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Top Tips for leaving no trace on the IAT Ulster-Ireland

By stepping onto the Ulster-Ireland Chapter of the International Appalachian Trail you are not only connecting to the rich heritage and landscape of Ireland, but are also following remnants of the ancient Appalachian-Caledonian Mountains once joined 250 million years ago. The similarities of landscape can be seen from the trails beginnings at the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail on Mount Katahdin in Maine, USA, before moving north onto Canada, across to Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, England, the Isle of Man, Wales, Norway, Spain, Portugal and Morocco (that’s some list to rhyme off!).

With increasing visitor numbers exploring the trail there has never been a more important time to practice the principles of Leave No Trace to ensure you stay on the Right Side of Outside and protect and preserve this iconic landscape for future generations.

Leave No Trace Ireland are the lead educators teaching people through workshops, certified training courses, events and school programmes in ways people can practice the ‘7 Principles of Leave No Trace’. This framework covers the minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. Check out the Leave No Trace Skills & Ethics Booklet for more information on each of the Principles.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

While large sections of the IAT Ulster-Ireland is waymarked it is essential you familiarise yourself with the trail and conditions before you go. Please check that you have the appropriate clothing, footwear and equipment to explore your desired section of trail. This is particularly important for those planning to explore more rural isolated areas of the trail where waymarking is limited and weather conditions can quickly change. It is essential in these areas to have the correct map and a compass should you need to navigate.

It is essential you check in advance of departure of any changes to the trail such as closures or diversion and let someone know of your proposed route.

Be Considerate of Others

There are a number of popular visitor hotspots along the trail which are particularly busy during the summer months and school holidays. Please be patient with others and considerate when parking – have a think about using public transport and shuttle services where you can to reduce congestion. We encourage you to arrive early at sites such as Slieve League and the Giant’s Causeway for the best IAT Ulster-Ireland experience during peak seasons we recommend exploring locations off the tourist trail (or as we like to call them the ‘hidden hotspots’).

Check out WalkNI’s top tips on staying on the Right Side of Outside when it comes to parking: https://walkni.com/blog/car-parking/

Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife

One of the special things about the IAT Ulster-Ireland is that it takes your through open countryside and coastal environments. You are sure to encounter lots of sheep!! and perhaps the odd jellyfish or seal along the shoreline. As you explore this trail please respect any signage on gates and leave gates the way you found them (if the gate is open leave it open, if it is closed close it behind you). Dogs are only permitted on some sections of the trail and must be kept on a lead and under control – this is particularly important in sections where livestock may be present.

Check out WalkNI’s top tips on protecting your dog in order to protect wildlife and say on the Right Side of Outside: https://walkni.com/blog/protect-your-dog-protect-livestock/

Travel and Camp on Durable Ground

Wild camping is only permitted in designated areas along the IAT Ulster-Ireland. Please check regulations around wild camping and check availability at campsites before you visit. This is particularly important during peak times such as the summer month when sites may be booked to capacity. There are lots of campsite options along the trail located on or next to the trail so transport will not be required however, please check with your accommodation provider to see if they provider walker pick up and drop off should you need a lift.

When you are out exploring please try to stick to the paths and avoid carving your own trail which risks eroding the nature and habitats that border the trail.

Leave What You Find

There is a wealth of Flora and Fauna, fossils and historic points of interest along the IAT Ulster-Ireland. We encourage you to take a picture of the things you like but avoid picking or bringing anything home (a picture lasts longer!). This keeps the beauty you have witnessed there for the next walker exploring the trail. We like to think of it this way; if we all took a fossil from the beach there wouldn’t be many left!!

Dispose of Waste Properly

There are lots of places along the trail to stop for a tea break or lunch. This includes a number of service providers offering refreshments at popular visitor locations. Please use bins provided to dispose of your waste correctly. Where a bin may be full during peak seasons or no bins around, please bring your little home/ back to your accommodation for disposal (be prepared to pack out what you bring in!). We encourage you to think reusable and pack a reusable cup and waterbottle in your bag.

Check out WalkNI’s top tips on how to stay on the Right Side of Outside when it comes to guaranteeing your waste goes in the bin: https://walkni.com/blog/guarantee-it-goes-in-the-bin/

One form of waste you should also consider is if walking with your dog to pick up their waste. Check out WalkNI’s top tips on how to stay on the Right Side of Outside when it comes to picking up after your dog: https://walkni.com/blog/dog-poo/

Minimise the Effects of Fire

Fires are not permitted along the 279-miles of the IAT Ulster-Ireland. Disposable BBQ’s should only be used in designated locations such as picnic sites and campsites.

Practicing a Leave No trace ethic in order to stay on the Right Side of Outside is very simple: Make it hard for others to see or hear you and leave no trace of your visit.