Donegal’s Inishowen peninsula is bringing back its Walking Festival for a second outing this September.
Whether you’re a stroller or a hiker, the Inishowen Walking Festival has something for all ages and abilities. The festival will run from 16 to 25 September and includes scenic walk trails covering the region.
Buncrana, Malin, Fort Dunree and Clonmany are just some of the picturesque locations where participants can avail of guided walking trails.
Explore Inishowen programme manager Heidi Doherty said the idea for the first festival was devised by a group of community managers who came together in 2021.
She explains that wellbeing has become the main focus of the festival, as this was an area which gained more emphasis during the pandemic.
Walking outside enhances social inclusion in a natural sensory environment
"Because of COVID-19, there's a lot more importance being paid to people's health and wellbeing. 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 said.
"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," she added.
I was almost pinching myself that this was real, just the farmer, the sheep and his dog
There are four levels assigned to each walking trail - multi-access, easy, moderate and strenuous. Walkers are advised to know their fitness level in order to choose the walk that best suits their ability.
Not only do these walks guarantee healthy exercise, they are led by expert guides who will inform participants about local history, heritage, wildlife, plants and animals, along with wellness tips and techniques.
Giving an insight into what the various trails have to offer, Heidi describes one of her favourite walks from the festival.
“This year, our Go Visit Inishowen Walk at Scalp Mountain is called 'Walking back to Happiness'. It started with opening up dialogue with a local farmer, learning about his area, celebrating his local heritage and standing high up on the hillside - possibly the best 360° view I’ve seen, other than being in the air of Inishowen.
"I was almost pinching myself that this was real, just the farmer, the sheep and his dog. By the time we walked down the track, the mist was lifting and the sun was beaming across the skyline.
“I drove away that day thinking we need to value our place and nature here in Ireland and embrace the wellbeing through the people that have been taking care of the land for centuries. It’s good to connect again and what better way than walking with local knowledge and experts at hand.”
Hopefully, people will come from other areas and discover Donegal and Inishowen
"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."
More information is available here.