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Dublin: 18 °C Wednesday 24 July, 2019
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There are thousands of pieces of hidden treasure* across Ireland

*Not exactly treasure, but it’s hidden, at least, and you can find it using your smartphone.

THE LAST TIME you went on a treasure hunt was probably a very long time ago – a small-scale affair in someone’s backgarden.

You might not really consider it an activity for adults, but for fourteen years now, thousands have been hooked on a modern, digital version.

Geocaching involves setting GPS coordinates on a map, with participants aiming to reach the point and discovering what lies there.

What you will find at the spot can take several forms.

It could be simply a virtual cache that can add to your list of sites visited (all stored online), it could be a box with a small trinket in it that you can take as long as you replace it with an item of equal value, or it could be a multicache, that sets you off on another mini-treasure hunt to find the final item.

There might not even be an item – it could be a hidden beauty spot, some archaelogical artifact, or simply a spot for tourists off the beaten track.

As of this week, there are currently 6,897 caches on the island of Ireland, with 594 in the capital alone.

IMG_0060 A particularly full geocache. Source: Donnacha McCartan

It’s estimated that a couple of thousand people – at least – are now involved in geocaching in Ireland, but the exact figure is hard to pin down.

It’s now made even easier with the abundance of GPS devices – most smartphones allow you to find your exact location or find directions to certain coordinates.

Donnacha McCartan of Geocaching Ireland told TheJournal.ie that geocaching isn’t simply a hobby where people aim to visit as many locations as they can.

“Some people use it as a way of meeting new people,” he said, “and then go off together looking for the geocache.”

PastedImage-82586 Caches hidden in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Source: Geocaching.com

“There’s also what’s known as Event Caches, which is simply a social event in a cafe where people would go and meet up.”

He noted that families often find it a convenient way to get their children interested in the outdoors.

McCartan added that there’s even an element of “geo-tourism” involved.

There’s one on Bray Head in Co Wicklow that was the very first geocache in Europe, known as GC43. The amazing thing about it is that people come over to Ireland just to find that.

“You would find individuals or groups of ten or twenty who hop on a ferry or jump on a cheap flight, and come to Ireland looking for that cache.”

“People would be constantly in contact with me saying they’re visiting Ireland and would like to know what geocaches to visit.”

However, there are certain ground rules surround the hobby, such as not leaving an item at a geocache that could be dangerous to children, not placing the items on private land without permission, not burying the items and aiming to leave no trace.

If you want to get involved, there are full details online at geocachingireland.com and geocaching.com.

Read: Map shows where Homer’s Odyssey really took place >

More: This guy will make you want to travel more >

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Nicky Ryan

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