Ballyhoura Walking Festival Celebrates 25 Years this October

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Ireland’s first walking festival takes place from 8th-10th October in Kilfinane, Co. Limerick, and this year is in collaboration with the Joyce Brothers Music Festival

The autumn evenings may be starting to close in, so there’s no better time to get your walking boots on for the 25th Ballyhoura Walking Festival, taking place from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th October in Kilfinane, Co Limerick. Established as Ireland’s first-ever walking festival back in the day, it provides an opportunity to explore some of Ballyhoura Country’s stunning scenery. Many of the walks are led by members of the Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club–who have in-depth knowledge of the area and its heritage, history, flora and fauna–and are suitable for all abilities, from the enthusiastic well-equipped walker who relishes the challenge of the A & B level walks to the gentle ramblers who are out to enjoy pleasant C walks.

Amongst the walking programme’s highlights are the ever-popular Darragh Hill Moon Light Walk (C Walk) on Friday evening, Saturday’s breath-taking Sunrise Walk to Seefin (the highest point of Ballyhoura Mountains) led by Britton Outdoors, as well as the Walking Half Marathon (A Walk), where each participant will be awarded with a certificate. The Slievereagh Loop Walk (B Walk) takes in part of the Ballyhoura Way and traverses streams, woodlands, forest roads and tracks, scaling its highest point of the pinnacle Slievereagh at 465m; meanwhile the easy Canon Sheehan Loop Walk (C Walk) follows glorious forest tracks, woodland paths and riverbank through Glenanaar Forest and along the banks of the Ogeen River.

There’s lots for families to enjoy too at the festival! Ballyhoura Nature Trail Family Scavenger Hunt is a fun 40-minute, 2km investigation of over 20 hidden creatures in the woods that children have to uncover on their walk. Who knows what they’ll find! Meanwhile, the Forest Welly Waddlers session led by Ballyhoura Beo will guarantee lots of morning fun for the 2 to 5 year-olds and their parents, with a natural play session in the Ballyhoura Woodlands! Irish Family Search are hosting the Mitchelstown Heritage Walk, which includes displays of the local native games of skittles and road bowling, and also takes in the Silk Farm, 1887 Land War Protest, Pagan Well, The Co-Op Story, local GAA lore and the 7th Century Abbey.

Sunday offers a relaxing Festival Yoga Walk by Yoga Walks Ireland. However, if your walking boots are still on a quest of discovery, you’ll have several opportunities on Sunday to satisfy them! Discover the local history, heritage, folklore and archaeology at Lough Gur (free admission to the Visitor Centre), learn about the history of people, castle and medieval town of Kilmallock, or join a guided tour of Doneraile Park & Gardens.
Registration, which is also where you’ll get your must-have merchandise, festival brochure, packed food etc, takes place as follows at the Old Chapel Room, Captain’s Lane in Kilfinane:

– Friday from 6pm for the Darragh Hill Moon Light Walk and the Sunrise Walk to Seefin
– Saturday from 9am for the rest of the walks
Further information available from: Ballyhoura Centre, Kilfinane / 063-91300 /

This year’s Walking Festival is collaborating with The Joyce Brothers Music Festival, which complements and enriches the walking programme with its own jam-packed schedule, featuring historical talks, musical performances, concerts, workshops, all aimed at highlighting the remarkable work of the Joyce Brothers, who were renowned for collecting and documenting Irish music, songs and poetry from the 1800s. It starts in Kilfinane on the Friday evening with a talk by local historian Angela Hennessy on the legacy of the Joyce Brothers, followed by an evening concert of their tunes by acclaimed traditional musicians Liam Flanagan and Derek Hickey, and finishing with an open session in McGrath’s Pub where local and visiting musicians will get a chance to play. The Saturday afternoon schedule includes a series of workshops, which teach the music and songs of the collection, followed by a concert from Joyce Brothers’ expert Liam O’Connor and renowned signer Dónal Clancy, and a music session in Kelleher’s Pub. The Friday and Saturday evening concerts will both be live-streamed. What a great way to relax after a day of outdoor pursuits and exploration of the local Ballyhoura scenery!

