By JOHN CADDOO 9 April, 2018
BBC Radio Ulster’s Anne Marie McAleese interviewed our member Kevin Mc Gowan of Nine Glens Walking Tours to talk about landscapes of the Glens of Antrim and heritage sites which provide beautiful walkways and stories for visitors. John Caddoo has a listen to Kevin’s story.
On Saturday morning, two of our members were on BBC talking about their passions for our landscapes. Our previous blog showcases what Mark Rodgers of Dalriada Kingdom Tours spoke about. Here, we take a look at Kevin McGowan’s piece with Anne-Marie.
This interview touched on the background of Nine Glens Walking Tours and the different routes available. Listeners heard that it’s on these walkways that Kevin has enriched his knowledge and stories of the heritage sites and landscapes to provide an enjoyable and informative experience for his customers.
Anne Marie asked Kevin about his tour of Fairhead, which is situated on the North Coast, and asked about the famous route ‘Grey Man’s Path’.
Kevin said: “It is a beautiful place and also a very unique place. Grey Man’s Path is situated half way across Fairhead. We would call it Casan an Fhir Leith and it does attract quite a few visitors who will come to us specifically asking to see The Grey Man’s Path.
“You get the whole range to Ballycastle and on a good day you can reach as far as Ceinn Ban. Also on a good day you would see seven of the Western Isles of Scotland and also Rathlin Island as well.”
Anne Marie asked: ” You are showing people around and showing them the landscapes but you are also telling them about the heritage, Ballycastle particularly. There’s so much heritage of the coal mining industry. In your experience is it a part of the history people are not so aware of?”
Kevin explained how his storytelling provides interest to the locals within the area who may not have known about the heritage and industry they have right under their noses.
“When we started up, a couple of years ago, even local people wouldn’t have known so much about their local heritage, but, over the last few seasons people have been specifically asking for that.
“We had people last year come up from Coalisland in Tyrone – Coalisland was also another major coal industry in Northern Ireland. Between Fairhead and Ballycastle we are talking in the region of 50 or 60 coal mines working periodically over the last couple of centuries.”
Kevin goes on to explain that the tours are designed for both locals and visitors.
“You’ll find what I am doing isn’t just for tourists, although we do attract a lot of tourists, it is also for the locals, and, as I said, over the last couple of seasons there seems to have been a renewed interest into that local history.”
Anne Marie suggested “the best way to understand a landscape and really seep in the history is to walk on it”. Kevin agreed: “It is it really is,” he said. “We get you out onto the landscape, walk you through it and tell you the history and the heritage.”
So how did Kevin’s journey begin which led him to create walking tours which tell the ancient local heritage, myths and legends on the North Coast?
He puts it down to storytelling.
He said: “The storytelling aspect of it particularly. A part of my family are from Glenshesk and the other part are from a small town called Lettermacaward. This was a real traditional Irish cottage, up until about 2008 we had the thatched roof, open fire and no toilet inside. I remember many a night going out into the barn to use the plastic toilet.
“It was a ceili house. All the local gentlemen would have came across at night and sat by the fire telling the stories. Of course this was all in the native Gaelic language. Now I understand what was going on but didn’t have a great understanding of the language, so, I started to ask the questions and then I suppose I am now in the place where people would be asking the questions of me, so I would try to carry on that tradition of the storytelling.”
Ann Marie highlighted Kevin’s work with Ballycastle Museum and said she is looking forward to her visit there in a few weeks’ time.
So with all of this and much more, it’s a busy time ahead for Nine Glens Walking Tours and at the Ballycastle Museum.
“We are busy right through the summer both with guided tours and also the museum.”
So if you fancy a guided walking tour with local guides talking heritage, myths and legends which have been passed down through the generations then visit Nine Glens Walking Tours
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