A total of 19 different route options will be available for those taking part in the 2022 Inishowen Walking Festival which takes place from Friday, September 16th, to Sunday, September 25th.
The event, which will be delivered by Inishowen social enterprise community groups, in conjunction with Donegal Sports Partnership, will have scheduled walks in Buncrana, Fort Dunree, Clonmany, Carndonagh, Carrowmenagh, Malin, Greencastle, Drumfries, Inch, Burnfoot and Muff.
Explore Inishowen Programme Manager, Heidi Doherty, said the idea for the first festival last year was devised by a group of community managers who came together in 2021.
“Because of Covid, there’s a lot more importance being paid to people’s health and well-being. The aim of this year’s Inishowen Walking Festival is to create an opportunity for communities to come together and participate in a fun, healthy, educational and inclusive activity that builds on the inaugural Inishowen Walking Festival,” she commented.
“As well as an immediate positive mental impact, walking outside enhances social inclusion in a natural sensory environment. We believe this project has the potential to become a wider tourism economic development that will attract visitors from further afield.
“We’ve got the scenery, the walks and the locations here in Inishowen. The positive feedback from last year’s festival indicates people’s passion for exercise outdoors,” the programme manager added.
The number of participants in the 2021 event was capped at 500, and that will be the same for this month’s festival.
“There are different walks for different abilities. For example, there’s a tranquillity walk which has a maximum of 60 and there might be another walk where there are only 30 on it. One of the big takeaways was that people that are part of walking groups and avid walkers identified the need for a walk that would push the parameters of fitness. They wanted to go on a certain length of walk on certain terrain and that’s strenuous. With that in mind, we’ve brought in an expert to help with the whole area of fitness and well-being and that’s where Donegal Sports Partnership came in. We’re extremely grateful to Community Development Officer, Karen Guthrie, for her help and support,” she said.
“I think it’s nearly like ‘Walking Back To Happiness’. I can hear that song in my head and with Covid-19 this is something that is very significant because people need to be allowed to come together in open spaces. There is research out there that people are still feeling overloaded, and this event is giving people a way of reconnecting in certain places.
“The vision for the future is that there would be a festival committee, that it would grow like the Clonmany Festival and that Inishowen could say this is the walking destination. I would then like to see it become a Donegal Walking Festival which would include other walks from other areas such as the Bluestack Mountains and Errigal Mountain which would make a bigger and better event that people would come from far and wide to do. There is a vision for the future – there’s a start and middle, but there’s no end because it can just keep growing.”
Encouraging people to take part in the 2022 Inishowen Walking Festival, Heidi said: “This is about walking back to happiness. It’s about getting out there, being part of nature and enjoying the scenery and what we have here in Donegal. If you’re travelling from another area, you get the opportunity to walk with other people who are experts in the area. You can walk with that information so that you can come back another time. Hopefully, people will come from other areas and discover Donegal and Inishowen.”
Community Development Officer with Donegal Sports Partnership, Karen Guthrie, said: “The Inishowen Walking Festival working group have invested a huge amount of their time in promoting Inishowen as a beautiful walking destination for not only tourists, but also for locals.
“North Donegal is blessed with fantastic walking routes and the most amazing scenery and we’re delighted to see so many communities involved in encouraging and supporting people to become more active through walking.”
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This community event is organised by Go Visit Inishowen, Donegal and the following local community centres throughout Inishowen. Artlink Fort Dunree, Greencastle Centre, Clonmany Community Centre, Colgan Hall, Muff Community Forum, Sliabh Sneacht Centre, Malin Head Community, Carrowmenagh Centre, The Exchange Inishowen &Trail Gazers in conjunction with Donegal Connect Event.
The festival is supported by Donegal County Council, Pobal, Creative Ireland Programme and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht Sport and Media.