Ulster Way is set to be linked to famous US mountain trail

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The Ulster Way is soon to be “branded” with the name of a US mountain range.

The long-standing Province-wide walking trail will become part of the International Appalachian Trail.

The official launch of what has been termed its new “dual-branding” will be at the end of the month, at the Appalachian and Bluegrass Festival in Omagh.

The International Appalachian Trail is named after the trail which traverses the Appalachian mountains running across the eastern states of the USA.

The international element includes stretches of walking routes in Canada and Scandinavia, with plans to extend it into Iberia too.

It will still be known as the Ulster Way too, but the additional name is basically an effort to “cash in” on the fame and renown of the original Appalachian Trail, said Magne Haugseng.

The 62-year-old Norwegian, now living on the north coast, has been driving the plan for years, and said it has the backing of US Senator George Mitchell, as well as Stormont’s environment minister and Donegal TD Joe McHugh.

The new designation will cover about half of the existing Ulster Way, but besides the addition of the words International Appalachian Trail on signs, walkers will not notice any material difference on the route.

The stretch will be from roughly Strabane to Larne.

“It’s purely marketing,” he said, adding that those who have hiked the original trail now want to try this one.

“Walking is actually a key economic driver in peripheral areas,” he further added, saying that a mere 3,000-or-so international walkers come to Ulster each year.

This compares with an estimated 30,000 in the Republic, and hundreds of thousands in Scotland.