“The future of communities, rural communities in particular, is a communal effort. This project is a benefit to your community, to West Cork and to the country – to whom you are an example,” said former TD Jim O’Keeffe at the recent launch of the Fastnet Trails.
The trials are a system of way-marked walking and cycling routes through the Mizen peninsula, which are aimed to promote the local natural and historical heritage. After three long years of strategising, the trails, with full support and approval from the National Trails Office, were officially launched in July with an unveiling ceremony of the Kilcoe Trail Head map board near Kilcoe Church.
“We wanted to emulate, in some way, what had been done successfully in our two neighbouring peninsulas,” said Eugene McSweeney of the Fastnet Trail organising committee, referring to Sheep’s Head and Beara.
The eight designated walks (six looped and two linear) start from four different trailheads at Lisheen, Kilcoe, Ballydehob and Schull and cover a total of 80 km. There are map boards at each trailhead and an overview map located at the Hollyhill layby on the N71 approaching Kilcoe Church, as well as information plates along the trails and brochures available at local shops.
“What we are trying to do here is to increase awareness of our natural heritage, built heritage and history, by packaging what the area offers into a pleasing, easily accessible, recreational activity,” continued Eugene.
The launch was well attended by walking enthusiasts and local dignitaries; as they strolled from Kilcoe Church to Roaring Water Pier the crowd was regaled with historic tales of the area’s dalliance with smugglers by Fr. Paddy Hickey, originally from Skeaghnore and author of the book ‘Famine in West Cork’.
The group then visited the ivy-laden ruins and immaculately manicured lawn of the Old Kilcoe Church where Fr. Hickey explained how the architecture of such churches often reflected the times in which they were built and the growing nationalism of the region.
Important community projects like these are never done alone. Many people donated time and effort, and many organisations donated funds and manpower to get to this point.
The groundwork was lay by Eugene McSweeney of Ballydehob and Brigid O’Brien of Lisheen with a small but earnest team of local residents – Deidre Hardy, Ian Hardy, Theresa Hickey and Fachtna Wholley. They worked, with assistance from several local organisations, for three years to plan routes, gain access, deal with applications and regulation issues and raise the funds required to implement the walking trails system.
The Fastnet Trail Committee wishes to thank sincerely the many financial and practical supporters who helped make the project happen. Included are the Cork County Council, the Gwendoline Harold-Barry Trust, the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, the community councils of Aughadown, Ballydehob and Schull, the West Cork Development Partnership and David Hayward who designed their brochures. Special thanks for support and guidance go to James O’Mahony of the Sheep’s Head Way and David Ross of Drimoleague Heritage Walks.