Sperrins and Killeter Walking Festival promises a welcome to match the stunning surroundings
11 September 2017
Hundreds of people are set to descend on the Sperrins and Killeter regions this weekend on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th September to put their best foot forward and explore the beauty, history and heritage of the local hinterland.
The 2017 Sperrins and Killeter Walking Festival is being hosted by Derry City and Strabane District Council in association with outdoor adventure specialists Far and Wild and the organisers are keen to ensure the stunning local scenery is matched only by the local hospitality and entertainment on offer in Plumbridge and Killeter.
The annual event is aimed at walkers of all abilities and Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, encouraged the public to come along and discover some of the area’s hidden areas of natural beauty while also experiencing the warm welcome the District is famous for.
“The Sperrins and Killeter Walking Festival has proven to be an exceptionally popular event in recent years with both serious walkers and novices alike,” he noted.
“Its reputation as an event for all ages and abilities to enjoy is down to the strong working relationship between Council, Far and Wild and the walking guides who come from the local community and have a genuine passion for welcoming people to their local area and sharing the majestic local landscape.
“Our District’s countryside is full of hidden gems, this is the perfect opportunity for the public to get out there and discover them and for Council to continue its work to establish the local area as a walking destination for visitors.
“I know both venues are laying on hospitality and entertainment for the visitors and I’d encourage as many of them as possible to stay for the day and enjoy some refreshments, music and craic.”
Plumbridge is the host venue on Saturday where walkers at all the events will be invited to Watts Barr for tea, coffee, scones and traditional music and dancing by the local Comhaltas club.
The festival begins with an early 6am start along the Strabane Canal on Saturday when the 4km long Easy ‘Dawn Chorus’ Walk will allow walkers of all levels to explore the unfolding scenery and a variety of flora, fauna and wildlife.
Later that morning the Sawel Challenge at 9am will take more experienced walkers on a 12km hike through some of the highest peaks of the Sperrins before the Balix and Beyond 8km walk will allow more moderate ability walkers along a natural heritage site that links into the Murlough, Hollyhill and Legfordrum areas.
The Saturday will conclude with the Bat and Moth Walk at 6pm where local forager Annie Mullan will guide young people and families into the twilight to explore the local nocturnal wildlife.
On Sunday the action moves to the scenic landscape of Killeter where experienced local guides will impart their knowledge about the ecology, history and folklore of this wild and remote part of West Tyrone.
At 9am the ‘Challenging the International Reach of the Killeter Camino’ walk from Killeter village will explore the international heritage links of the local area to the Camino de Santiago and the International Appalachian Trail.
Later that morning at 10am the Water of Life walk will offer the opportunity to trace the flow of the River Derg and surrounding lakes as a life giving watercourse through Killeter and beyond.
Finally the family friendly Pilgrim Trail from Killeter Village to Magherakeel and St Patrick’s Well at 1pm will offer the opportunity to explore the old local route to Lough Derg where a host of local wild life including the Red Hare, Sparrow Hawks, Peregrune Falcons and the Irish Otter may be spotted.
The returning walkers will be invited to enjoy tea and scones and take part in a wide variety of local activities in Killeter including turf cutting demonstrations, horse showing, needlework, story-telling and traditional music.
Far and Wild’s Lawrence McBride said he was particularly pleased with the wide variety of walks in this year’s programme.
“We have been working closely with the local communities in the Sperrins and Killeter region to develop the seven routes which offer a great variety of distinctive experiences depending on your interest and fitness level.
“Last year we piloted the idea of including walking guides from the local area in each walk and it worked well to have people who know the area so intimately involved.
“The guides have held dry runs of each walk in the weeks running up to this weekend and they are looking forward to imparting their knowledge.
“The Festival celebrates the beauty of the natural environment on our doorstep and is becoming known for showcasing the rich and vibrant heritage which is such a key feature of the Derry-Strabane district.”
The Killeter Walks will begin at Killeter Community Hall while the meeting point for the Gleneely Walks is Watts Barr in Plumbridge.
Registration for the Sperrins and Killeter Walking Festival is open now at www.sperrinskilleterwalking.com where full details of each walk are available.