An event has been held at Killeter Village to mark the formal launch of the next phase of the Ulster-Ireland chapter of the International Appalachian Trail. The initiative is part of a cross border project funded by the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 and being part funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the European Union.
Derry City and Strabane Local Action Group (LAG) in partnership with LAG groups from other Council areas are working to develop, enhance and promote the IAT Ulster-Ireland chapter of the International Appalachian Trail. This has resulted in significant improvements along its route recently in the form of updated information panels and improved facilities at many locations.
The Derry City and Strabane section of the route begins at the border at Kelly’s Bridge, from which it then goes east to Killeter Village and north to Baronscourt Estate. It returns to Derry City and Strabane District Council following a section in Gortin Glen Forest Park, where it continues its journey through the Sperrin Mountains across Crockbrack mountain and through Moydamlaght Forest.
Pictured from left: Eamon Dolan, Killeter District Development Trust; Linda White, RDP Project Officer Derry City and Strabane District Council; Gordon Speer, Killeter District Development Trust; Martin Bradley, IAT Steering Group; Pauline Donaldson, Rural Affairs West DERA; Tara Nicholl, TD McKane and Son; Jayne Woodrow, Marketing Officer Outdoor Recreation N.I and Alderman Graham Warke, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council and Rural Partnership LAG.
The Irish section of the International Appalachian Trail is approximately 279miles / 485km in length and runs from west Donegal to Larne passing through six council areas. It starts at the spectacular Slieve League cliffs, passes through Glencolmcille, traverses the Bluestack Mountains in Co. Donegal before crossing into Co. Tyrone. Here it picks up the Ulster Way, taking in the Sperrins, the stunning North Coast and the Glens of Antrim.
Some of the works carried out to date include the installation of new visitor counters along the route, new information panels at a number of sites including Killeter Village, Killeter Forest and Plumbridge; additional waymarkers and other trail furniture at Baronscourt Estate and in the Plumbridge IAT Hub, as well as a number of picnic tables and additional signage.
Chairperson Graham Warke of Derry City and Strabane District Council said, “A huge amount of work has gone into upgrading the route along the IAT Ulster-Ireland trail to become one that visitors from all over the world will enjoy, either as a short scenic walk or as a longer walking experience.
We’re proud of the Derry City and Strabane Council’s part in this international route, from the border at Kelly’s Bridge, to the beautiful Killeter Forest, and on into Baronscourt and the Glenelly Valley.”
A significant marketing campaign will coincide with these trail works, promoting the walk to audiences across America, as well as in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, incorporating videos, photography and offers from local businesses.
Pictured from left: Pauline Donaldson, Rural Affairs West DERA; Linda White, RDP Project Officer Derry City and Strabane District Council; Alderman Graham Warke, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council and Rural Partnership LAG.
DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA commented, “I am delighted that through the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 Co-operation scheme, my Department has funded over £240,000 towards the project costs of the Derry City and Strabane District Council phase of the Ulster chapter of the International Appalachian Trial. The cross border project which has resulted in significant improvements across the entire route from West Donegal to Antrim will provide a quality walking experience attracting local and out of state visitors, providing a much need boost to the local economy.
I congratulate Derry Strabane Rural Partnership Local Action Group in developing and delivering against their rural strategy for the benefit of the rural community in the Derry City and Strabane Council area.”
Walkers pause at a beauty spot in Killeter Forest
Local businesses close to the trail are being encouraged to get involved in the IAT fever by offering experiences for visitors or teaming up with other local providers to provide standout packages. To be involved or for more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the IAT Ulster-Ireland, visit www.iatulsterireland.com.