On Sunday afternoon, historian Angela Hennessy will lead a walk to the Joyce Brothers’ homestead in Glenosheen followed by Music and Storytelling at Kilflynn Church, and an option to witness the unveiling of a land-art sculpture of local legend Oisín of na Fianna on the Keale River Walk. The sculpture of Oisín is being made by members of the local community–alongside artist Veronica Santorum–using natural materials, clay dug from the site, and willow.  The Joyce Brothers Music Festival will close with another music session in Shaughnessy’s Pub at 5pm.

To mark being surrounded all weekend by the stunning Ballyhoura landscape, festival participants with an eye for capturing a good photograph–whether that be the beautiful scenery or the ‘craic’ of the festival–can take part in an online photography competition. #BallyhouraMoments #BallyhouraWalkingFestival and #VisitBallyhoura are the all-important hashtags you will need to enter!

There’s so much to enjoy at the 25th Ballyhoura Walking Festival – where will your walking boots take you?

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Situated at the crossroads of Munster, on the borders of counties Limerick, Cork & Tipperary, Ballyhoura Country is an area of undulating green pastures, woodlands, hills and mountains. The ancient and unspoilt landscape, an abundance of significant heritage sites, thrilling outdoor activities and friendly people make it the perfect place to discover rural Ireland, not to mention its rich connection to Ireland’s history, culture and heritage.

Ballyhoura App:

#Ballyhoura #VisitBallyhoura #BeCreativeInBallyhoura #VisitBallyhoura #FollowYourHeartToBallyhoura #Ballyhoura #DiscoverIreland #IrelandsHiddenGem #IrelandinaNutshell #KeepDiscovering #Family #WalkingFestival

Schedule: Ballyhoura Walking Festival & Joyce Brothers Festival

FRIDAY 8th October


  • Registration for the Walking Festival open at 6pm the Old Chapel Room in Kilfinane


  • Darragh Hills Moon Light Walk (C Walk)
    • Embark on a journey mixed with forestry roads, woodland paths and open trails, across the low lying Darragh Hills by the moonlight. The word ‘Darragh’ comes from the Irish ‘Dearg’ and is thought to refer to the colour of the oak trees in the area. Keep an eye out for the Holy Well. Legend has it that a local woman once washed her clothes in this well and the next time she returned to the spot where the well had been it had magically moved to the other side of the trail where it remains to this day!
    • 1.5 hour |7-8km | Easy Walk
    • Starting point: Old Daragh Creamery (bus transport from Kilfinane available)
    • A high visibility jacket and head/hand torch is essential
    • Guide: Declan Clancy (Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club)
    • Cost: €10
    • Booking link:


  • Historical talk on the legacy of the Joyce Brothers (Kilfinane)
    • Free event – no registration required



  • Open Traditional Irish Music Session in McGraths Pub in Kilfinane where local and visiting musicians will get a chance to play.

SATURDAY 9th October


  • Sunrise Walk to Seefin (‘A’ Walk)
  • The hike will start at the Mountain Bike Trailhead and follow some small country roads and bohereens. After approx. 2km the trail heads up a steep climb to the summit of Seefin where we will look out over the vales of Limerick and across the historical grounds of Castle Oliver as the sun rises. The walk down from Seefin will take in some lovely views in the early morning light and we will work our way back down to the car park.
  • Sunrise is at 7:45am at the summit. Back at the car approx. 9.30am
  • Starting Point & Time: Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trailhead at 6am | Free parking
  • Gear: rain jacket, warm jumper, hat and gloves, food and water. Sturdy walking shoes.
  • Recommended to bring: a camera, a change of clothes in the car and an extra warm jumper for the top if we are waiting a few minutes for the sun to come up.
  • Guided by Mark Britton from Britton Outdoors
  • Price: €25
  • Booking Link:


