Graham Norton lends his support to West Cork charity event
Popular TV presenter Graham Norton has encouraged walkers and runners of all ages and fitness levels to get involved in the inaugural Sheep's Head Challenge in West Cork this weekend.
The Bandon native spends considerable time in his holiday home in Ahakista, right at the heart of the Sheep's Head peninsula, and hopes that Saturday's event will showcase the natural beauty of the area while also raising funds for worthy local causes.
The world famous Sheep’s Head Way, which in 2009 was selected as a European Destination of Excellence, will be the picturesque setting for the Independent.ie sponsored 15km off-road trail run and hike which aims to raise funds for Bantry Hospital and Ahakista Community Association.
Beginning at the Tin Pub in Ahakista, the route offers stunning views from Dunmanus Bay to Bantry Bay and Norton believes it is a great way of improving facilities in the area.
"It promises to be a great day," he told Independent.ie. "It's a great chance to explore the extraordinary beauty of the Sheep's Head no matter what your age or level of fitness. Young or old, walk or run, rain or shine, I hope there is a great turn out."
The 52-year-old, who released his memoir 'The Life and Loves of a He Devil' last October, has become an active member in the community and is the MC for the annual Ahakista Regatta quiz night.
This should be a great day come rain or shine and you'll raise money for some very deserving local charities pic.twitter.com/hXDRm0F62v— graham norton (@grahnort) August 26, 2015
He says a large turnout on Saturday will have a hugely positive impact on the area.
"I've long had a connection with the Ahakista Community Association and have also had a chance to see first-hand the great facilities that Bantry Hospital provides so all the money raised on the day will be doing great things in the community."
The walk will begin at 10.30am while runners will set off on the scenic route an hour later. All participants will be given a map at registration with the course fully marked out as well as having stewards at various stages of the course to assist if necessary.
"The support for the event has been incredible," race organiser Declan Whooley says.
"Independent.ie is the main sponsor, while local businesses have been eager to get on-board and help out and cover costs. A lot of time and effort has gone into turning the dream into a reality and would not have been possible with the support and contributions of various businesses and individuals."
Interest in trail running has been growing significantly in recent years and Barry Looney of the West Cork Hotel has said the event has enticed people from near and far to West Cork.
"There has been great enthusiasm for the event locally and we have seen people from right around the country booking accommodation in order to participate on the day.
"Hopefully the weather will pick up and there will be a good turnout," he said before adding that "dodgy hamstrings" might put paid to his own participation.
It will be a busy weekend in the area with the Ahakista Regatta, postponed due to bad weather earlier this month, also taking place.
"It should be a great weekend for all ages," says John Cronin, who will be celebrating his 30th birthday on the Sheep's Head Way. "As well as the run and walk, there will be a raft race and fishing competition later in the day, a BBQ at the Tin Pub and music throughout the day."
Registration will take place in the Tin Pub in Ahakista from 9.30am and entry is €20 per person, with children under 16 half price. For more information visit The Sheep's Head Facebook page.