Sport hillwalking has been a true sport in Ireland since the first national hillwalking competition was introduced in 2016. Now it has its own All-Ireland governing body.
Hillwalking in Ireland has seen a growth in popularity as an adventure and tourism activity over many decades. In recent years, more and more people have discovered the recreational opportunities available in the Irish upland areas. For many participants, hillwalking is all about exploring Ireland’s great outdoors, improving / maintaining physical fitness and mental wellbeing, and meeting up with other like-minded people. More experienced hillwalkers embrace the various challenges on offer. Some participants have long regarded hillwalking as a sport. However, unlike every other sport in Ireland, hillwalking was lacking its own national or All-Ireland competition. The absence of such competition prevented hillwalking from being classed as a true sport.
This changed in 2016 when Sport Hillwalking officially became a true sport through the introduction of the first-ever All-Ireland hillwalking sports competition: the All-Ireland Highpointeering Individuals League. This ground-breaking points-based competition was delivered by High Point Ireland and has been run every year since. In 2017, we introduced the Clubs, Counties and Provinces Highpointeering Leagues. In 2020, we created the All-Ireland Mountain Race for experienced challenge hillwalkers wishing to introduce a time-based person-versus-person competitive element. The Highpointeering Leagues and the Mountain Race now run in parallel as two separate competitions between the Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox each year. At the end of the season, the combined results of these two competitions allow us to identify the individual, club team, county team and province team champions in the annual All-Ireland Hillwalking Championships: the ultimate achievement in Irish sport hillwalking.
Our All-Ireland Hillwalking Sports Competitions are the first-ever national hillwalking competitions to be hosted anywhere in the world. As such, they provide the perfect template for other countries to replicate. In time, if other countries choose to follow our example, we could even look at the possibility of setting up the first-ever Hillwalking World Championships.
In the absence of any other organisation actively developing, delivering or promoting hillwalking sports competitions at an All-Ireland level, High Point Ireland became the governing body for Sport Hillwalking in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on 10th May 2021. As such, High Point Ireland delivers all official hillwalking sports competitions at national level across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. All other matters related to the overall activity of hillwalking (the primary ones being insurance provision, training and access) remain within the remit of Mountaineering Ireland and the Ulster Federation of Rambling Clubs.
We invited Mountaineering Ireland to get involved in our All-Ireland hillwalking sports competitions on numerous occasions between 2016 and 2020. Despite introducing the necessary competitive element to justify hillwalking as a true sport, they declined our invitations. You can read more about this via the link below.
High Point Ireland is fully committed to the ongoing development of Sport Hillwalking both at national level in Ireland and at a global level. As the sports founding body, we look forward to working with governing bodies in other countries as they come into existence.