Football legend and walking enthusiast, Paul McGrath, joined local community groups, Carlow Tourism, Fáilte Ireland and Carlow County Council on Mount Leinster yesterday to officially launch the county’s heritage and cultural walk ‘The Columban Way.’
This unique walk will give visitors the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the inspirational sixth century monk St Columbanus, who was born at the foot of Mount Leinster.
Promoted by Carlow Tourism, developed by Carlow County Council and with significant input from local community groups including Myshall Muintir na Tíre; the Carlow walk joins the finished route at Bangor, County Down as part of a wider national and European Columban Way.
Linking in with the demand for slow, sustainable tourism; the trail is expected to be a key tourism attraction as Michael Walsh, Chair of Carlow Tourism explains; “In conjunction with Carlow County Council, we are delighted to celebrate this exceptional amenity for the county. It is widely recognised in tourism that visitors seek bespoke, tailored experiences that resonate with them on a personal level. It is fitting therefore that the Columban Way is referred to as ‘the journey of discovery.’ The walk offers visitors the opportunity to connect with nature, appreciate our rich biodiversity and enjoy their own personal journey. In the spirit of St Columbanus, this All-Ireland route is bringing together counties North and South along with eight countries across Europe to develop a 6,000km route on completion”.
Fáilte Ireland expects domestic travel will remain strong this year with 80% of domestic visitors satisfied with their holiday last year. Carlow is well placed to take advantage of this market due to its range of experiences and its proximity to Dublin and the midlands. The tourism body also expects international visitors to start returning to the county from Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Caren Carruthers, Fáilte Ireland Officer, Ireland’s Ancient East commented; “The Columban Way is an exciting addition to Carlow and Ireland’s Ancient East. It perfectly represents the attraction of this area where vibrant history and modern life meet. Walking is now the top holiday activity in Ireland and the Columban Way will tap into this growth area and the demand for history and culture.”
The completed stage of the route in County Down and the County Carlow section of the route with two feeder routes from Bunclody on the Wexford side and St Mullins on the Carlow side are fully signposted and ready for visitors to explore. Once fully developed, the Columban Way in Ireland will stretch 530km across counties Carlow, Wexford, Kildare, Laois, Meath, Cavan, Monaghan, Fermanagh and Down.
Councillor Fintan Phelan, Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council added; “In Carlow, we have an immensely proud and vibrant tradition of community engagement. We look forward to fostering existing relationships with our Northern Ireland and European counterparts as this project grows and expands. I would like to thank the Department of Rural and Community Development and Fáilte Ireland for funding this project and acknowledge all the community groups that were key drivers of this wonderful amenity.”
This spiritual and pilgrimage trail on the model of the Camino de Santiago, the Francigena and other great European cultural routes features the historical sites and landscapes of early Christian Ireland. It links three particular areas with strong associations to St Columbanus – his birthplace at Mount Leinster in County Carlow, his place of study at Cleenish Island in County Fermanagh and the monastery he joined in Bangor, County Down.
Paul McGrath explains why the project resonated with him; “Like a lot of people over the last two years, I have a new appreciation for the amazing outdoor spaces we have in Ireland and the positive effect walking can have on your mental health. Walking on my own or with friends has become an important part of my life. The Columban Way speaks in a very real way to the importance of community. It’s not about where you are going but the journey itself. We have a right to be proud of the many scenic walks we have in this country, and this is a great opportunity to support local tourism businesses in Carlow, learn more about our history and get the steps in!”
The Columban Way features interpretation panels, directional signage and a Columban Way Cairn at the scenic Nine Stones viewing point. Detailed maps of the Columban Way as well as a list of accommodation, restaurants and walking guides are available on www.carlowtourism.com/thecolumbanway or download the maps on the Via Columbani app from the Google Play Store and mac app store.
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