A new interactive outdoor experience along the Royal Canal hopes to bring to life the experience of famine emigrants who walked from Strokestown to Dublin at the height of An Gorta Mór.
The National Famine Way was launched last Thursday 10 September by the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park with a special National Famine Way Passport/Guide and OSI trail map.
The 14-page guidebook highlights local historical landmarks and allows walkers and cyclists to record their progress with 27 stage stamps along the specially developed 165km heritage route.
The trail details the ill-fated journey of 1,490 famine emigrants who walked from Strokestown Park in Co Roscommon to ships in the capital in 1847, a year which became infamous as ‘Black ’47’.
And the new Passport/Guide is centred around the walk of one of the original famine emigrants from Strokestown Park: 12-year-old Daniel Tighe, who remarkably survived the horrific journey to Quebec, Canada on one of the worst famine ships.
Award-winning author Marita Conlon-McKenna wrote short pieces that reimagine Daniel’s journey in 1847 and are connected to over 30 pairs of bronze children’s shoes dotted along the route. They are also available as audio recordings to listen to at www.nationalfamineway.ie
The National Famine Way crosses six counties — Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Kildare and Fingal — on the way to Dublin, mostly along the Royal Canal, and a completion certificate is awarded at the end of the trail at EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum at George’s Dock.
The National Famine Museum collaborated on the project with Waterways Ireland and county councils along the route, which is designed to be accessible for families, schools, casual walkers and cyclists — as well as those who want to learn more about the famine and Ireland’s history.
Anne O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Irish Heritage Trust, which cares for Strokestown Park and the National Famine Museum, said: “This heritage trail not only links two significant Irish museums but also makes the connection between Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and Ireland’s Ancient East.
“In addition to the health, historical, cultural and arts impact, the trail also has the potential to open up rural Ireland and offer an economic boost to local communities with cycling hire, cafés, bars, shops and accommodation all benefiting with an expected economic impact of over €2 million spent along the route.”