On September 19 to 25, IAT Ulster Ireland hosted the International Appalachian Trail Annual General Meeting, from Slieve League in County Donegal to Ballycastle, County Antrim. The week-long event included scenic hikes, historic tours, fine dining and tasty beers, all with the great hospitality this beautiful emerald island is renowned for.
The event started with a visit to Kelly’s Bridge on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, where the mayors of both Donegal and Derry/Strabane welcomed the group and posed for a photo.
From there the scene shifted to Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh – where IAT Ulster Ireland was officially launched in August 2013 – for lunch and a tour of the recreated Irish/American village which tells the story of three centuries of Irish emigration across the Atlantic.
On Day Two the group was off to 2,000ft Slieve League to view – from land and sea – the landfall of IAT Ulster Ireland and lunch with local government and tourism officials. They then traveled by bus through Glengesh Pass to Harvey’s Point Hotel, Lough Eske for a little “attitude adjustment” and a lot of fine dining.
Day Three begin with a trek into the Sperrin Mountains with guide Martin Bradley.
It was followed by a pre-AGM dinner at the Guildhall in Derry, hosted by Derry City and Strabane District Council.
At nearly the same time, IAT Founder Richard “Dick” Anderson was briefing former U.S. Senator (and Good Friday Agreement architect) George Mitchell about the IAT Annual Meeting being jointly hosted by IAT Ulster Ireland.
The Meeting was held on Day Four at The Alley in Strabane, Northern Ireland. As usual it began with chapter updates before continuing on with general issues and special projects and events. Guest speaker Kirsten Lemon of the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland gave a presentation on UNESCO Global Geoparks and the EU Interreg funded Drifting Apart project, both with connections to the IAT.
After the Annual Meeting, the IAT scene shifted from Strabane to Ballycastle, where on Day Five the group went on a guided hike of Torr Head. The final day of the 2016 IAT Annual Meeting was spent touring the Causeway Coast and Glens from Ballycastle to Carrickfergus, including stops at Glenarm and Carrickfergus Castles.
In summary, it was a fantastic week of hiking, touring and reconnecting along the IAT in Ulster Ireland. Many thanks to Magne Haugseng, Inga Bock, Philip McShane and all the other volunteers and officials who extended a warm Irish welcome to this magical faerie land!