Tain Walking Festival kicks off tourism season in The Land of Legends

The beautiful Cooley Peninsula in County Louth are hosting the 4th annual Táin Walking festival on March 4th – 6th which will set off the counties full calendar of events for 2011. 

The festival has become a popular early fixture in Ireland’s annual walking calendar with the Cooley Peninsula boasting some of the best walking routes in the country.   The area’s famous Táin Way Marked Way was recently upgraded and four other new looped walks introduced by Louth County Council with National Development Plan grant assistance from Fáilte Ireland.  Although relatively ‘young’, the festival attracts walkers from as far away as England and Holland as well as throughout the Republic and Northern Ireland.

‘We have a fantastic walking product here and this is a great way to showcase it.  Walking, like everywhere in the country, is a massively growing market.  More overseas visitors come to Ireland to engage in hiking and walking activities than for any other specific activity including golf, horse-riding, cycling or fishing. When people find this magical place, possibly through planning a days walking, they are overwhelmed and always want to come back’ Frances Taylor,  Cooley Peninsula Tourism Officer. ‘It’s easy access and full tourism package makes it extremely attractive to day visitors or as family holidays, romantic breakaways and adventure seeking groups’.

This Irish European Destination of Excellence, is based just one hour from Dublin and Belfast, boasting the most breathtaking scenery on the north coast of this Island.   It is steeped in heritage with a remarkable amount of history, myths and legends.  The mountains hold the haunting footsteps of Cuchulainn, Maebh and the battle for the Brown Bull of Cooley as recounted in the national epic An Tain.  Slieve Foy mountain, the highest in the Cooleys, is the resting place of Irish giant Finn Mc Cool, his outline clearly visible against the side of the mountain, above the medieval town of Carlingford.  And it is, officially the last recognised area where leprechauns are believed to live.  In 2010, the area received European Union recognition as a Special Protected Area for Leprechauns under the EU Habitats Directive.  Indeed two weeks after the walking festival there is a ‘Leprechaun Hunt’ where thousands descend on the mountain with prospecting licences to hunt for leprechauns.  (People are asked to refrain taking any of the real wee people home though).

The festival will offer a range of ten walks starting from the various parts of the peninsula including the picturesque village of Carlingford.  Selected routes guarantee breathtaking scenery with graded walks to suit various levels of fitness and experience.

One of the highlights will open the festival on the Friday evening with a spectacular night walk to the top of Slieve Foy mountain.  While it will be strictly a Grade 1 walk, the hike in the dark will deliver outstanding views of The Cooley Peninsula and Carlingford Lough lit by the night sky.  The Táin Way, a national way marked way of 40kms is being offered as a 2 day walk over the Sat & Sunday.

The more adventurous and active may prefer the Grade 1 20 kilometre walk which will cover all the peaks on the Cooley’s. Some of the areas newly launched looped walks will also feature in the festival. 

Slightly easier options are also presented, with a guided walk of the medieval town of Carlingford and an evening coastal walk which will highlight the archaeological features along the shores of Carlingford Lough, supported by The Loughs Agency.  After dark, weary walkers can wind down with some of the excellent weekend entertainment available.

‘‘We enjoy coordinating our events around our heritage and as this is County Louth – ‘Land of Legends’.  The Tain Festival completely compliments the ethos of our tourism offering countywide.   Louth County Council and local community support is vital to the success of these type of events.  The Walkers Welcome, launched earlier in the year by Minister Mary Hanafin, is extremely successful which means the visiting walker will get excellent value for money and be well looked after’. Frances Taylor commented. 

All pre registrations will receive a complimentary pack of walking map cards featuring 10 walks in the area (RRP 4.95). Day tickets for the festival cost just €15 or €25 for the whole weekend, including the coastal walk and just €5 for the Heritage Walking tour. Registration is required for most walks and the closing date to register is March 4th, 2011.

Full details on the walks and registration information can be found on the website http://www.louthholidays.com by calling 042- 937 3033