The Out and About hiking group (originally the Hirschfeld Outdoors Group) was set up in December 1989 as a social outlet for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and their friends – an alternative to the prevailing pub & club scene. Originally one Sunday outing a month was organised, with a mix of hikes, bicycle rides and visits to tourist attractions. Hiking proved the most popular of the outings, and Sunday hikes have now become the mainstay of the group. Hikes are now organised every Sunday of the year – except at Christmas. There is always a faster- and a slower-paced option each Sunday, the two groups meeting up for a drink at a local pub to finish off the day.
In winter, walking is confined to the Wicklow Mountains. It is possible to range further afield in the summer – to the Cooley, Mourne, Slieve Bloom, and Blackstairs Mountains. The Sunday hikes do not involve any terrain which would require the use of ropes or specialist snow/ice equipment. In September of each year, a coastal walk in Wicklow is organised for those who prefer flatter terrain.
In recent years the group has organised a series of weekly summer evening hikes on a weekday. These hikes are three-hour events in the Wicklow Mountains – with a social drink afterwards back in one of the gay pubs in Dublin.
In addition to the Sunday hikes, the group also organises a series of short & sharp weekends – to other mountain ranges in the country – departing early on Saturday morning for two days hiking, staying overnight in B&B or hostel accommodation, and returning late on Sunday evening. These weekend hikes are generally of a more strenuous nature. On such weekends, there is no faster-paced hike organised from Dublin.
Bank holiday weekends give an opportunity for the group to range further afield for three-night stays in the west of Ireland. There are usually two such weekends each year. Added to this, individual hike members organise week/fortnight trips abroad (generally during the summer or early autumn) to experience different hiking with options to stay overnight in mountain huts.
The club today is a vibrant social group - where the LGBTQ+ Community and its friends can meet and enjoy hillwalking and hiking in the great outdoors. The group celebrated 20 years in existence in 2009/2010 with a series of events which included a photographic exhibition and lunch, anniversary dinner, 100-peak challenge in Ireland. In 2015 the club marked its 25th anniversary, by having club members on the highest point in each county simultaneously - a unique challenge which Out and About was the first club to achieve. The club organises annual social events which include a bumper tea-party, barbecue, Christmas hike (with all the goodies), and a Christmas party.
First Aid and Navigation and Hill skills training is provided for hike leaders on an on-going basis (subsidised from club funds). Many individuals within the club have engaged in and completed Mountain Skills and Mountain Leader courses.
The club is run by a voluntary committee of hike leaders who meet regularly throughout the year to plan events and training. Contact is maintained with members via a newsletter (5-6 times per year), email shots, Facebook, and the website.
Since 2000, Out and About has been a member club of Mountaineering Ireland – the national body which promotes hill-walking. Membership confers benefits running to discounts at hiking shops, insurance, and up-to-date information on environmental and management issues concerning the mountains and hills we use each Sunday.
The club maintains links with Belfast based sister club Out and About Hikers