RTE Television

Tracks and Trails

Featuring spectacular walks and cycle tracks in stunning locations all over the country, the programmes will be presented by a different personality each week in this five episode series.


Series 5, Episode 1: Roscommon

Writer and storyteller Michael Harding is walking from the historic town of Boyle in Roscommon to his home in Arigna. Michael is following the Miner's Way and Historical Trail, part of which is based on the routes miners walked over the mountains to Arigna, the site of the last underground coal mine in Ireland.

Michael and his guide Philip James' first stop is Boyle Abbey a 12th century monastery which was converted into a military garrison by the British Army in 17th Century. After exploring the architecture and history of the Abbey they set off again on the Miner's Way which covers a distance of 128km. Michael and Philip are doing 30km. The road leads them to Rockingham House, home to the King Family in the 18th Century, who were Tudor adventurers and were gifted the land that once belonged to the abbey. Their estate stretched from Boyle to Lough Key.

Built in the footprint of the house in the 70's, Moylurg Tower is a focal point of the 350 hectares of the landscaped wonderland of bog and woodland trails of Lough Key Forest and Amenity Park. The summit is an excellent vantage point for Park Manager Louise Fitzpatrick to give Michael and Philip a different perspective on their walk so far.

Michael discusses the journey across the mountain with former miner at Arigna, Peter McNiff. He follows in Peter's footsteps for the last stretch of his journey to get to the Arigna Mining Experience. One of the most extraordinary things about the museum is that they can recreate the experience with a real miner. Michael arrives almost at his door, having traversed 850 years of history and 30 km on a most unusual walk home.

Series 5, Episode 2 -Waterford

Pól O Conghaile, travel journalist and broadcaster, is in West Waterford to walk two routes in the Comeragh Mountains. His first walk takes him through the Mahon Valley to a well-known landmark in the area, the Mahon Falls.

En route, Pól stops off in the village of Killrossanty to meet retired schoolteacher and local historian, Síle Murphy and they discuss the history of the village. Pól and his guide Declan McGrath continue their route into the Mahon Falls which is an easy walk suitable for all ages and takes about 20 minutes. They discuss the geology of the Comeraghs and the flora and fauna along the way and what makes the Mahon Falls a notable landmark in the area. Pól continues up the hill and enjoys the dramatic view back down the valley to the sea and Dungarvan town .

For Pól's second walk he meets his second guide Michael Desmond. They walk parts of two looped walks in the Nire Valley, following the trail known as The Gap Walk and then join a second and longer loop known as the Coumduala Loop. This section of the Coumduala Loop will bring them uphill and onto part of the Knockanaffrin Ridge from where they will get a wonderful view of the Nire Valley.

Series 5, Episode 3 "The Shannon Blueway"

Rob and Amy Rankin run a travel tour business. Along with their son Finn and daughter Sana they spend a weekend exploring the Shannon Blueway starting in Drumshanbo and follow the Allen canal to Battlebridge. Over the two days the Rankin family head east towards Ballinamore on a stretch of waterway that connects the Shannon ultimately to Lough Erne.

Along the route the family meet local musician Charlie McGettigan. He discusses the landscape and how it changes from season to season and also his relationship with Drumshanbo.

The canal is brimming with wildlife and the Rankins stop and observe nature with nature enthusiasts Michael and Molloy Bell.

There are all sorts of activities to be encountered along the canal and Rob and Finn spot a canoe launching site and decide to have a go while Amy and Sana go horse riding.

Eager to experience all activities offered along the way, the Rankins continue their journey on electric bikes. They stop off along the way where Rob meets local historian Seán Ó Suillebháin who gives him some advice about the route ahead and the local history.

Their next stop takes them to Ballinamore Folk Museum, where curator, Brian Kennedy displays his collection of folk memorabilia, implements, farm machinery and vehicles.

Depending on the time of year there will be different things going on in the communities along the bank, so every canal holiday is unique. The last stop on the route finds the Rankins at a bustling music festival, the first of its kind to be held at Drumcoura.

Series 5, episode 4 - Cork

Singer and songwriter Eleanor McEvoy is undertaking two walks in North County Cork. Her first walk sees her tackle a 15 km stretch of the Avondhu-Blackwater Way, from Ballyhooly to the town of Fermoy which is a mix of open road and woodland walks. Before Eleanor embarks on her walk she meets her guide, local mountain leader, Maureen O'Brien who tells her about the history and buildings of the village of Ballyhooly.

They start their walk, crossing the Ballyhooly bridge and walk through a forest which is parallel to The Blackwater River. Along the way there are many things to see and discuss as Maureen knows these routes well. Eleanor bids Maureen goodbye and continues on to Knockannig, which is one of the highest points on the route where she admires the view. Local volunteer Christy Roche who undertakes routine maintenance on the whole trail at Glenabo Woods accompanies Eleanor the rest of the journey to Fermoy following the course of the river into the town.

Eleanor's second walk takes her to Doneraile Park which was home to the St. Leger family. It is now in State ownership and is open to the public. Eleanor follows a path called the "Long Walk" around the outskirts of the estate. Accompanying her is Park Foreman Michael O'Sullivan who looks after the grounds day to day. At 5.3 kilometres, the Long Walk is the longest of the three walks and takes about an hour. All the walks in the park are suitable for all ages and take in the many features of the estate.

Doneraile Park has seen many changes over its 800 year history and Hugh Carrigan the OPW superintendent for the demesne has a keen interest in the demesne from the many varieties of trees and plants found in there to the history of the St. Leger family who lived there.

Eleanor ends her journey with a treat as she is given special permission to take a look inside Doneraile Court and she gets to see the spectacular views of the Park from the fine Georgian house which is the centrepiece of the estate.

Series 5, episode 5 - Inishturk

Architect and popular television personality, Dermot Bannon, explores the island of Inishturk, nine miles off the coast of County Mayo. Mayo is the heartbeat of The Wild Atlantic Way with the longest coastline, the largest island and the highest sea cliffs in Ireland. It also boasts a rich tapestry of landscape, from lonely islands to magnificent mountain valleys.

Dermot begins his journey from Roonagh pier on the mainland where he takes the ferry to Inishturk, home to fewer than 100 islanders. For the first part of Dermot's walk, he will be guided by islander Danny O'Toole.

Inishturk has two waymarked trails - a Green route that follows a gravel track and a longer Purple route most of which is off road.

Dermot and Danny take the purple route and explore the many sights the island has to offer including one of the island's most interesting sights, The Spirit Of Place Sculpture, designed and built by American architect Travis Price.

After enjoying the hospitality of the local B&B, Dermot meets guide GerryMcCloskey on day two of his trip and explores the southern coast of the island. Their first stop is Portdoon pier where according to folklore this hidden cove was once a secret base for pirates. Gerry invites Dermot to go out on a boat and view the island from the sea. On the boat Dermot gets to chat to islander and fisherman Jack Heanue about life on the island.

Tracks and Trails
  • RTÉ One, Thursday, 7.00pm

Related links:

Irish Trails: www.irishtrails.ie

Coillte: www.coillte.ie

Pobail: www.pobail.ie

Discover Ireland: www.discoverireland.ie

Irish Times: www.irishtimes.com

Transport: www.transport.ie