US man hikes from Co Donegal to Larne

Cotton Joe Norman pictured visiting the Larne Mayor's Parlour as he walks the Appalachian Trail. With him are the Director of Environmental Service Philip Thompson, Larne Mayor Maureen Morrow and Magne Haugseng, Project Management Economusee Northern Europe. INLT 40-347-PR
Cotton Joe Norman pictured visiting the Larne Mayor's Parlour as he walks the Appalachian Trail. With him are the Director of Environmental Service Philip Thompson, Larne Mayor Maureen Morrow and Magne Haugseng, Project Management Economusee Northern Europe. INLT 40-347-PR

A hiker from North Carolina is the first person to complete a 574km walk from Slieve League in County Donegal to Larne.

Cotton Joe Norman was welcomed to Larne by Mayor Councillor Maureen Morrow at a reception in the Town Hall.

Cotton Joe’s trek along the International Appalachian Trail, which crosses Counties Donegal, Tyrone, Derry and Antrim, took a month to complete.

The mayor said: “On behalf of the people of Larne, I am delighted to extend a warm welcome to Joe and hope that we will be welcoming many tourists to this area who will follow in his footsteps. The new trail not only widens access to the beauty of the world famous East Antrim coast but it affirms our links with America and the many tourists visiting from there.

“Council has worked hard to ensure Larne was the end destination for this new trail which was initially envisaged as running from Donegal to Ballycastle.”

The trail has been created through a rebranding of the existing trails such as the Blue Stack Way in Donegal and the Ulster Way in Northern Ireland.

The mayor continued: “This development further connects County Donegal with Larne as the Slieve League and Gobbins cross-border project comes closer to reality. To have Larne as the start or end point on this trail will ensure that the Borough is promoted on an international stage across America and Europe.”

Cotton Joe said: “It was amazing to see the landscape and learn about the historical culture whilst hiking across Ireland. The local people I met treated me like family and this was such a totally different experience which you just cannot get in the States.”

He will continue on the next leg of his trip in Scotland walking the 634km trail from Stranraer to Cape Wrath. A seasoned hiker, he has completed a 2404km trail through North America.

Magne Haugseng, International Appalachian Trail president in Europe, commented: “I am delighted to see the first hiker pass through the trail and Joe has confirmed that the quality of the trail is very good.”