A writer who has walked the country’s ancient pilgrim paths said a West Cork route would deserve the title of the ‘Camino of Ireland’.
Author John G O’Dwyer commended locals for the upgrading of the path from the village of Drimoleague to Gougane Barra.
"A wonderful job has been done in improving this ancient route," said Tipperary-based Mr O’Dwyer.
"But much more needs to be done to get the word out about this fine path which, up to now, has been very much part of the hidden Ireland."
The popularity of Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James — the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in north-western Spain— has prompted renewed interest in pilgrim walks in Ireland.
Increasing numbers now have a particular sensitivity to holy places such as Clonmacnoise, Croagh Patrick, Lough Derg, and Glendalough.
Mr O’Dwyer penned Pilgrim Paths of Ireland after walking from Slemish in Co Antrim, historically called Slieve Mish — the first Irish home of St Patrick — to Skellig Michael, 12km off Kerry where, in early Christian times, "the known world once ended".
In the book, published by Collins Press in Cork and launched in Thurles last week, each pilgrim walk description has directions, the degree of difficulty, estimated time and maps.
The paths are varied and suitable for all, from casual ramblers to committed hillwalkers. In each route description, the author’s feelings and experiences are recounted and the entertaining and insightful characters met along the way described.
He says the search for spiritual fulfilment continues in 21st century Ireland.
A mountaineer and author, Mr O’Dwyer became the first person to walk the ancient pilgrim trails from the north-east to the south-west.
He envisages the publication will be "snapped up" by organisations, clubs and societies anxious to raise charitable funding for worthwhile projects by organising sponsored walks along the ancient routes.
With the aid of his book, he said the paths have now become accessible to all.
A founding member of Mid-Tipp Hill Walkers, Mr O’Dwyer has spent a quarter of a century leading not just large groups through the Irish scenic uplands, but also climbing groups in Britain, Europe, and Africa.
He said the publication, which focuses on 15 journeys, is aimed at pilgrims, walkers, history lovers, or those merely seeking an informative and entertaining read.
During the launch, he mentioned particularly the enjoyment of walking the ancient trails located on the Dingle Peninsula — especially the Cosán na Náomh, which leads from Ventry to Mount Brandon.
"West Kerry really resonates with timeless appeal," he said, "and places like Kilmalkeder offer a beautifully subtle connection with our pilgrim past."
* Pilgrim Paths in Ireland is available from collinspress.ie and from bookshops nationwide.