, I quite literally ‘headed for the hills’. Dropping my bags in my room, I couldn’t wait to hike on Ireland rich soil. That’s when I discovered I was lodging very close to a the section of the International Appalachian Trail. Although I did not arrive at my accommodations until 8pm (20:00), I still had plenty of daylight. Sunset wasn’t until 10 pm in that corner of the world.

There are many ways to get around this magnificent country. If arriving at Dublin’s International Airport, there two different bus routes for a total of 5 hours to get to Glencolmcille. True to its reputation, residents in Ireland are kind-hearted and generous to strangers.

Despite being a first-time traveler to this country  (and my first European solo trip), I was completely confident I would arrive safe and sound. Nevertheless, fear of the unknown was ever-present. Every step of the way I learned the true meaning of relying on the kindness of strangers. It’s the perfect setting to take your travel field guide and record your thoughts and feelings.

Details of an itinerary tend to change. Surprises of public transportation may keep you guessing. However, once you arrive, it is the most wonderful homecoming. An excellent way to inhale Ireland fully is to go for a hike. Hillwalking, to be exact.

international Appalachian Trail sign for hillwalking
Sign For the International Appalachian Trail

I’ve hike the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, Vermont, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia. So imagine my excitement when I discovered the International AT in Ireland! The lanscape, which typically consists of gentle sloping hills and herds of colorful sheep, was gorgeous. Be prepared to share the trail with dyed on sheep, which is called a smit mark. Farmers have been using them for hundreds of years to identify sheep. From a daub of paint near the haunch of the shoulder, a farmer knew which sheep and which belonged where.

The dye adds a whimsical flair and the most intriguing wildlife viewing. Along with the sights, the sounds of the sheep will keep you company. You may enliven you pace as you embraced the magical moments of the Wild Atlantic Ireland countryside.

I love doing recovery work connected to my past. Since I was walking in the same steps of my ancestors, I soaked up Irish history every chance I got. I learned that walks or hikes undertaken in upland country and mountains are sometimes described as hill walking or fell walking in the United Kingdom. The gentle rolling hills of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are ideal for combining mindful movement and meditation. 

Hill walking, and its many applications as a spiritual practice has a long history and spans various disciplines. The Wild Atlantic Way is the perfect place to begin!

Threshholds

There are some well known and easy ways to heighten an everyday countryside walking experience. For example, walk during ‘thresholds’ or times of the day commonly known as dawn and dusk. These changes of space and between times have been observed in religions and cultures for centuries. Historically, Celtic people had a love of edges and boundary places, most likely as the result of living on an island. They also held a keen sense of the Otherworld as a place just beneath the veil of this one.

In moving from one awareness to another, try to envision something new and magical. Inviting the energy of beginnings into an ordinary walk can have profound effects. On my trip, because I arrived with enough daylight but still close to dusk, I was blessed by the opportunity to encounter my hill walking through thresholds.

Walking the Rounds

hill walking dolman
Glencolmcille, Ireland

Another practice borrowed from Celtic ritual is “walking the rounds”. It involves walking sun-wise (or clockwise) in a mindful way around various markers or monuments. The number of rounds varies but is usually three times, to reflect universal spiritual symbolism. A central Celtic practice at sacred sites, such as churches, graves, crosses, and holy wells, it can be practiced any time of the day.

If staying in Glencolmcille, Malin More Court Tomb and dolmen are close by. This is an ancient megalithic with six portal tombs. The history of the chambers, which dates back to 2,000BCE,  suggest what appears to be the remnant of a cairn.  ‘Walking the rounds’ is a metaphor…to walk in a circular manner facilitates moving out of linear ways of thinking, and also opens our hearts to receive.

Finding a holy place to walk around isn’t as difficult as you might think. You can choose a sun-wise journey around a favorite tree, your church, or around the edges of a labyrinth. While walking the rounds, you might say traditional prayers or mantras, but any prayers of the heart are welcome.

Another discipline that can easily make use of combining hill walking and ritual comes from practitioners of Earth Spirituality, or those that honor and revere nature and natural phenomenon. By adopting an attitude of embracing each moment as sacred, an outdoor stroll can evolve into an everyday pilgrimage just by tapping into one’s keen ability to absorb earth energy.

Empaths

For example, a person who is a geomantic empath and is highly sensitive to the energies of a specific place may have a special connection to a sacred site. They can intuitively feel the energy there. Therefore, their experience might include details and insights connected to the people or events that took place at that location sometime in the past.

Similarly, an  earth empath can benefit from hill walking. This is someone who is highly sensitive to the energies of the planet and mother nature. These sensitives can perceive and absorb energies from plants, animals, the earth itself. They care about that part of the planet and invested in its healing. Taken together, an individual may extend a simple walk into a rejuvenating and enlightening spiritual experience.

If you are you ready to expand your hiking experience, try these methods for yourself! Even if you are not attuned to sensibilities in these areas, or don’t have ancestral lineage tied to these practices, meditative hill walking can still be a calm and peaceful soul refresher. Simply being aware and open- minded to what may arise can enrich your time in nature. Spending time grounding to the earth, while simultaneously lifting our spirits to the air, inspires everyone. 

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