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Walking Festival Doubles Up 28 June 2005

The number of visitors taking part in the 2005 Isle of Man Walking Festival has doubled, compared with last year's inaugural event, and such is its popularity that the organisers are considering the possibility of holding two Festivals in 2006.

Around 250 people travelled to the Island, the numbers being swelled by many local residents joining in as well. A total of 1,200 walks were booked - twice that of last year. The tour around the Port St.Mary/Port Erin area, taking in the Chasms, the Sound and the southern coastline, claimed the individual record with over 100 taking part.

The amount of walks available was also increased this year, from 24 to 35, incorporating more of the forest and glen variety. Social events were arranged during the evenings, culminating with a 'Blister Ball' in the Villa Marina when entertainment was provided by local musicians.

Said Festival Organiser, freelance travel journalist and photographer Terry Marsh from Chorley:

"The feedback has all been positive. We have tried not to be too regimented and although people book in for specific walks they can change their minds if they feel tired, for instance, after a long walk and want to switch to a shorter one; or they want to go off and do some exploring on their own.

"We want visitors to come to the Island and do exactly what they are comfortable with and that is an important factor. There have been a lot more people taking part this year and I think that is largely down to word of mouth. We do a fair amount advertising of course but we know that people have gone back home to their own walking clubs and told everyone what a wonderful time they had in the Isle of Man. Quite a few have returned for a longer holiday.

"They have come in their droves which has meant having to lay on extra buses and put more coaches onto the steam trains, but it is a nice problem to have. Many people have commented on the efficiency of the Island's unique transport system and this has been quoted as a major reason for coming back."

One such couple are David and Joan Hainsworth from Rotherham. While David had been to the Island 40 years ago during his youth hostelling days, it was his wife's first visit but they have vowed to return.

Said Mr.Hainsworth:

"Everything was so well organised and it was really interesting to use the varied transport system including the Manx Electric Railway, the horse trams, buses and steam railway."

Walkers came from all over the UK to take part including Surrey, Lancashire and the Midlands, but the record for travelling the greatest distance goes to 70 year old John White from Florida in the United States. He had only previously been to the Isle of Man for one day, six years ago, while on a visit to the UK but enjoyed the Festival so much he had already signed up for 2006 before leaving.

He said:

"The organisation has been excellent and the friendliness of the walk leaders and the Manx people in general has made the event special for me. When the Tourist Department heard how far I had come I was presented with an Isle of Man umbrella which was a nice touch.

"Florida is very flat and I didn't realise what a contrast I would find in the Isle of Man. However, the Festival caters for everyone, whatever their level of fitness, and I have enjoyed myself immensely."

Tourism Minister David Cretney said the second year of the Festival had surpassed all their expectations.

He added:

"When Terry Marsh came to me with the original idea I saw at once that it had potential but the way it has developed in just two years has been a real bonus and augurs well for future years."

With a real success story on its hands the Department of Tourism has been discussing with Terry Marsh and local walk guides the possibility of holding two such events in 2006. The thinking is that the second festival might be held over a long weekend in either late September or early October and be based in either Port Erin or Peel. This would help other parts of the Island's economy in the shoulder months of the season.

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