Crossing paths: Ireland and Wales unveil new walking routes

A series of routes across Wales and Ireland will celebrate a shared Celtic heritage and offer a range of off-piste adventures close to home.

By Laura Price
Published 27 May 2020, 14:45 BST
When walking through Courtown Woodland in Wexford, Ireland, travellers may come across one of the world’s oldest operational lighthouses, which ...

When walking through Courtown Woodland in Wexford, Ireland, travellers may come across one of the world’s oldest operational lighthouses, which has stood for over 800 years.


Photograph by Getty Images

Uniting West Wales and Ireland’s Ancient East, the new Celtic Routes project offers the chance to discover a side of the UK and Ireland that’s seldom explored, with an emphasis on long-neglected history and culture. 

This collection of coastal trails and underexplored destinations throws up myths, legends and stories that have long permeated the region’s landscapes and cultures — and that’s before you even consider the natural beauty of these wild, windswept countries.

The Welsh coastal counties of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire and their Irish counterparts Wicklow, Wexford and Waterford have put together their best travel experiences revealing must-see destinations and roads less travelled. Culturally curious travellers can discover the ‘Celtic Beacons’ collection, which highlights places in each county that reveal a particular moment in Celtic history, like Hook Head in County Wexford, where one of the world’s oldest operational lighthouses has stood for over 800 years.

For those looking for seasonal travel experiences, the ‘Celtic Moments’ are a series of places to visit at specific times throughout the year for a chance to experience unique festivals and occurrences. These range from dolphin-spotting off New Quay in Ceredigion in the summer, whales breaching at Hook Head in November to the spectacular Aberaeron Mackerel Fiesta in late August. Finally, there’s also a range of ‘Celtic Discoveries’ for history buffs, with castles, ruins and sacred stones unveiling tales from a shared past that binds these two nations.  

Four more routes to plan to explore

1. Brazil 
As part of an effort to preserve the rainforest, a trail of more than 2,500 miles is being set out through Brazil’s Atlantic Forest across five states including Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina. In São Paulo state, visitors and locals can hike the Caminhos do Mar, which opened in February and mark several important moments in Brazil’s history. Trekkers will take in a former colonial trade route for cotton, tobacco and sugar and the very spot where independence was claimed in 1822.

2. Australia 
As home to the majority of Victoria state’s rock art, dating back more than 20,000 years, the Grampians National Park is a prime spot to delve deep into Aboriginal Australian culture. A 22-mile section of the Grampians Peaks Trail is now open from a starting point at Halls Gap, while the remaining section is set to be completed by the end of 2020. Highlights include the spectacular panoramic views from Pinnacle Lookout and indigenous artefacts such as oven mounds.

3. Sweden 
Stretching some 45 miles from Gothenburg to Alingsås, the recently opened Gotaleden trail has options for nine different legs of varying lengths and difficulty levels. For history and culture, try the easy Floda-Tollered route, which takes in Nääsområdet, Scandinavia’s best-preserved late 19th-century environment, which has long been an important meeting place and centre for crafts. Don’t miss a trip to the Nääs Fabriker hotel and restaurant, a refurbished cotton mill from the 1900s next to Lake Sävelången offering a slice of local history.

4. New Zealand 
The country has just unveiled the 10th of its Great Walks, a series of trails showing off its most iconic spots. Developed for mountain bikers as well as walkers, the Paparoa Track on the South Island takes in towering limestone cliffs and lush podocarp rainforest with flora and fauna including nikau palms, colourful bellbirds and tuis. The track has significant indigenous history, which can be seen in crafts found in local galleries around the west coast.

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