SOME 1,000 walkers of all abilities from the hardy hiker to the gentle rambler are expected to descend on the Ballyhoura countryside over the May bank holiday weekend for the famous international walking festival.
Now in its 18th year, the Ballyhoura International Walking Festival sees guides from the Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club lead a packed programme for walkers of all abilities from May 5 to May 7.
“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, May 7. The event has been designed and organised by club members Pat Lombard and Denis Bates with the intention to challenge both experienced and novice hill-walkers who have at least a basic knowledge of navigation and mountain skills. 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, rising bright and early on Saturday morning to cross the unspoiled landscape of Ballyhoura. Ballyhoura Country features 1,500km of national loop walks and way marked ways, including the historic Ballyhoura Way. Every year, new routes are chosen for the walking festival, attracting walkers from all over Ireland and as far afield as South Africa, Germany, and the Czech Republic.