Wednesday 17 July 2019

Gold standard walks

Michael Flatley point to the promontory fort, its mounds date back to 2/3000 BC.
Michael Flatley point to the promontory fort, its mounds date back to 2/3000 BC.

Emma Gallagher

Sligo has plenty of wondrous walks in its midst.

Leader recently held a competition, called Golden Mile, where various areas were highlighted for their walkways.

Aughris was among the winners in the Best Natural Heritage mile.

The west Sligo location has been a famous stopover for tourists for decades, due to its coastal views, surfing and fishing.

Sean Tempany and Michael Flatley are members of the Aughris development committee, founded in 1994.

Sean said: "We are a small committee, as it is a small area.

"The population of Aughris is tiny, around 50 or 60 people, but there is so much history here," he added.

The group has developed the area and its picturesque pathways.

Michael said: "For example, we widened the road down toward the Beach Bar and put lights along the pier.

"The Golden Mile route starts at the Beach Bar and goes as far as the emigration village, then from the old schoolhouse right to the pier at Aughris head."

He said that there was once a monastery in the vicinity of Aughris.

"It is unknown where exactly it was situated but it's understood it was between the village and the pier.

"It was run by the Augustinians and was linked to Innismurray island.

"Aughris was once part of the catchment of Innismurray; when people died here they were brought by boat over to the island."

The emigration village once was a hub of activity.

Sean added: "It was known that at the end of the 19th century, there was 108 people recorded living there.

"There was around 12 houses at the height of it.

"Unfortunately people had to leave, one day 16 young girls left for America, which was huge."

The last resident of the village was Sissy Martin, originally from the US, who died in 1993.

Michael said: "There were many business and tradespeople, such as a blacksmith and tailor.

"In a way the village was self sufficient."

The remains of some of the houses are still visible. There is also an old church in Aughris.

Michael said: "This church was constructed in 1170, and was connected to the monastery.

"It is believed that the settlement was developed around the monastery.

"A headstone in the church cemetery bears the name Flanelly, these people were regarded as Chieftians."

The mile walk is fascinating on a clear, bright day with Ladies Brae, Benbulben and Knocknarea in the backdrop.

The walk from the pier along the cliffs heads toward a promontory fort.

Michael said that it dates back to around 3000 BC.

"We have had lecturers down here studying it, the mounds are believed to be from that era.

"It is remarkable."

Fishermen continue to use the pier, and lobster fishing has become popular of late.

Sean added: "The place is very busy in summer months, with the camping at the Beach Bar, the area welcomes a lot of tourists."

The carraig fada or long rock separates Aughris beach from nearby Dunmoran Strand.

Paul Tolan was the co-ordinator from Sligo Leader.

He said: "This was the inaugural year of the Golden Mile.

"We're hoping that it will become an annual event due to the success of this year.

"The main thing is getting people more aware of what is out there."

Dromore West's Barr na dTonnta Golden Mile was the overall winner.

Sligo Champion