Good to know before you go…

Adventure activities in Connemara will provide you with a memorable experience of unforgettable scenery and leave you more refreshed and invigorated. This section will assist you to maximise your enjoyment.

If your adventure is going to involve water please let your activity provider and guide know whether or not you are able to swim before commencing the activity. Planning and preparation can then be provided for given the prevailing circumstances on the day. It is strongly recommended that participants learn to swim well before taking part in water sports and activities and feel comfortable within this environment. This will greatly enhance the enjoyment, and safety, of the chosen activity.

Outdoor access:
Connemara’s people are generally very hospitable and welcome visitors with open arms. However, there are a few simple guide lines to ensure the welcome remains warm and friendly. As a general rule, if in doubt ask. There will always be somebody around with whom you can talk to. They may not be the right people all of the time, but most will be able to assist to some degree or other. When in the Connemara outdoors we would ask you to:

  • Take responsibility for your own actions and act in a safe manner
  • Respect other people’s privacy and space
  • Help land owners, farmers, fishermen and their like to work safely and effectively
  • Care for the environment; do not leave your litter in the countryside, shore or in the water, dispose of it sensibly upon returning from your outing.
  • Don’t disturb the wildlife.
  • Keep your dog under control. Don’t bring your dog if you are partaking in water adventures.
  • Leave your contact details with someone before setting out – when you are departing, where you will be and when to expect you back. This is particularly important if you are spending time in remote areas or going to sea.
  • Goodwill and commonsense will ensure that adventure activities will thrive to everyone’s benefit.

For those of you planning a summer holiday in Connemara, you will no doubt have heard about the dreaded Midge or Culicoides. Generally speaking, most tourist operators forget to mention minor things like Ticks, Midges etc

Ticks:
This primarily applies to dog owners and occasionally to humans. Ticks are tiny blood sucking insects found in Connemara; or rather they will find you when walking through the country vegetation. They inhabit damp, coarse vegetation in woodland and bogs, bracken fronds are a popular spot and they are transferred to passersby who brush against them. Ticks can carry several diseases afflicting both animals and humans. One of the major tick-borne diseases which affect humans is Lyme disease. Seldom fatal and eminently treatable, Lyme disease is a debilitating condition that can remain in the body for many years, affecting nerves and occasionally leading to chronic arthritis and heart conditions. Lyme disease is very rare. As a precaution, visitors to Connemara are advised to be aware of the disease and to contact their local physician if feeling unwell after an outdoor adventure to Connemara, or anywhere else for that matter. Common symptoms include flu-like illness with fever, muscle and joint pain, malaise, a rash and a sore throat.

Always remove the tick when discovered. If you see one, it looks like a speck of dirt with legs, (in the early stages) and when it finds a suitable spot, (usually in warm moist hairy places like arm pits, navels et al) it starts to feed. As it feeds it can fill up almost to the size of a beige coloured pea. If left it will drop off and is usually painless but may be itchy. To remove get a tweezers, grip the tick body as close to the head as possible and gently twist and pull. If done correctly the head should come with, if not it could turn septic, but it normally forms a scab and falls harmlessly off. To ease itchiness, treat with anti-histamine.

For dog owners: apply a dose of Frontline tick repellent a few days before setting off on your adventure and this will prevent any problems.

Midges:
Midges are tiny biting flies that are active from mid-May to September particularly when it is calm and overcast. Thriving in the acidic boggy conditions, they can be a significant annoyance to people walking Connemara. Tending to be most active at dawn and dusk they can be prevalent at other times during the day if the conditions are right. If it is a midge day then activities such as picnics should be avoided. Staying in one place will quickly result in midges congregating around you.

“Forewarned is forearmed” and that by telling you about midges you will know how best to avoid midge attacks and by taking a few simple precautions; your holiday or stay in Connemara will not be disrupted by them. The first time you encounter them you will probably just feel itchy as the bites are not painful just irritating, and they are so small you can hardly see them. Everyone has different reaction to midge bites; some hardly notice they have been bitten with not even so much as a red spot, whilst others have a reaction rather like a rash. However, they will provoke a strong immune reaction in some individuals. This may lead to swelling and intense itching around the site of the bite. The severity and intensity of biting accentuates people’s discomfort. Scratching of the bites may lead to infected sores. There is no known disease transmission from midges to people in Ireland.

Midges love:

  • Tourist’s especially unprepared ones!! Apply repellent before the time; it’s already too late when you start to itch.
  • cool, shady, calm conditions and are most active early morning and evenings
  • wet summers help their breeding cycle, with a resulting increase in numbers.
  • sitting ducks – as far as possible, try to avoid sitting out early morning and late evening. Realising this is just the time when you do want to sit out, and most times you will not be bothered by them, but once they find you, you will need to move to get rid of them.

Armed with a little knowledge, you minimize the inconvenience to yourself and family in Connemara and enjoy the great outdoors relatively free of them. Below are a few tips and precautions you can take to avoid them altogether, or at least to minimize their nuisance factor.

