HUNDREDS of walkers of all abilities are preparing to don their hiking boots this weekend for the Ballyhoura International Walking Festival.
Now in its 18th year, the festival which takes place from Saturday to Monday offers over 30 guided walks, led by people from local communities and the Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club.
“We are forecasting this year’s festival to break all records for the number of walkers. Bookings are well up on previous years with visitors coming from Germany, Canada, UK, Slovenia and France already booked,” said Fergal Somers, manager Ballyhoura Fáilte, Kilfinane.
“The Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club have an amazing number of walks planned for the weekend showcasing the very best of what Ballyhoura Country has to offer. It is expected to have an economic impact of over €150,000 to the local economy, “ he added.
In the region of 1,000 walkers are expected to descend on Ballyhoura Country, covering an average distance of 20km each. Together, they are expected to cover a total of 20,000km and burn an estimated 40 million calories over the weekend.
“There are walks for every ability from the earliest beginner right through to the most seasoned professional,” said Denis Bates, chairman of the Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club.
“There is also a universal access walk in Doneraile on the Sunday and that welcomes people with special needs,” he added.
In addition to the many scheduled walks there is also a new aspect to the event - the Mountain Skills Navigation Challenge which takes place on Monday.
The weekend’s most gruelling walk is the Ballyhoura Marathon Challenge’, a 26.2 mile route over forest trails and farmland.
The challenge is expected to attract over 200 participants, on Saturday.