Mid-Clare Way opens after six years of effort
The Dysert O'Dea monastic site, Dromote nature reserve, Mooghaun hill fort, Quin abbey and the castles of Magowna and Shallee - just some of the landmarks on a new walking route which is to be opened in Co Clare today by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, the Gaeltacht and the Islands.
The 140km Mid-Clare Way represents six years of effort by community representatives who worked to gain support of local businesses, and who helped to negotiate access with landowners.
Over the past two years, a team of participants on a FAS Community Employment Programme have cleared scrub, built bridges and stiles and placed distinctive route markers to make sure that walkers don't get lost.
Others carried out research into the folklore, natural history and archaeology of the area to compile a guide book. Together with a walkers' map, it will be sold locally in support of the project. In addition to the main route - embracing round towers, Romanesque churches, Norman castles, abbeys, lead mines and the western slopes of the Slieve Aughty Mountains - the walk will also include a series of short loops round villages and townlands.
A link-up with the existing East Clare Way allows for a hike of over 300km. In deference to the "information age" town of Ennis, the Mid-Clare Way team has also designed its own website at http://www.clarenet.ie/walks/