So, what will I do differently now with all that new knowledge?
And how will this benefit you or your clients when they hire me as a guide (as opposed to someone who hasn’t had that training)?
Apart from learning how to read maps with hiking routes, and understand the compass and first response, we also learned what to look out for when leading a group.
This starts already with the planning of a suitable route. Your group could have all different kinds of fitness backgrounds, often you don’t know who will be arriving at your tour. So, it’s important to let them know the starting point, one or two highlights that they will be guaranteed to see, and a finishing point. However, it is also important to leave options of adding a little adventure if the group turns out to be really fit, or having a less strenuous escape route if there are some people in the group who might not meet the fitness criteria. And the key is that the group will never notice all that background planning.
The most important part of guiding a group on a hike is to make sure that EVERY participant gets the most out of it. Some people might prefer a faster pace, while others are a bit slower. We learned how we can best keep the group together, and how and when to give the faster people time to walk ahead while staying with the slower people. And yet, always keeping an eye out for all of the group. Keeping the group engaged so that everyone comes home with a sense of achievement. Including a little sense of adventure into the day.
Another important part of a hiking day is to find a suitable, scenic and sheltered picnic spot and ensure everyone has a wholesome meal with them. As I am also very much interested in healthy eating, I make some suggestions beforehand and I often bring little healthy treats with me to share with the group.
Leading a hiking group is much more than just knowing the route and walking ahead of the group. It is also much more than just “ordinary” guiding, where the tour guide gives information. People on a hike don’t generally want tons of history, and yet many of them want some information and interpretation of the area we are in, reading and translating the history of what we see and bringing it to life.
Being outdoors has so many health benefits for our mental and physical health, doing it together with a group of like-minded people is even more beneficial.
I am so looking forward to leading many hiking groups this summer and showing Irish, German and all nationalities the beautiful landscape my home county Wicklow and all of Ireland has to offer.
With the experience that I have gained in the last number of months, I can also help you create an interesting and varied hiking tour around Ireland based on your expectations, whether you want to just incorporate a few shorter walks into a traditional round trip of Ireland or whether you want to include longer hikes and stay based in one location.