The autumn evenings may be starting to close in, so there’s no better time to get your walking boots on for the 25th Ballyhoura Walking Festival, taking place from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th October in Kilfinane, Co Limerick. Established as Ireland’s first-ever walking festival back in the day, it provides an opportunity to explore some of Ballyhoura Country’s stunning scenery.
Many of the walks are led by members of the Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club who have in-depth knowledge of the area and its heritage, history, flora and fauna, and are suitable for all abilities, from the enthusiastic well-equipped walker who relishes the challenge of the A & B level walks to the gentle ramblers who are out to enjoy pleasant C walks.
Amongst the walking programme’s highlights are the ever-popular Darragh Hill Moon Light Walk (C Walk) on Friday evening, Saturday’s breath-taking Sunrise Walk to Seefin (the highest point of Ballyhoura Mountains) led by Britton Outdoors, as well as the Walking Half Marathon (A Walk), where each participant will be awarded with a certificate. The Slievereagh Loop Walk (B Walk) takes in part of the Ballyhoura Way and traverses streams, woodlands, forest roads and tracks, scaling its highest point of the pinnacle Slievereagh at 465m; meanwhile the easy Canon Sheehan Loop Walk (C Walk) follows glorious forest tracks, woodland paths and riverbank through Glenanaar Forest and along the banks of the Ogeen River.
There’s lots for families to enjoy too at the festival! Ballyhoura Nature Trail Family Scavenger Hunt is a fun 40 minute, 2km investigation of over 20 hidden creatures in the woods that children have to uncover on their walk. Who knows what they’ll find! Meanwhile, the Forest Welly Waddlers session led by Ballyhoura Beo will guarantee lots of morning fun for the 2 to 5 year olds and their parents, with a natural play session in the Ballyhoura Woodlands! Irish Family Search are hosting the Mitchelstown Heritage Walk, which includes displays of the local native games of skittles and road bowling, and also takes in the Silk Farm, 1887 Land War Protest, Pagan Well, The Co-Op Story, local GAA lore and the 7th Century Abbey.
Sunday offers a relaxing Festival Yoga Walk by Yoga Walks Ireland. However, if your walking boots are still on a quest of discovery, you’ll have several opportunities on Sunday to satisfy them! Discover the local history, heritage, folklore and archaeology at Lough Gur (free admission to the Visitor Centre), learn about the history of people, castle and medieval town of Kilmallock, or join a guided tour of Doneraile Park & Gardens.
Registration, which is also where you’ll get your must-have merchandise, festival brochure, packed food etc, takes place as follows outside the Old Chapel Room, Captain’s Lane in Kilfinane:
- Register for Darragh Hill Moon Light Walk and the Sunrise Walk to Seefin on Friday 8th October from 6pm - 6:45pm
- Register for all other walks on Saturday 9th October from 9am
This year’s Walking Festival is collaborating with the Joyce Brothers Music Festival, which complements and enriches the walking programme with its own jam-packed schedule, featuring historical talks, musical performances, concerts, workshops, all aimed at highlighting the remarkable work of the Joyce Brothers, who were renowned for collecting and documenting Irish music, songs and poetry from the 1800s. It starts in Kilfinane on the Friday evening with a talk by local historian Angela Hennessy on the legacy of the Joyce Brothers, followed by an evening concert of their tunes by acclaimed traditional musicians Liam Flanagan and Derek Hickey, and finishing with an open session in McGrath’s Pub where local and visiting musicians will get a chance to play. The Saturday afternoon schedule includes a series of workshops, which teach the music and songs of the collection, followed by a concert from Joyce Brothers’ expert Liam O'Connor and renowned signer Dónal Clancy, and a music session in Kelleher’s Pub. What a great way to relax after a day of outdoor pursuits and exploration of the local Ballyhoura scenery!
On Sunday afternoon, historian Angela Hennessy will lead a walk from the Joyce Brothers’ homestead in Glenosheen followed by Music and Storytelling at Kilflynn Church, and an option to witness the unveiling of a land-art sculpture of local legend Oisín of na Fianna on the Keale River Walk. The sculpture of Oisín is being made by members of the local community–alongside artist Veronica Santorum–using natural materials, clay dug from the site, and willow. The Joyce Brothers Music Festival will close with another music session in Shaughnessy’s Pub at 5pm.
To mark being surrounded all weekend by the stunning Ballyhoura landscape, festival participants with an eye for capturing a good photograph - be that the beautiful scenery or the ‘craic’ of the festival - can take part in an online photography competition. #BallyhouraMoments #BallyhouraWalkingFestival and #VisitBallyhoura are the all-important hashtags you will need to enter!
There’s so much to enjoy at the 25th Ballyhoura Walking Festival - where will your walking boots take you?