The Ilen takes centre stage at Baltimore heritage festival

FOR more than 70 years, she plied some of the world’s roughest oceans, providing a vital service to the people of the remote Falkland Islands.

Now the historic ketch, the Ilen — the only Irish coastal trading boat still in existence — is set to take centre stage in a tourist haven’s annual heritage festival.

Tourism leaders in west Cork have invited the public to view the progress of the restoration work on the vessel as part of the second annual Baltimore Heritage Festival which runs from April 17 to 19. Free taxis will be on offer to ferry visitors from Baltimore to Hegarty’s Boatyard in nearby Oldcourt to watch the work.

Built in Baltimore in 1926, the Ilen was used in the Falklands for 72 years as a post and ferry boat between the islands.

Former governor of the Falkland Islands, Sir Cosmo Haskard, will be in the Glebe Gardens and Café in Baltimore tomorrow night to launch details of the heritage weekend. He will speak about the Ilen and its importance to the people of the Falklands, said a spokesperson for the Explore Baltimore co-operative marketing group, which is organising the event and tempting visitors to the festival with special weekend offers.

From just 99c per person, you and 10 friends could enjoy a cruise on board Baltimore Yacht Charters’ luxury 50-foot yacht between Baltimore and Sherkin Island or Hare Island. And there are also half-price offers at the Baltimore Community Leisure Centre and Pool during public hours, on a river cruise up the beautiful Ilen estuary to Oldcourt, and on marine nature tours and power-boating.

The festival will feature a range of family entertainment celebrating Baltimore’s cultural and maritime history. It will open on the Friday night with traditional music and dance in Baltimore Sailing Club.

A “Now and Then” traditional craft fair will be held on Saturday and Sunday, with rope making, net and sail mending, lobster pot making, wood turning, art, lace, and patchwork, among the crafts on show.

Sailing, kayaking, power-boating, whale-watching, guided walks and river cruises, hosted by Baltimore businesses will also be on offer.

Explore Baltimore, which consists of 85 companies in and around Baltimore who rely heavily on tourism, organised the first festival last year.

Their motto is Ní neart go cur le céile (strength through numbers) and their goal is to promote festivals and packages for a memorable holiday or weekend break in the village.

* www.baltimore.ie/explorebaltimore


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