UP to 1000 walkers are due to descend on the Ballyhoura Countryside this weekend to take part in Ireland’s oldest walking festival.
Taking place from today until Monday, the Ballyhoura International Walking Festival will see walkers cover a total of 20,000km and burn 40 million calories.
Now in its 20th year, the festival sees guides from the Ballyhoura Bears Walking club leading a packed programme for all abilities – from the hardy hiker to gentle ramblers enjoying the company of local experts in the fields of heritage, archaeology, history, flora and fauna.
The Ballyhoura International Festival isn’t just Ireland’s oldest walking festival – it’s one of the most popular too. Walkers will cover 200 million steps, or more than 40 times the length of Ireland. Not only that, but walkers are set to burn a collective 40 million calories too.
“The weather does make a difference in people’s decisions for the weekend,” said Jim Flynn, community and planning supervisor with Ballyhoura Development.
“If the weather is forecasting good, it brings the numbers up definitely. We have often found down the years that if the Friday is good and the forecast for the weekend is good, you will have a bigger number.”
The weekend’s most gruelling walk is the Ballyhoura Marathon Challenge, a 26.2 mile route over forest trails and farmland. The event is now a partnership with the Mountain Running Association.
The challenge is expected to attract over 300 participants, crossing the beautiful, unspoiled landscape of Ballyhoura.
“It is going from Kilfinane and it is a cross-country marathon. It comes back through Ballyoran and into Kilfinane again. There is a whole programme of walks - there are what we call the festival walks and then there are the community walks or special interest walks. People can register on the day,” Jim explained.
Due to storms earlier this year, there was more preparation involved in this year’s event.
“There was a big job this year with the storm. There was a lot of the tracks blocked and trees down. A lot of clearance had to be done and is still being done up to this minute,” said Jim.