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Monday 22 April 2019

Sligo's sixth Camino walk

Some 1,200 walkers set to take part in the 36k trek from Dromahair to Coolaney

Micheal O'Domhnaill

Ahead of the launch of the tickets for this Summer's Sligo Camino next weekend, this week Sligo Walks has the first 2 tickets for the eagerly awaited Camino to give away. In addition, we have a 1 night stay for the 2 lucky winners at the luxury Castle Dargan Hotel, the ideal place to stay the night before the event, whether you are local or visitor.

To enter this competition, you just have to visit the Sligo Walks page on Facebook and answer a simple question relating to this year's event. The Camino sold out in just 4 days last year, so don't leave it until it's too late! The Sligo Camino is now in its sixth year and takes place next July 6th, bringing the walkers on a 36km route along beautiful tracts of Counties Sligo and Leitrim. Walkers meet at Coolaney early in the morning where buses bring the participants to Dromahair from where they start the walk, which will finish back in Coolaney some hours later. The route takes in much of The Sligo Way, including the scenic boardwalks at Union Wood and Slish Wood, and stretches take the walkers along the shores of Lough Gill. Once the walkers reach Coolaney, no doubt leg weary but content with their achievement, the after-walk festivities can begin and a dinner is served to all participants - this is included in the €40 event ticket.

The genesis of the Sligo Camino was in 2010 when Damien McGuinn of Coolaney led a group of 7 walkers on an expedition along the entire Sligo Way from Dromahair in Leitrim to the Mayo border near Lough Talt. The organizing committee were amazed to discover this beautiful trail right though our county and which was largely unused. Four years later in 2014 Coolaney Development Company launched the first Sligo Camino along the 36km from Dromahair to Coolaney as a fundraising walk.

The 2014 Camino had 100 walkers. Since then, the event has grown in popularity to the point that last year, tickets for the event had completely sold out just four days after being launched. This year will cater for greater numbers of walkers than ever before, member of the Sligo Camino organizing team Joe Fogarty explains.

"This year will be the 6th Sligo Camino and the largest one yet with 1,200 walkers participating. We look forward to welcoming back those who have trekked the Camino is previous years and new walkers from all over Ireland and abroad. The feedback we have received from walkers is that they love meeting and interacting with the local people along the way so the community involvement is a crucial part of the Sligo Camino experience." Walkers who register for the event will get the opportunity to walk in one of three separate waves. The first of these will set out from Coolaney for Dromahair at 7am on Saturday 6th July, followed by the second group leaving at 8:30am, and the final walkers will leave at 10am. All participants will receive an information pack in advance of the event and will be guided by a team of experienced volunteers along the entire route. Note that all walkers have to take the bus from Coolaney, no-one is allowed to turn up at Dromahair, as all participants have to set out together. The Sligo Camino is entirely organised by volunteers. It takes over 100 people and months of careful planning to manage the event. Members of the community volunteer to assist with traffic management, walker registration, leading the walk, marshaling road junctions, providing food and drink stops and of course feeding the walkers on their return to Coolaney.

Joe Fogarty adds that this community-led initiative helps raise valuable funds for local initiatives. "All proceeds from the Sligo Camino go towards community projects in the Coolaney area. These include the Community Centre, Community Park and playground and latterly towards Café Fia, our community café scheduled to be built in 2019."

Lorna Curry, a Sligo Camino team member, underlines the importance of the involvement and support of local agencies.

"We have partnered with hotels, restaurants, B&B's, etc. who benefit from the tourist spend generated by the Sligo Camino. The event operates under license from Coillte, over whose land it travels and with support of the Gardaí who assist at main road crossings. Since its inception, the Sligo Camino has been assisted by Sligo Walks whose walks officer has been of great help in ensuring a successful event." She also believes in the potential for the Sligo Camino to become a significant draw to develop tourism in the area.

"We aim that the Sligo Camino will become an internationally recognised walking route based around the Sligo Way route with Coolaney as the trail-head. We plan to draw on the allure and popularity of the Camino de Santiago in Spain and blend this with the rugged beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way to create unforgettable walking experiences in the West of Ireland," she says.

Over the years the Sligo Camino has been completed by people aged from 18 to 78. It is a fantastic day out for people who want to take time for themselves out in the countryside. Groups of friends and family tend to sign up together knowing that they're guaranteed a few enjoyable hours together and will share the adventure. At 36km walkers need to be medically well and possess a good level of stamina to ensure they complete the course. The feeling upon reaching Coolaney at the end of 7 or 8 hours walking is a combination of exhaustion and elation. It's definitely a day people remember in looking back on their summer. Registration opens at 9am on Saturday on www.sligocamino.ie

People registering should check that they are available on Sat 6th July and decide whether to leave in the 7am, 8.30am or 10am wave of walkers. If you can't wait until registration opens next Saturday April 13th, then head over to the Sligo Walks Facebook page now to enter the competition for those first 2 golden tickets!

Sligo Champion

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