This April will be the fourth year of the Leenane Mountain Walking Festival, which has grown from strength to strength, with over 260 walkers taking part over the weekend in 2010. This year’s festival will take place on the May Bank Holiday weekend, from Friday, April 29 to Sunday, May 1.
The event is a unique combination of mountain and sea, as Leenane is situated on the edge of Killary Harbour and surrounded by mountains in all directions. Participants are given the opportunity to try higher-level walks such as Mweelrea, which they may not get the chance to try if out walking by themselves without a guide.
Don’t worry if you don’t see yourself as an Edmund Hillary though – the festival has something for all levels of walkers. Each day, there will be a choice of at least three walks from ‘Strenuous’ to ‘Low Level’. All the walks are covered by public insurance and are led by qualified and experienced guides, aided by locals with a vast knowledge and store of information about the area. Access is no issue for the weekend, as farmers have granted permission to cross their lands and many of them will join in on the walks.
Transport to and from the various starting and finishing points will be provided as well as tea, coffee and well-earned scones at local establishments at the end of each day. Participants will also get a commemorative T-shirt, so they can literally wear the festival like a badge of honour.
The festival is about more than walking – there’s plenty more on offer too. Local archaeologist Michael Gibbons will give a talk; there’ll be a sailing race into the harbour; and the weekend will be rounded off with a barbecue and céilí, in the Leenane Hotel. New this year is a guided cycle around the Salruck and Renvlye Peninsula, a race night in the local pub, a simulated helicopter rescue by the Irish Coast Guard and a unique herbal and nature walk with GP and experienced herbalist Dr Dilis Clare.
If part of your group are going walking or cycling but you fancy something else, you could take the 15 minute drive over to the Connemara Mussel Festival in Tullycross, which is taking place over the same weekend. There’s no shame in seeking out sustenance – every walker needs fuel!
Walkers must register online for events in the Leenane Mountain Walking Festival. For a full details and list of events visit www.leenanevillage.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 087 2855756.