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Dutch treat for Isle of Man Walking Festival 4 May 2007

Ramblers from as far afield as the United States and Holland are among the early entries for this year’s Isle of Man Walking Festival which takes place from June 24-29.

Plans are already well advanced for the Island’s fourth summer festival with bookings boosted by UK newspaper and web site articles. These have appeared following visits to the Island by walking and travel journalists who were shown round the Island by Festival Organiser Mick Salmon and committee members John Callister and Mike Quayle.

Two UK journalists are also to experience the Festival at first hand. They are to try some of the walks themselves to help with their features. The organising committee is also pleased to welcome officials from a Walking Club in Yorkshire who are sampling the Festival content and who could well return in future years with a large contingent from their area.

The six miles walk around the coastline from Port St.Mary to Port Erin and passing the Chasms is again proving a favourite and on account of its popularity is being offered every day. However, organisers report increasing interest in the Ayres and a nine miles walk taking in the most northern part of the Island, around Andreas and Bride, has been added to the itinerary. An added attraction here is the fact that Warden Louise Sampson is to give a talk about the Ayres as part of the package.

Another innovation is the introduction of a grading system for the various walks so participants have some idea what to expect.

Mike Quayle explained:

‘One of the difficulties in the past has been how to categorise our walks. ‘If you lived, say, in a large city you might feel you were be able to cope with what was described as a difficult walk but with the Isle of Man’s terrain that description might take on a whole new meaning and become impossible for some people. Consequently, we have brought in a grading system which is pretty standard across the UK and provides a means of gauging the type of walk involved. Grade A means difficult, Grade B equates to moderate while Grade C is considered easy.’

Not surprisingly, the 95 miles Coastal Path Walk is officially classified as Grade A but four hardy souls have already registered for the 18-20 miles-a-day hike and more are expected by the closing date. Organisers insist on some evidence of middle or long distance experience.

Between six and eight walks are available each day, ranging from a four miles stroll through local glens up to a more demanding nine or ten miles stretch over some of the Island’s most rugged countryside.

Tourism Minister Adrian Earnshaw said he was delighted, not only with the success of the June Festival, but also the rapidly increasing interest in the October event which was held for the first time in 2006. Said Mr.Earnshaw:

‘We have already had marvellous PR by way of pre-event publicity with, I believe, a feature in the Sunday Times still to come. This is the kind of exposure you just can’t buy. ‘It also has a spin-off effect for Island tourism as a whole because, while you may not be particularly interested in walking holidays, reading an article about the beauty of the Isle of Man could well encourage you to come and see for yourself.’

Even with the Isle of Man Walking Festival still some weeks away planning is already beginning for 2008. Mike Quayle has put together two new walks, centred on the Crosby and St.John’s areas, each covering a distance of about seven or eight miles.

Local residents are also encouraged to get involved, although with the popularity increasing they are urged to book in advance. Previously, they were able to turn up on the day and pay to join in. While they can still take a chance and do that if they wish, the organisers point out there is a limit to the number of people who can be accommodated. Anyone who hasn’t booked in advance may have to be turned away if the limit has been reached.

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