The new Rosses Point Coastal Way in Sligo

Walkers enjoying the new Rosses Point Coastal Way in Sligo

The Rosses Point Coastal Way is a walking route that has been way marked by a series of nine interpretive panels along the 2.2 km of coastal paths at Rosses Point, stretching from the Church of Ireland church building at one end of the Promenade to the headland above the carpark at the First beach. Each of the panels highlight aspects of the rich and diverse heritage of the area including its geology, archaeology, biodiversity, maritime history and cultural connections.

The project was the brainchild of a small group of locals: Sean Callagy who has a particular interest in the birdlife of the area as well as other aspects of heritage,  Dearbhla Gill whose family are from Rosses Point and is principal of the local National School Réalt na Mara, and Martina Butler, who lives in Sligo and is a heritage specialist working in the Heritage Councils ‘Heritage in Schools’ scheme. Martina had previous experience of producing educational panels when she worked as an Education Officer with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Together they worked on the project as the Rosses Point Coastal Way Group (RPCWG).

Pupils at Réalt na Mara School in Rosses Point doing the prep work for the signs

From the outset, the RPCWG set about involving the community in the project so that there would be a sense of local ownership.  The most enthusiastic response came from the children in SN Réalt na Mara. The pupils participated in two workshops during which they listed many aspects and elements of the heritage in their locality. They then set about designing different shapes, sizes and layouts of panels, and finally, they identified suitable locations for each of the interpretive panels by getting out with their clipboards and pencils and walking the coastal paths. On their return to school, the pupils then transferred their chosen panel locations onto an oversized route map.

The RPCW Group were aware that the Heritage of Rosses Point would also be of immense interest to a wide variety of people, including those with an interest in the famous brothers Jack and W.B. Yeats, both of whom spent much of their summers locally, its landscape and history reflected in their works. The group decided to carry out a survey of local visitors and foreign tourists to ascertain their thoughts and suggestions in relation to the proposed project as well as to find out what aspects of the areas heritage interested them most. The survey indicated an overwhelmingly positive response to the project proposal as well as an even greater interest in all aspects of the areas heritage. The group then set about designing the interpretive panels based on all of the input from both the school children and from the visitor survey.

The RPCWG designed and produced all nine panels themselves using their own IT, photography and editing skills and were thus able to produce the panels at a fraction of the cost they would otherwise have been. Some photographs were kindly donated by others including local photographer and bird enthusiast, Michael Bell, who allowed us to reproduce some of his wonderful birdlife imagery and Stephen Farrell, who kindly gave us permission to use his spectacular photograph of the iconic Metal Man on two of the panels. Additional resources were required, and fortunately the local Rosses Point Tidy Towns committee through Catherine Johnston, successfully applied for a Tidy Towns grant on their behalf to meet the remaining costs.

Sligo County Council, through the enthusiasm and support of Michael Carty, Senior Executive Engineer, ensured that the project became a reality by encouraging the group to access the appropriate funding to have the panels made in the highest quality signage materials and then enabling them to have them installed along the route in time for the June Bank Holiday weekend.

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