Adding artistic touches to Donegal’s ‘Appalachian Way’

A rucksack modelled in granite, the latest work by Letterkenny sculptor Redmond Herrity

ANYONE setting out on the famous Appalachian Trail in the USA knows about the long journey ahead. But did you know that the journey ends on the other side of the Atlantic?
The International Appalachian Trail (IAT) Ulster–Ireland is part of a wider international walking trail that follows the Appalachian Mountain terrain, which existed on the super continent Pangaea before the Atlantic Ocean formed that broke up the continent.
The Ulster-Ireland Chapter of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT), which totals 284 miles in length, was established in 2011, launched in 2013 and continues the trail after it leaves the North American Continent.
In Donegal, the trail runs from Slieve League, via Malin Beg, Glencolmcille, Port, Ardara, Glenties, Disert, Lough Eske, Clar and Leghowney to the border at Kelly’s Bridge.
Work on the project is underway and includes improved trail waymarking, dedicated trail-heads at key access points, information boards as well as stiles, fencing and picnic benches.
The trail will also feature three signature trail art pieces by renowned Letterkenny stone sculptor Redmond Herrity. The first of these, ‘Recycled Seat’ (the Bottle), has already been installed along the Owenea river, outside Ardara.
His second piece ‘Been Around’ (the rucksack) is nearing completion and will be installed outside the hostel in Glencolmcille while work has yet to start on the third piece, a silhouette of a walker, which will be located close to Kelly’s Bridge on the border with Tyrone.
The idea for the sculptures came from Redmond’s most recent project ‘Recycled Stone’ where his work in marble and limestone is a stark contrast to the damaging disposable items – the tins and plastics that we use and recycle – they represent.
“They were small scale pieces but this project allows me to work on a much larger scale. Recycled Seat is made from a three-tonne block of Donegal granite. The major problem was trying to lift and turn it so the majority of work was done when the block was on its side before being turned around and finished,” he explained.
“I’m currently working on the rucksack – another three-tonne block – before moving onto the final piece, a four-metre tall figure.
“I tend to design the pieces and then pick the stone to suit. I’ve had my eye on a piece of granite for some time that I could see the rucksack in. One thing about a piece of stone is that it never goes out of date,” he said.
Redmond travelled over to Ardara to install the recycled stone bottle and admits that he’s been ‘pleasantly’ surprised by how many people have seen the piece.
“It’s a lovely part of the world, albeit a little bit off the beaten track, so I was amazed at how people have already seen it,” he said.
“I’ll have the rucksack finished early in the new year before starting into the third piece in February or March,” he added.
Each piece takes approximately six months and Redmond has a busy order book to take him through much of next year.
“Lockdown allowed me to work on different proposals and to get my CV tightened up a bit as it’s something I would never had got the time to do otherwise,” he said.
Simon Canning, Project Co-Ordinator with Donegal Local Development CLG, said that it will be the new year before the Donegal section of the IAT is officially launched.
Last year, a €215,000 funding package was secured to develop and enhance the International Appalachian Trail in Donegal. It includes a grant of €161,000 from LEADER, €50,000 in match funding from Donegal County Council, with other funding being provided by the Rural Recreation Programme.
“There’s a lot of work ongoing with the IAT in Donegal at present, including path development works at Lough Eske and a new footbridge.
“Redmond’s work will provide the signature elements to the Donegal section of the IAT. Walkers will be able to check the recycled bottle, the rucksack and the walker off your list while also providing photo opportunities along the route,” he said.
“The rugged beauty of the area will make this section of the International Appalachian Trail a very enjoyable hiking experience for both locals and visitors.
“Works are still ongoing, and we hope to be completed in early 2022, with a local Donegal Launch to occur at this time,” he added.
The trail travels 119km across Donegal and traverses through some of the most spectacular scenery in Ireland. It begins at the Bunglass car park along the Atlantic Ocean and finished at Kelly’s Bridge at the Northern Ireland Border.
Here, it picks up the Ulster Way, taking in the Sperrins, passing the Giant’s Causeway, the stunning northern coastline before traversing the Glens of Antrim. The Trail is approximately 485km in length and passes through six council areas.

Redmond Herrity

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