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East Clare Walking Festival hits the road

Walkers from across Clare are expected to descend on East Clare this weekend as the inaugural East Clare Walking Festival gets underway.
The event has been organised by East Clare Tourism and participants will be given a unique opportunity to take in the stunning East Clare countryside on their choice of guided walks.
There are six walks in total taking place over the course of the weekend to choose from and each is graded from A to C, according to difficulty, A being the most difficult. Each walk covers different aspects of the East Clare terrain.
A welcome evening will be held in McNamara’s bar in Scariff on Friday at 9pm where there will be traditional music and refreshments. That evening participants will be able to meet members of the East Clare Walking Club, who will guide the walks over the weekend and walking routes will also be available for viewing.
Registration for all walks takes place in McNamara’s from 9am each day and a bus leaves from there and returns after each walk for refreshments.
The first walk takes place on Saturday and is categorised as an A walk, covering 16km around Slieve Bearnagh Ridge and of approximately six hours duration.
Walkers embarking on this trek will leave the shores of Lough Derg, ascending steeply to Moylussa Mountain, the highest point in the region. The ridge is followed westwards over rough moorland and bog. The group will then descend and rejoin the East Clare Way, finishing in Broadford. This route offers participants panoramic views of Lough Derg, the Shannon Estuary and in optimum visibility, up to eight counties can be seen. It is categorised as the most difficult walk of the festival and is for experienced walkers.
That same day the B walk, which is also for experienced walkers, covers 12km across the Sheehaun, Turkenagh Mountain and will take approximately four hours. This walk gradually ascends the southern slopes of the Slieve Aughty Mountains before turning off through forestry tracks to a viewing point above Scariff and Lough Derg, offering great views of Holy Island and the Tipperary lakeshore. The group will cross over bogland that offers views across the Aughty Mountains into County Galway. The route then descends from Turkenagh to rejoin the East Clare Way before drawing to a close.
Also on Saturday the grade C walk, which is suitable for the casual walker, will follow a 7km route in the Ballycuggeran, Killaloe area. The walk skirts Moylussa Mountain by a forestry track and offers splendid views of Lough Derg. A steep ascent crossing a ford sees the route rejoin the East Clare way to the finishing point in Ogonnelloe.
The festival continues on Sunday with another three walks. The category A walk that day is a 14km stretch of six hours duration and starts near Lough Graney. Participants will take the East Clare Way ascending to Ballyroum. Tracks through heathland, moorland and bog will bring the participants past megalithic tombs. The route will then leave the East Clare Way near Glendree and follow a bog path up towards Lough Ea located high in the Aughty Mountains. A slight doubling back will bring the walking group through part of the Ballycroum Loop for a more direct route back to the start.
Meanwhile, the category B walk on Sunday starts in Ogonnelloe and takes in the Carnagnoe Valley and the 12km route of four hours duration follows the East Clare Way, before it ascends steeply using part of the Ballycuggeran Loop through a ford. Weather permitting, the route will go onto the slopes of Moylussa Mountain by a forestry track reaching a height of 400m. A gradual descent into the valley of Carnagnoe with views of Lough Derg and the Slieve Bearnagh Range will take participants back to the East Clare Way before finishing at Ballylachan.
Sunday’s category C walk will follow a 7km route through Cahermurphy Wood, which takes in the shore of Lough Graney and follows woodland paths alongside the Bleach River. Using a short section of the East Clare Way, the walk ascends by a country lane and track to a short, steep section going up to a viewpoint overlooking Flagmount village and Lough Graney. A short steep descent on the old mass path will bring the group back to Flagmount.
Walkers are advised to wear good hiking boots, while waterproofs and a light backpack for snacks, water and other items like gloves or hats are also recommended. East Clare Tourism advises walkers to travel light and only bring essential items to conserve energy.
Further details are available online at www.eastclarewalkingfestival.com or call Teresa Browne, secretary, Clareville House, Tuamgraney, 087 6867548 or 061 922925 for more information.

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