Liam Fleming (front) with members of Siul Eile walking club.

Organisers of the new Knockmealdown Rhododendron Walking Festival, which takes place for the first time this June Bank Holiday weekend, have said that they hope local tourism will burst into bloom as a result of the new festival. 

Inspired by international events like Japan’s annual Cherry Blossom festival, the weekend event, co-organised by groups Knockmealdown Active and Siul Eile, will take advantage of the rhododendron flowering season to add the wow-factor to a weekend of walks suited to different levels of ability.

Organisers are already hopeful that the festival will become an annual fixture on the area’s calendar of events.

“We’re planning to hold this as an annual event,” Siul Eile founder Liam Fleming said. “We think it will put the area on the tourist map. The Vee is a natural beauty spot that should be more well-known,” he said.

“When the rhododendrons are in full bloom, the blaze of purple as far as the eye can see is amazing. You see people getting out of their cars for photos but walking is a great way to appreciate it.”

Liam founded the Siul Eile walking group in Clogheen two years ago, and since then, hiking-mad members have walked over 40,000km – the equivalent of a stroll around the circumference of planet Earth.

The Rhododendron Walking Festival takes place from the 1st to the 4th of June, with a series of walks ranging from 6km to 34km, as well as a Knockmealdown challenge and a family fun day on the Bank Holiday Monday.