The Appalachian Trail reaches Larne

southIt’s almost too much for a Larne man like me to take in, but recent reports suggest that the Appalachian Trail, which runs for over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine in the Eastern United States, is to be extended from America to Ireland, and may even reach my home town of Larne.

The organisers of the International Appalachian Trail have already lengthened the well-known route into Canada and Newfoundland, and they are now considering stretching it across the Atlantic into Greenland, Ireland and Scotland, and then on to Norway and North Africa.

The Irish section, which will rely on existing tracks, would run from Donegal and connect with the 625 mile long Ulster Way. Walkers could then take the ferry from Larne to Scotland to continue on a further leg of the trail.

The reasons given for making the link are largely geological. On the basis that before the Atlantic Ocean was formed, Europe and America were one large land mass, there are geographical and geological features that justify a link between the two continents.

This might give some impetus to those who promote local tourism. It is estimated that up to 4 million people walk the Appalachian Trail every year, and if even just a small percentage of those hikers made it to Northern Ireland, it would be a great boost to the local economy.

I’m certain that those who live close to the Ulster Way, given the waves of emigration from these shores to the New World in the 18th and 19th centuries, could add a few local cultural events to help hikers make an even stronger connection between Ulster and the Eastern United States.

Mind you, I never thought when I was growing up in Larne that I was anywhere close to living on the Appalachian Trail. It makes me think of my home town in a whole new way.