The Columban Way Mapping Project was successfully launched at the Hinch Distillery on Friday 2 June. At the event, delegates were presented with a publication which contains maps of the route that have been broken down into one day walks illustrating starting and finishing points and places of interest along the way from Armagh to Bangor.
Deborah Girvan, chairperson of Friends of Columbanus Bangor said, “The Northern Ireland route of the Columban Way is part of the European Columban Way, a pilgrim route that traces the journeys of Columbanus from the island of Ireland where he was born in 543 AD through eight European countries to Bobbio in Italy where he died in 615 AD. Each country has been developing the route in their respective areas. Switzerland, Italy and Austria have finished their Columban Way routes. France has completed sections in Brittany, Jouarre and Luxeuil-les-Bains. Although 30 kilometres at the beginning of the Columban Way have been completed in Co Carlow and 20 kilometres at the end of the route have been developed from Comber to Bangor, there is still a long way to go to join up the bits in between on the island of Ireland.”
To encourage Councils and government departments to support the Columban Way, Friends of Columbanus Bangor undertook a mapping exercise to demonstrate how easy it would be to develop a long-distance walk at very low cost using existing walkways and minor roads. With funding from the David Cross Foundation for Reconciliation, a small group of volunteers from Friends of Columbanus Bangor have walked, surveyed, and mapped the Columban Way from Armagh to Bangor and researched potential options from Enniskillen (Cleenish Island) to Armagh using the former Ulster Canal. They identified:
- routes which already exist
- potential routes that can easily be developed
- land ownership
- areas that need to be improved to make them safer for walkers
Mrs Girvan went on to say, “We believe that there is huge potential for the Columban Way to boost the rural economy and tourism in the food, retail, hospitality and accommodation businesses in the areas where the route passes through. We were delighted with the positive response we received from delegates who attended the launch. In particular, it was great to see cross-party support for the project from the MPs who represent the constituencies that the route passes through – Stephen Farry MP for North Down, Jim Shannon MP for Strangford, and Chris Hazzard MP for South Down. To develop the route across Northern Ireland we need political support from all levels of local government.
I would like to thank the David Cross Foundation of Reconciliation for sponsoring the book and the launch of the event. Without the financial support we would not have been able to produce the publication.”