Cotton Joe Is First To Complete IAT Ireland
On September 27, 2013 long-distance hiker Cotton Joe Norman from North Carolina became the first walker to complete the recently launched IAT Ireland, from Slieve League to Larne. From there he crosses the Irish Sea to IAT Scotland, where he plans to walk from the Mull of Galloway to Cape Wrath.
Cotton Joe Meets Mayor Maureen Morrow of Larne after completing his IAT Ireland Trek
His adventure began on August 31 when he participated in the official launch of IAT Ireland at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, Northern Ireland.
He then traveled with IAT Ireland Donegal Coordinator Inga Bock to the landfall start at Slieve League on the Atlantic Coast in Donegal.
Cotton Joe and Inga Bock stop at Biddy's o' Barnes on the Way to Slieve League
After a good night's rest at Teelin Bay House B&B, Joe set off for Slieve League, but not before stopping at Ti Linn Cafe & Craft Shop for delicious fresh baked snacks for the first day's trek.
After completing a day-hike of Slieve League with Paul,
Joe continued solo for nearly a month, first completing the Irish Republic section of the IAT before crossing into Northern Ireland and continuing on the western section of the Ulster Way.
The trek began with the spectacular coastlines of Donegal
then traversed the hilly and pastoral interior of the island with its stone ruins
and religious icons,
before re-emerging again on the coast near Castlerock.
From there walkers will find historic ruins and natural wonders, such as Dunluce Castle
and Giant's Causeway.
Before finishing his Ireland trek, Cotton Joe took a break from walking to attend the IAT Annual General Meeting in Balloch, Scotland, where he reconnected with old friends, met new ones, and learned more about the IAT Scotland route.
Cotton Joe with old friend and IAT Founder Dick Anderson at the IAT AGM in Balloch
Back on the trail, Joe stopped at Bushmills to tour the local ice tea factory
and Ballycastle to share a few pints and his progress with IAT Europe Vice President and IAT Ireland Organizer Magne Haugseng
(L-R) IAT Europe Vice President Magne Haugseng, Coast Alive Director David Hassall, and Cotton Joe
before finishing up at Larne with his place in IAT history .... and his name in the city guestbook! Well done Guinness Joe!
Said Larne Mayor Maureen Morrow (who hosted a reception at the Town Hall to welcome Joe at the end of his month-long journey), "On behalf of the people of Larne I am delighted to extend a warm welcome to Joe and hope that we will be welcoming many tourists to this area who will follow in his footsteps. The new trail not only widens access to the beauty of the world famous East Antrim Coast but it affirms our links with America and the many tourists visiting from there."
Says Joe, "Ireland was a great adventure through ancient landscapes and cultural heritage. From its rugged seashore to the wild windswept mountains, it was a great experience that I will always remember. The local people, whether in small villages or larger towns, were always very friendly and treated me as family. I'm happy to have been a part of it!"