The Pilgrim Paths
The Pilgrim Paths project was set up by the Heritage Council in 1997. In association with local communities, its objective is the development of a network of walking routes along medieval pilgrimage paths. The project aims to raise awareness of the different aspects of heritage, built and natural, encountered along the routes, while contributing to sustainable tourism and community development in each local area. The project involves seven routes, and no further Pilgrim Paths will be developed as part of this project.
The medieval pilgrimage was originally a journey that combined prayer, sacrifice and devotion — with an element of physical discomfort — by which the pilgrim could become closer to God. It also fulfilled many of the functions of a modern holiday — a change of scene and a time to make room for something above and beyond the daily grind. Walking these ancient ways not only offers the opportunity for spiritual renewal, but also provides us with a link to our past. The Pilgrim Paths project has developed these routes for the enjoyment of modern walkers and pilgrims alike.
At the outset, the Pilgrim Paths project included:
* St Kevin’s Way — from Hollywood to Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
* Cosán na Naomh — on the Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry
* Lough Derg — a route to the shore opposite Saints Island, Co. Donegal
* Turas – within the valley of Glencholmcille, Co. Donegal
* Pilgrim Path — from Ballycumber to Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly
* Tóchar Phádraig — from Ballintubber to the foot of Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo
* St Declan’s Way — from Ardmore to Lismore, Co. Waterford
Click the navigation links in the left hand column for more information about each of these Pilgrim Paths.
Three of these routes have been completed and are open officially for walking — Cosán na Naomh, St Kevin’s Way and Lough Derg. They were developed by local route committees to the standards required by the National Trails Office (NTO) of the Sports Council and are dependent on the good-will of local landowners.
The Pilgrim's Road from Ballycumber to Clonmacnoise has been in use for centuries and now much of it is public road. Because so much of the route is on road it has been developed as a cycle way instead of a walking route.
* At Tóchar Phádraig, pilgrims must register at Ballintubber Abbey. Visit their website at: www.ballintubberabbey.ie
* Turas in Glencholmcille is an active religious activity and is run on a seasonal basis. Visit their website at: www.gleanncholmcille.ie/turas
Routes to be completed
Work has not started on St Declan’s Way, and there are no plans to do so in 2011.
Details on the walking routes are available on www.irishtrails.ie including on-line mapping.
Comprehensive map guides for Cosán na Naomh, St Kevin’s Way and Lough Derg have been produced by the Heritage Council (€6 – €8) and are available by phoning (056) 777 0777. These illustrated, full-colour guides give practical and navigational details, as well as indicating items of heritage interest along the route. Map guides should be used in conjunction with the relevant Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Discovery series maps.
For information on the Pilgrim Road Cycle route in Offaly see www.offaly.ie/exploringoffaly
The Pilgrim Paths are waymarked by black markers showing the yellow pilgrim symbol with directional arrows. Where the route joins or leaves a public road, there is a brown fingerpost with the name of the route and the pilgrim symbol. At the start and finish, and in villages along the route, there are map boards showing the whole path.
The Pilgrim Paths follow quiet roads, country paths or tracks, with very few dangers. However, walkers are reminded that the Irish weather is changeable — and a twisted ankle can be a real problem if you are a few miles from a public road. Stout shoes or walking boots are recommended, as are spare, warm clothes and windproof and rainproof gear. Walk with care on public roads and beware of reckless drivers. Keep to the right-hand side of the road and walk against the traffic flow. Please note that pilgrims and walkers are responsible for their own safety while walking the paths.
Wherever it leaves the public road, a Pilgrim Path is not a right-of-way — it crosses private property by courtesy of the landowner. Please respect the generosity of the landowner, who may withdraw permission if users of the route create difficulties for farming or other work.
* Do not bring dogs, even on a lead, on any section of the route that crosses farmland.
* The routes are designed for pilgrims on foot and, apart from stretches on the public road, are unsuitable for horses and mountain bikes.
* Pilgrim Paths cannot offer wheelchair access.
* Pilgrim Paths pass by many fragile heritage sites of great value — take great care that these are not damaged in any way.
* REMEMBER: LEAVE NO TRACE!
Although group pilgrimages are traditional to Ireland, research has shown that large numbers of walkers passing through the countryside cause erosion and damage to walking routes. For environmental and safety reasons, group size should be limited to ten and should not exceed fifteen.
For further information on safe and environmentally sustainable walking, see the Mountaineering Council of Ireland’s website: www.mountaineering.ie
SThe Heritage Council,, Áras na hOidhreachta, Church Lane, Kilkenny, Ireland.
Tel: (056) 777 0777 Fax: (056) 777 0788 International callers: +353 56 777 0777
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