Community groups launch Ireland’s longest continuous walkway

Beara-Briefne Way combines 12 trails across 10 counties

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Jim O’Sullivan, organising committee, Beara-Breifne Way (left) and Michael Starrett, chief executive, Heritage Council (right) at the launch of the Beara-Breifne Way Heritage Stamps and Walking Passport for the longest walking trail in Ireland. Photograph: Gary O’ Neill

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Jim O’Sullivan, organising committee, Beara-Breifne Way (left) and Michael Starrett, chief executive, Heritage Council (right) at the launch of the Beara-Breifne Way Heritage Stamps and Walking Passport for the longest walking trail in Ireland. Photograph: Gary O’ Neill

 

ÓRLA RYAN

SEVERAL LOCAL groups have come together to undertake Ireland’s largest ever community based project – a 500km walkway.

Beara-Briefne Way comprises 12 walking trails across ten counties and will incorporate all four provinces. Development of the project involved over sixty community groups.

The route is inspired by the 17th century march of Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare, the last independent chieftain of the West Cork and South Kerry area.

It runs from the tip of the Beara Peninsula in Co Cork to Blacklion in Co Cavan and links Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Offaly, Galway, Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim.

A number of map boards and plaques have been erected along the walkway to highlight local mythology, wildlife and areas of historical significance. To date, over 40,000 people have walked sections of the route.

As part of the initiative, all walkers on the Beara-Breifne trail will collect stamps in their ‘Walking Passport’ based on the heritage of each town and village they pass through.

Speaking at the project’s launch, Taoiseach Enda Kenny praised the work of those involved in what he called a “truly exciting development”.

“I would like to pay tribute to the organising committee led by Jim O’Sullivan, the numerous community groups and members of the farming community who have come together to make this project happen,” Mr Kenny said.

He added that the route would be an asset for tourism as it would provide “a unique experience of our countryside” for walkers and cyclists.

“It is great to see tourism infrastructure like this being delivered ... and there is no doubt that projects like this will encourage continued growth for the future.”

The Heritage Council of Ireland has been involved in the initiative since 2001. The group’s Chief Executive Michael Starrett also recognises the potential economic benefits the walkway could have for the communities involved.

“Its uniqueness is the sheer size of the route ... giving walkers the opportunity to experience the whole range of beautiful landscapes that Ireland has to offer.

“Almost all of the land used is private and farmers and landowners have come together to grant access to walkers. With 240 farmers living on the Beara Way alone, the scale of community collaboration becomes clear,” Mr Starrett noted.

The project is part funded by Fáilte Ireland, the Heritage Council and a number of county councils, partnership companies and community groups. It was developed in conjunction with the National Trails Office.