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Pilgrim's Progress: Ireland's Camino-style journey

st Finbarr's Pilgrim Path, Co. Cork Image copyright www.pilgrimpath.ie
Image caption St Finbarr's Pilgrim Path, County Cork

Ireland has got its own fully-guided pilgrim journey, similar to Spain's famous Camino de Santiago.

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

But now you can take a pilgrimage along the "medieval paths" of Ireland without first getting on a plane.

Just don't expect the same kind of weather - and you might be advised to bring a brolly.

Image copyright www.pilgrimpath.ie
Image caption St. Kevin's Way, County Wicklow

All five of the paths are fully marked and people walk them by themselves regularly.

But this is the first time the walks will have been done as a guided trail.

The 124km journey, which begins in County Cork, will take place throughout Irish Heritage Week, 19 - 26 August, covering five ancient routes.

Those trekking along Ireland's "Pilgrims Paths" can get their pilgrim passport stamped every time a path is completed.

If all five are stamped, they get a Teastas Oilithreachta (pilgrim certificate) from Ballintubber Abbey in County Mayo.

Image copyright www.pilgrimpath.ie
Image caption Cnoc na dTobar, County Kerry

The paths:

  • Tochar Phadraig, County Mayo (30km)
  • St Kevin's Way, County Wicklow(30km)
  • Cosán na Naomh, County Kerry (18km)
  • St Finbarr's Pilgrim Path, County Cork (37km)
  • Cnoc na dTobar, County Kerry (9km)

John O'Dwyer, chairman of Pilgrim Paths Ireland, the group organising the walks, told the BBC that the trails have been around for a long time.

"Many people wouldn't have known about them, but the popularity of the Camino de Santiago has helped raise awareness," said Mr O'Dwyer.

"In fact, lots of Irish people were going to Spain to the Camino, unaware there will pilgrim paths on their own doorstep," he added.

Pilgrim Paths Ireland is a group of volunteers who aim to "promote awareness and use" of the historic pilgrim routes.

Image copyright www.pilgrimpath.ie
Image caption Tóchar Phádraig, County Mayo

Mr O'Dwyer said anyone can do the paths: "You can trot along them yourself or be part of a group.

"We don't have a linear path like the Camino but instead have taken five of the foremost paths and put them together.

"Apart from one, each path can be done in a day. People can go down to Cork, get their passport stamped, then go up the country to get the next stamp and so on.

"Some people would prefer to do it as a group as you get local guides who have knowledge and can give you information about the area."

Image copyright www.pilgrimpath.ie
Image caption Cosán na Naomh, County Kerry

Mr O'Dwyer, from Tipperary, whose background is tourism, is an avid hill walker and has written guidebooks about the Irish countryside.

"On Saturday, we already have 100 people setting out in west Cork and then will move on up the country throughout the week," he said.

The majority of those booked during Heritage Week walk are Irish, but there are people coming from California for the occasion.

And there's some good news for people who can't do the whole week of walks.

"You can join us at any point of the day during the week if you aren't free to do the whole thing or if one of the walks is closer to where you live," said Mr O'Dwyer

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