The new trail at Knockma Hill near Belclare was officially opened by Galway East TD and Minister of State for Rural Development Seán Canney on Monday.
The launch yesterday (Monday ) was part of the Big Hello, Ireland’s first National Community Weekend, that was initiated by the Minister’s Department.
The new loop around Knockma, which is one of the most popular walks in north Galway, has been attracting thousands of visitors each week. It offers breathtaking views around the whole region from Connemara and Lough Corrib to Galway Bay and Clare then across towards Abbeyknockmoy and East Galway.
Speaking at the event, he said that this has been an exceptional heritage project, which shows what can be achieved when volunteers take the initiative to work with local authorities and state agencies.
“A local volunteer committee chaired by Councillor Billy Connelly worked with Galway County Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to acquire the lands necessary to develop the walk.
“The work was put out to tender and completed around the middle of 2018. Since then, there has been a surge of visitors to Knockma, which is being marketed as part of Bord Fáilte’s campaign, Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands,” he said.
“Members of Caherlistrane and Kilcoona Community Council, which worked to bring about the project, believe tourism in the area will continue to grow, boosted by Knockma’s place in Irish folklore,” he said.
Legend has it that Queen Maeve of Connacht is buried at the summit and the hill is also reputed to be the place where Finvarra, King of the Faeries, held his court.
The area is steeped in history and music, with the hill being the inspiration for many of the songs included in the Amhráin Mhuighe Seola songbook that was collected in the early 20th century by Tuam senator and folklorist, Eileen Costelloe.