  • Registration for the walking festival walks opens at 9am the Old Chapel Room in Kilfinane


  • Ballyhoura Walking Half Marathon (A Walk)
    • Challenge yourself to the most scenic half marathon walk in Ballyhoura Country! The half marathon route traverses one of the most scenic parts of the Ballyhouras with splendid views of Castle Oliver, the Galtees and the Knockmealdown Mountain Ranges. It consists of forest roads and tracks and woodlands incorporating parts of the Ballyhoura Way culminating in scaling the highest peak of the Ballyhouras, Seefin at 528metres.
    • Certificate of achievement included
    • 21km | 5 hours
    • Starting point: Ballyorgan
    • Bus transport to the Starting point available
    • For experienced walkers only with a good level of fitness.
    • Walking boots and a high visibility jacket essential
    • Guide: Declan Clancy (Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club Guide)
    • Price: €20
    • Booking Link:
  • Slievereagh/Kilfinane Loop Walk (‘B’ Walk)
    • Starting at Ballyhoura Tourist Office in Kilfinane this loop takes in part of the Ballyhoura Way and traverses streams, woodlands, forest roads and tracks, scaling its highest point of the pinnacle Slievereagh at 465m. It offers magnificent views of the Galtees and surrounding areas.
    • 16 km | 4 hours.
    • Starting point: Kilfinane
    • A reasonable fitness level for experienced hill walkers is required.
    • Good walking boots and a high visibility jacket also essential.
    • Guide: Deirdre Fitzpatrick (Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club Guide)
    • Price: €15
    • Booking Link:


  • Forest Welly Waddlers! (Children 2-5yrs)
    • A parent and guardian natural play session in the Ballyhoura Woodlands that incorporates discovery, movement and craft outdoors. A hands-on play session outdoors… naturally!
  • Cost: €12pp
  • Start Time: 10:30am
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Starting point: Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trailhead
  • Facilitator: Ballyhoura Beo
  • Booking Link:


  • Mitchelstown Heritage Walk
    • Irish Family Search hosts a Heritage Walk displaying native games of Skittles & Road bowling with visits to Silk Farm, 1887 land war protest, Pagan well, Coop story, GAA lore, 7th century Abbey.
    • Starting point: Clongibbon House Hotel, Mitchelstown at 10:45am
    • 2 hour walk
    • Rain gear in case of rain
    • Transport to the starting point available
    • €5 per person
    • Contact: Seamus Fox 087 3589734
    • Booking Link:


  • Canon Sheehan Loop Walk (‘C’ Walk)
    • Following glorious forest tracks, woodland paths and riverbank through Glenanaar Forest and along the banks of the Ogeen River.
    • This loop owes its name to Canon Patrick Augustine Sheehan (1852-1913) a cleric and writer invariably referred to as Canon Sheehan of Doneraile, mainly because he wrote almost all of his major works while he was there as Parish Priest. The starting point of this loop gives its name to one of Canon Sheehan’s most famous works – a novel titled Glenanaar.
    • Starting Point: Glenanaar Forest Car Park
    • Distance: 7km | 1 – 1.5 hrs | Easy
    • Transport to the starting point available
    • Eileen Hurley (Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club)
    • Price: €10
    • Booking link:


  • Ballyhoura Nature Trail Family Scavenger Hunt
    • Bring the family for a woodland walk with a difference. As you need to keep your eyes open to help find hidden clues along the 2km Nature Trail!
    • Self-led, a fun and fresh air for the whole family with prizes to be won for completed scavenger cards.
    • Cost: Scavenger Card €3per card or €5 per family.
    • Start Time 12:00
    • Starting point: Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trailhead
    • Duration 1 hour
    • Facilitator: Ballyhoura Beo
    • Booking link:


Traditional Music Workshops – Teaching music from the Joyce Collection.



