An extension to the Castle Field walk in Enniscrone has recently been completed and is proving very popular with locals and visitors alike.
“I’m doing the walk every day,” said local woman Bridie Kilcullen, who was in the park with her daughter Helen. “Since it opened I come here every single day with a friend, it’s fantastic,” she adds.
“Especially over lockdown, it was a God’s send,” said Helen, adding that the walk is less busy than the nearby beach and coastal walks in the town, which can be very busy even after the tourists have left.
There is no doubt that this extension to the Castle Field walk, which adds approximately 500 metres to the existing walks in the town-centre park, is a great addition. But as we headed for our first visit there last week, it was also obvious that the area has great potential for further development as an amenity. The field which contains the walk covers approximately 20 acres, and it is unusual for a town to have this much greenfield space in its centre.
And according to David Tuffy, Chair of Enniscrone & District Community Development Council, there is scope for future plans which could greatly enhance Enniscrone’s appeal to anyone interested in the Great Outdoors.
“We have wonderful walks in the town, and these, allied to the surf and golf amenities on our doorstep, underline the potential we have to draw visitors 12 months of the year,” he said.
“The fact that we have this town centre greenfield space which has remained largely undeveloped while the town has grown around it means that we have a real gem, which should be developed sympathetically, to underpin its value to the entire community.”
The extension to the walk starts at the creche beside the fire station, skirts the castle, the original of which dates from the 15th century and from which the area derives its name, before connecting with existing paths near the Burma Road – adjacent to the entrance to Waterpoint. Here you can find an access route to the famed coastal walk near the pier, and also to Enniscrone Beach. From this corner of the park, a number of looped walk options are available in a tranquil setting, just a short few steps from the main road in the town.
“The property is owned (in trust) by Enniscrone & District Community Development Council,” says Michael Breen, a member of the Council’s walks sub-committee. “The commitment from the Community Council is to provide amenities for the public. It’s hoped that we can develop this pathway further. The intention is to develop the area into a parkland for the public.”
Lighting has been installed along the new section of walkway, to ensure that as the evenings shorten, the public can still use that section of the walk. And on the day we visited, the sun shone, the grass was cut and the scenery around the area was greatly enjoyed by locals and day trippers alike, no doubt enhanced by notable features located near the path, including a ring fort, a megalithic tomb and the ruins of Valentine’s Church.
Among the ambitions of the Committee to further enhance the amenity are plans to introduce outdoor all-weather gym equipment which could be positioned at intervals alongside the path. Plans are currently underway to add a running track, and it is hoped that works on this phase will commence soon.
Funding for this walk was provided largely by Town and Village Renewal Funding, with additional supports – financial and otherwise – from the community and Sligo County Council. And as we have pointed out many times over the years, should other communities wish to develop outdoor amenities like walks in their area, supports exist which would enable them to make those dreams a reality.
“It cost €50,000 or thereabouts (to construct the new walk),” says Councillor Joe Queenan, who is also a member of the local walks sub-committee. “It’s unique,” he adds, saying that while the property where this walk is located is on community-owned land, he encourages landowners to consider making land available to develop new walks throughout the county or to provide rights of way. “I can understand why landowners would have concerns, but for the benefit of the community and the benefit of the tourism product, if they could see themselves to allow that (permission), they will be compensated, it will be secured and they will be insured.”
A long term ambition of the local committee in Enniscrone is to see the castle itself developed as an amenity which could be visited. The history of the castle – also known as O’Dowd’s Castle, is long and varied. Its strategic location on a main artery between North Connacht and Ulster meant that the area was often subjected to conflict, and the castle bore the scars over many years. The castle was destroyed in 1512 after a battle between warring clans – the Burkes of Mayo and the O’Donnells of Donegal, and subsequent rebuilds were subjected to periods of strife over the centuries. After the Cromwellian Settlement in the mid 17th century, gradually the castle fell into ruin, and nowadays its outer walls are all that remain. Whether the community here manage to drive what would unquestionably be a major redevelopment project remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the people of Enniscrone can admire the views of the castle walls from several angles on this short but interesting urban walk.
For more on walking in Sligo visit www.SligoWalks.ie.