Cowper leads the way for Larne’s first walking festival

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‘GET out and enjoy the great outdoors’ - that’s the message Cowper Lynas is trying to get across to local people ahead of the forthcoming Antrim Hills Walking Festival.

Cowper is organising the festival - from Friday, October 5 to Sunday 7 - on behalf of Larne Borough Council. Funded by the North East Rural Development Programme, it is the first major walking festival to be held in the area.

Former Larne Grammar School teacher Cowper explained that the aim of the festival is to cater for all ages and abilities with a fun misture of guided easy, moderate and challenging walks amid the magnificent scenery of the Antrim Hills.

Walks will be led by experienced walk leaders and are designed to be both enjoyable and informative.

Cowper has been leading walks regularly on Saturdays for a number of years now, encouraging many local people to get out and explore the beautiful countryside on their doorstep and a little further afield.

“They enjoy scenery from a completely different angle and there’s a social aspect to it as well. People do really seem to enjoy themselves on the walks.

A couple of years ago I had the idea of a walking festival in Larne that would encourage both local people and those from further afield to get out and enjoy the beautiful scenery around us. There also might be a spin-off for the tourist economy, for B&Bs, for instance. Walking festivals are held in other parts of the country and it is good to see it now happening in Larne to what will hopefully be an annual event.

“A festival like this is a good way to introduce people to walking in hills rather than on roads. Walking as a leisure pursuit is very popular and walking as a group has many benefits. There’s always good craic and a bit of banter and people get the chance to see parts of the countryside they usually wouldn’t go to on their own,” Cowper said.

Cowper has found that his own walks attract a wide variety of people, from couples to families, but also a good number of individuals.

“It really is something that people can do on their own. The walkers are a friendly bunch and always make new faces very welcome,” he said.

The festival will be based in Carnfunnock Country Park, with participants asked to make their own way there and transport being provided from there to wherever the walk begins.

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the event by the North East Partnership Rural Development Fund, Larne Borough Council is able to offer free registration for all events.

A variety of walks has been included to suit all abilities, including a family tour of Carnfunnock; a moderate walk in Glenarm forest and estate as well as a more challenging outing (all Saturday, October 6). The following day there will be a family walk to Cranny Falls, a moderate walk to the Peat House, Carnlough and a more challenging outing across the Antrim Hills from Ballyboley to Glenarm.

More details on the various walks are available from Larne Tourist Information Centre on 028 2826 0088. Booking for all walks in advance is essential and booking will be taken up to Wednesday, October 3.