OVER 1,500 people descended on the Ballyhoura countryside for the annual international walking festival generating €200,000 for the local economy.
Now in its 18th year, the festival featured 35 guided walks which were led by people from local communities and the Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club.
“It was super. We were up 30 per cent on last year’s numbers,” explained Fergal Somers, manager Ballyhoura Fáilte, Kilfinane. “When we totted it up, we saw that 16 different nationalities attend,” he added.
Among the 1,500 walkers were international visitors from Slovenia, Hungry, Wales, Scotland, England, Spain, France, Holland, Canada, Brazil and Germany.
Four international journalists and three national journalists attended the festival over the weekend. RTE’s Nationwide also travelled to the Ballyhoura region over the weekend to compile a package which aired this Wednesday evening.
The programme featured the Ballyhoura Food Fair and the launch of the Taste of Ballyhoura food brand as well as the walking festival. A total of 24 walking clubs from around Ireland participated in the Ballyhoura International Walking Festival. An economic impact survey was carried out in conjunction with LIT where over 75% of visitors were surveyed. “The results will be available at end of May,” said Mr Somers.
In addition to the many scheduled walks, there was also a new aspect to the walking festival this year - the Mountain Skills Navigation Challenge which took place on Monday. The event was designed and organised by club members Pat Lombard and Denis Bates with the intention to challenge both experienced and novice hill-walkers who had at least a basic knowledge of navigation and mountain skills. “Walking is becoming a really important part of people’s lives with all the health benefits. Thanks to the Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club for all their input and experience without whom the festival would not take place,” added Mr Somers. The weekend’s most gruelling walk was the Ballyhoura Marathon Challenge’, a 26.2 mile route. Ballyhoura Country features 1,500km of national loop walks and way marked ways.