Football star puts on hiking boots for new Irish trail modelled on the Camino
Football legend Paul McGrath swapped his football boots for a pair of hiking boots to launch the country’s latest heritage trail in Co Carlow at the weekend.
The former Ireland international said walking has become “an important part” of his life.
“Like a lot of people over the last two years, I have a new appreciation for the amazing outdoor spaces we have in Ireland and the positive effect walking can have on your mental health.”
Commending the new Columban Way trail, which is the starting point of a wider European trail stretching 6,000km, he said it spoke in a very real way to the importance of community.
“It’s not about where you are going, but the journey itself. We have a right to be proud of the many scenic walks we have in this country,” he said.
The Columban Way is a pilgrimage trail modelled on the Camino, the Francigena and other great European cultural routes.
It features historical sites and landscapes of early Christian Ireland as it follows in the footsteps of the sixth century Irish monk St Columbanus, who was born at the foot of Mount Leinster in Co Carlow.
The scenic and historical trail links three areas with strong associations to St Columbanus in Ireland from his birthplace at Mount Leinster in Co Carlow, his place of study at Cleenish Island in Co Fermanagh to the monastery he joined in Bangor, Co Down.
The trail is expected to be a key tourism attraction. Supporters of the initiative have highlighted its cross-border potential to unite communities of different faith and cultural traditions.
Once fully developed, the Columban Way will stretch 530km across counties Carlow, Wexford, Kildare, Laois, Meath, Cavan, Monaghan, Fermanagh, Armagh and Down.
The Columban Way also links to the European trail which links places associated with St Columbanus in Britain, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
This new stretch of the Columban Way was undertaken in response to the growing demand for slow, sustainable tourism according to Michael Walsh of Carlow Tourism.
Standing at the Columbanus Cairn on Mount Leinster, Fianna Fáil Councillor Fintan Phelan recalled that it was in the shadow of the Blackstairs Mountains that Columbanus spent his early years.
“This spot therefore holds a very special place in the history of Columbanus’s story and the development of the Columban Way here in Ireland,” he said.