The week of great weather we’ve just had was a great time to catch up with some of those who have been taking part in the Sligo Spring Walking Series, which on Wednesday last saw over 30 walkers head up the Devil’s Chimney near Glencar.
The Devil’s Chimney, or Sruth in Aghaidh an Aird, is a well known Sligo looped trail walk which overlooks Glencar Lake, where a spectacular waterfall is known to blow upwards when certain windy conditions prevail. No such conditions were in evidence on a beautiful sunny day last Wednesday, where the group assembled at the Tea Shed at the entrance to Glencar Waterfall, before being brought by bus to the start of the walk.
Deirdre Lavin of Sligo Sports and Recreation Partnership and Jim Newman of Sligo Walking Club were on hand to guide the walkers up this moderately difficult looped walk, at the top of which walkers are rewarded by a spectacular view across Glencar Lake towards Cope’s Mountain.
After the 45 minute walk, the bus brought the walkers back to the Tea Shed for refreshments, where Sligo Walks had a chance to catch up with some of the participants to find out what motivated them to get involved in the Spring Walking Series and how they view the potential of Sligo to grow as a walking destination.
Maureen Casey from Glencar isn’t part of any of the walking clubs in Sligo but does enjoy the fresh air, especially walking with friends. She has been on most of the walks which were organised as part of the Spring Series, and she said: “I walk with a group of friends a few evenings per week but I’ve never done these trails and mountain walks. I’m finding them fantastic. For these walks, you can just turn up and arrive, and you meet loads of different people, people you didn’t realise you knew until you started walking.”
Some of the walkers saw the series advertised online, and others found out about it through word of mouth. But some of the walkers feel that much more could be done to draw attention to what is a free, healthy and very social event.
Encouraging people to get out and about, Lorraine Kerins from Sligo says: “I’m not part of any walking group, I’m a casual walker. I think that the people of Sligo need to know about these (walks), I signed up for it and saw it on SligoWalks.ie. But I think if an advertisement was put in the centre of Sligo near the tourist office, people need to see that there are walks available.”
The social aspect is key for many of the people we spoke with. Lorraine also noted that the location we were sitting in – the Tea Shed at Glencar – is an important gathering point for social walkers. It provides a place for people to meet up beforehand and also to come back to after the walk ends, and this element is missing on many of the more scenic walks in Sligo.
“Glencar is exceptional. The tea house is amazing, the facilities they have given us. The car park is beautifully clean, they have the correct type of bins, one for recycling, one for rubbish, everything is done extremely well. It’s obviously community work that’s really important.”
The issue around facilities for walkers was also mentioned by Jacinta Dunne. “I think if we are going to promote Sligo as a walking destination, then we have to provide the facilities as well, I think it’s very important. If you do a good walk, it’s lovely to have somewhere to come back to. It doesn’t matter how experienced a walker you are, you’ll always want to come back to somewhere, you have the best of both worlds really.”
She adds: “I think we should be promoting Sligo as a walking destination. It’s going to take people into the furthest parts of Sligo, into all of the places where you wouldn’t normally get anyone. And if we were to develop those places we might get more jobs, and bring people into the county of Sligo.”
With just two more walks remaining in this series, it’s time to dust off those walking boots and to get out into the fresh air. Tomorrow, Wednesday 28th February, a 7km walk will take place around Lough Talt in the south of the county, and on Saturday next, March 3rd, the final Spring Series walk will take in some of the Sligo Way, from Union Wood to Lough Lumman. Both walks are free to everyone. For details, times and directions to the meeting points, visit SligoWalks.ie.