The agreement to purchase a six-acre site on the summit of Knockma Hill is a major boost for tourism in North-East Galway.
The hill, six miles outside Tuam on the Headford road, is also known as Castlehacket Hill, after the medieval tower house that stands at its base.
It is already used by thousands of people every year for walking, running and family outings. However, the existing path does not reach the summit and so the spectacular views are hidden.
The purchase of the summit will bring a whole new dimension to the walk, and give it regional importance. The announcement that the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltachet, Heather Humphreys, has agreed in principle to the purchase was made by Paul Connaughton TD.
A sub-committee of Caherlistrane Community Council has been campaigning for several years to have the land bought by the State, and chairman Billy Conneely said this week that he was delighted at the news.
The committee had met with the former Minister, Jimmy Deenihan, and officials of his department, but the breakthrough came when Minister Humphreys accepted an invitation from Deputy Connaughton to visit the site.
She then commissioned an archaeological report, and the decision in principle to purchase referred to the three prehistoric burial cairns at the summit.
The next step is for an independent valuer to negotiate the price with the landowner, who has always indicated his willingness to sell the site as an amenity.
Deputy Connaughton said this week that “This is a tremendous boost for walking tourism in the East Galway region and the purchase of this portion of land will be the final piece in the jigsaw in terms of the completion of a wonderful amenity for walkers.
“It will provide a wonderful opportunity to explore Tuam and surrounding regions for local, national and international tourists, particularly walking tourists, who wish to explore the history and mythology of Ireland, while also engaging withy some of the most picturesque landscapes in East Galway.”
He added that “The mythology associated with Knockma will make it a most attractive destination for walkers wishing to learn about Irish mythology. According to legend, Knockma is where Finnbheara, king of the Connacht fairies, holds court. Finnbheara is the legendary protector of horses and crops and had an annual battle with the fairies of Ulster where the prize for victory was good crops in the relevant province, while the crops of the vanquished failed.”
The hill is claimed by some to be the burial place of Queen Maeve.
Local councillor Seán Canney was also involved in the campaign to have the site purchased. He has welcomed the decision and said it will greatly enhance the existing public amenity at Castlehacket.
He commented that the very popular walkway will now include General Bernard Kirwan’s burial site and the prehistoric cairns and will provide a panoramic view of Co. Galway.
“Great credit is due to the local committee who have worked on this project for the last number of years,” concluded Cllr Canney.