Midges hate:

  • sun – midges tend to avoid direct strong sunlight, so sit in the sun not shade whenever conditions allow.
  • wind – try to find a seat or occupy a place in a breeze, and it is surprising how little breeze is required to keep them away
  • walking – midges cannot keep up with you at normal walking pace, so you will be able to take long midge free walks or participate in any active pastime at any time of day.
  • white or light clothing, avoid dark clothing at high activity times, although this alone will not deter them
  • inside – escape by sitting indoors with the doors and windows open with lights turned off. Like every other insect they are attracted to lights.
  • wear anti midge hats which have mesh rather like bee-keepers nets but with smaller holes to keep out midges.
  • machines available now which attract and kill the midges.
  • some makes of repellent – Skin so Soft from Avon is not actually a repellent but seems to be very effective in keeping them away. Jungle Formula is another favourite. In any event please test them to see what works best for you.

Kit list:
This is a guideline kit list of what is normal outdoor equipment for Connemara during the summer months. The Irish climate is so unpredictable that every eventuality has to be prepared for – it can either be very hot and dry or wild, wet and windy and everything in between, all in one day!

 

Good appropriate shoes and/or boots
Socks – the more the better, have a clean pair for each day.
Gaiters
Good quality rain jacket (Gortex or similar)
Waterproof trousers
Warm woollen or fleece hat
Gloves
Wet suit (for water based activities)
Swimwear (for those warm summer loughs and ocean)
Walking poles (optional but recommended)
Water bottle
Small thermos flask
Fleece or wool sweater plus at least, 1 spare sweater.
Warm trousers preferably with one spare pair (no jeans)
Shorts
Thermal underwear
T-shirts
Long sleeve walking shirt plus a spare
Sun hat
Sunglasses
Sunscreen
Insect repellent – Avon’s Skin so Soft good midge repellent
Small day sack for hiking with casual clothes for evening /pubs
Camera
First aid kit – see below for details.

 

The Weather:
Before setting out on ANY trip, check a weather forecast. Changeable is the best way to describe the weather in Connemara – and it can change quickly! If the weather does change for the worse, consider revising your plans. Detailed forecasts can be found at Met Eireann (www.met.ie) and RTE Weather (www.rte.ie/weather).

Planning:
Choose an adventure activity which is appropriate to you or your group’s abilities and the prevailing weather conditions. As a general rule, take children only on activities which allow for age appropriate, safe and supervised activities. Leave word of where you are going and remember to advise of your expected time of return.

Start times:
Please arrive five minutes before any scheduled start/departure times. Groups cannot be held up because of tardiness. If there is a register provided for activities in the outdoor environment please ensure you complete it. This is essential in the event of an emergency and all participants need to be located.

What to Take:

  • Clothing – warm, wind and waterproof clothing is essential for most parts of your body depending on the time of year. As a general rule jeans are not appropriate for outdoor activities. If taking part in a physical activity make sure you can move in your clothes. If taking part in water sports check that wet suits are provided, if not, it is recommended to bring your own. Nobody enjoys themselves when they are cold!
  • Equipment – make sure you have the correct equipment for the activity selected or ensure that it will be supplied to you by the activity provider. Don’t forget your camera, binoculars, umbrella, insect repellent, etc.
  • If outdoors, carry equipment for use in an emergency such as a torch, whistle, First Aid Kit and emergency shelter. The emergency signal is six blasts on a whistle or six flashes with a torch.
  • Footwear – your footwear should provide good ankle support and have a firm sole with a secure grip. To ensure you enjoy your activity, please bring appropriate foot wear. If you are unsure please ask us.
  • Food and Drink – take ample food and drink for you and/or your group. Activity causes dehydration and requires energy. Simple high energy foods are best, as are hot drinks in cold wet weather.

First Aid Kit:
The First Aid kit that you carry should be capable of dealing with a variety of situations. Usually, where first aid is required; the need is for simple and relatively straight forward treatment. The items listed below should form the basis of your kit:

  • Two triangular bandages – can be used for slings, dressings, bandages.
  • Two wound dressings (medium and large) – to stop bleeding.
  • Crepe bandages – for holding on dressings (bleeding), support and/or immobilization of fractures, strains and sprains.
  • A roll of general purpose medical tape. A roll of electrical or masking (it is easier to tear) tape wouldn’t go amiss.
  • A selection of sticky plasters – a long strip which can be cut to suit is good (NB some people are allergic to some makes).
  • Pain Killers: – if you are at all unsure about administering pain killers – DON’T.
  • Sharp scissors – useful for trimming bandages and cutting away clothing.
  • A supply of various sized safety pins.
  • A few pairs of rubber or plastic gloves – must be used every time you deal with loss of body fluids.

More information on the size and contents for a first aid kit, please contact your local physician. Remember it must be portable!

In an Emergency:
If one of your party has an accident and cannot be moved:

  • remain calm;
  • keep yourself and the casualty as warm and dry as possible;
  • treat any injuries as best you can;
  • calculate your exact position on the map (or GPS);
  • if possible, leave somebody to care for the casualty whilst others safely get help;
  • on reaching a telephone and/or getting mobile signal, dial 999 and ask for the police;
  • report the map grid reference where you left the casualty and details of their condition.

All those who are injured and immobile are at risk from hypothermia. As a priority add any extra layers of clothing you have available to the casualty and ensure they are insulated from the ground. If you have a group shelter, ensure the casualty and the rest of the group are under the shelter.