  • Open Session in Kelleher’s Pub where local and visiting musicians will get a chance to play

SUNDAY 10th October


  • Festival Yoga Walk
    • A walk through the woods at a relaxed pace incorporating gentle yoga, breathing exercises and meditation which will calm the mind and help to feel more at ease. Yoga walks are infused with laughter, as yoga in the woods can be great fun.
    • Starting point: Ballyhoura Centre, Kilfinane, Co. Limerick
    • Yoga walks are suitable for any level of fitness
    • Wear warm comfortable clothes, hiking boots
    • Cost: €20
    • Guided by Yoga Walks Ireland
    • Booking link:


  • Guided walk of Lough Gur
    • Take a journey through time exploring the historic lakefront, impressive viewing point and newly upgraded Ash Point Trail. This event is suitable for all ages and if you can climb a leisurely 110 steps to view Lough Gur from on high then this event is for you. As part of this Lough Gur Ballyhoura Walking Festival event you will be granted free admission to Lough Gur Visitor Centre where your guide will reveal the secrets of this ancient site. Children will receive free activity booklets and have an opportunity to spend time in the newly opened Lough Gur Solstice Park Playground. All walkers can take this opportunity to visit the Kiosk or Centre coffee dock for freshly brewed coffee and tea accompanied by fresh bakes.
    • Departure & Registration Point: Lough Gur Visitor Centre
    • Walk Duration: 11am to 12.30pm
    • Requirements: Sensible footwear and weather appropriate clothing
    • Ability: Moderate level of fitness required for climbing and navigating uneven surfaces.
    • Price: €5 per person.
    • Booking Essential Via Eventbrite:
  • Kilmallock Medieval Town Guided Walk


  • FREE Historical Walk to Joyce Brothers Homestead
      • Angela Hennessy, historian, will lead a walk to the Joyce Brothers homestead in Glenosheen.
      • 4km / 1 hour
      • No registration required


  • Guided Tour of Doneraile Park and Gardens.
      • With over 400 years of history attached to the park, the trained volunteer tour guides are bursting with enthusiasm to take you on a journey back in time. Travel back to the time of the St. Legers who shaped the park over several centuries.
        Find out why Doneraile Park is Ireland’s top non fee visited attraction with over 500,000 visitors annually.
        The tour is suitable for all age groups and abilities.
      • Cost: €5
      • Booking Link:


  • Music and Story Telling at Kilflynn Church followed by Unveiling of a land-art sculpture of local legend Oisín of na Fianna on the Keale River Walk
      • Glenroe and Ballyorgan Community Council will unveil a new land-art sculpture of local legend, Oisín of na Fianna on the Keale River Walk, midway between the two villages. The unveiling will begin with a gathering in Kilflynn Church at 2.30pm, with music and storytelling. This will be followed by a walk at 3.30pm (40 min each way) to the waterfall along the Keale River Walk and a visit to the new sculpture.
      • The sculpture of Oisín is being made by members of the local community and artist, Veronica Santorum, using natural materials, clay dug from the site and willow.  The sculpture is intended to appear as if it has arisen from the forest floor to then return to it over time. The theme for the sculpture was chosen to reflect local placenames which commemorate three generations of Fianna warriors, Finn MacCumhall, his son Oisín and grandson Oscar, remembered in Seefin, Glenosheen and Oscar’s Bed.
      • Their legends were collected by P. W. Joyce and published in Old Celtic Romances and also appear several times in the School’s Collection of the National Folklore Archive. This folklore provided the concept for the sculpture of Oisín.
      • Meeting point at Kilflynn Church at 2:30pm |no registration required


  • Open Session in local Shaughnessy’s Pub where local and visiting musicians will get a chance to play
  • Official Close of the Festivals


Sean Mitchell

Author at Pynck

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