Tourist trail for east of county considered

A suggestion that a tourist trail be established for east Westmeath be set up was made by Cllr Denis Leonard at the May meeting of the Municipal District of Mullingar Kinnegad.

The Labour man said the trail could take in Kinnegad, Killucan, Raharney, Milltownpass and Rochfortbridge areas and highlight the many historic sites and buildings long the route.

The official written response to his request stated: “A series of new projects are under way and planned for east Westmeath, which will offer new tourism experiences in the area, including the town park and various walking trails. When these projects reach a more developed stage, it would certainly be worthwhile to consider creating a tourist trail or an east Westmeath tourism itinerary for marketing the area.”

The response concluded by stating that in the meantime, the district will continue to assist and support the progression of such projects, via community grants and business supports as appropriate.

Expounding on his vision, Cllr Leonard said a tourism map produced some years ago by Hidden Heartlands and Fáilte Ireland showed attractions in Mullingar, Athlone, Uisneach and Fore, but not the many attractions in east Westmeath such as the Rahanine Bog Walk in Rochfortbridge, the new walk in Milltownpass; the historic buildings of Killucan, Kinnegad and Delvin and the 12 monastic sites at Milltownpass.

The trail could, he pointed out, link to other tourist trails in the area, and signage and apps could be used to draw the attention of visitors to what there was to see locally.

“The council, a few years back, produced leaflets for each town and village with everything that was available in the area. I think they need to be reproduced by the tourist section,” he said.

Other sites worth featuring included Coralstown: its church steeple was originally in Kinnegad until it was struck by lightning, after which it was dismantled brick-by-brick and rebuilt in Coralstown.

In addition, he continued, Kinnegad was the birthplace of the American Civil War general, Richard Jackson, and of Cardinal Glennon, who is buried under the altar of the cathedral in St Louis Missouri; actor Patrick Duffy also has links to the area.

“We’re not doing enough to actually promote tourist amenities,” he said.

Cllr Emily Wallace supported the motion and said that as well as the tourism officer, the heritage officer should also be involved.

Cllr Wallace also suggested that her proposal from a few years back about establishment of a food trail be developed.

“The longer we can keep people in the country, the more they will spend,” she said.

Cllr Frank McDermott credited the recently-deceased former Westmeath county engineer Jim Hearn with having the “vision” to suggest the walking trail now in existence in Fore, and spoke of its value to the area.

Also supporting Cllr McDermott’s motion was the mayor Cllr Hazel Smith. “There is a lot of history in the country. Whatever can be done to bring awareness and attention to the that history is worthwhile,” she said.