By Sean Ryan - 22 June, 2016
"We have a product but we need a big marketing effort by the likes of Fáilte Ireland to really get this off the ground.”
A new ‘passport’, like those given to pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, which is now been issued by the Irish Heritage Council has proved to be a real hit with walkers.
The paths comprise of a 120km stretch of walking which are dotted across the country from Glencolmcille and Lough Derg in Co Donegal to the Slí Mór taking in Clonmacnoise in Co Offaly, and from St Kevin’s Way at Glendalough in Co Wicklow.
Explaining the initiative, Tipperary native John G O’Dwyer, who is chairman of National Pilgrim Paths, said “Anyone who wants their passport stamped needs to take a ‘selfie’ at particular locations along each way to produce as evidence that they have walked the route. When all five initial paths have been completed, pilgrims can send it off to Ballintubber Abbey, Co Mayo, to get their Teastas Oilithreachta or Pilgrim’s Certificate.”
The first big group of around 30 from the Mid Tipperary Hillwalkers started the process to obtain their passport last March and hope to have it achieved before the end of the summer when they will be presented with their passports at Ballintubber Abbey.
“We have an eye on the overseas market and it’s something that a lot of Irish Americans seem to like the sound of,” John G O’Dwyer said.
He added, “We have to market it and get it out there. We have a product but we need a big marketing effort by the likes of Fáilte Ireland to really get this off the ground. Currently we have over 200 people attempting to gain the Pilgrim passport.”
Mr O’Dwyer said the attraction of doing the Irish Pilgrim Paths over the Camino was that the weather was more conducive to walking.
“When I did the Camino, I often had to start out at 5am to avoid the 40C blazing heat,” he explained. “I’d have taken an Irish shower over that any day of the week.”
He added that on the Camino pilgrims need to take at least 10 days in succession to complete it while the “five Irish paths stand on their own and can be done individually”.
He explained that the paths are appealing to a “growing number of people seeking to escape the daily grind of life and take some time out for reflection while enjoying the great outdoors”.