Visitors can now leave their stamp on The National Famine Way, a new 165km trail in Ireland that doubles as an interactive history lesson. It traces the footsteps of a group of ill-fated famine emigrants known as the 'Missing 1490' who, in 1847, were forced to walk from Roscommon in the west of the country to Dublin in the east at the height of the Great Famine to board ships that would take them to the US and Canada.

The National Famine Way launched in September to connect cyclists and walkers with Ireland's emigrant past. Visitors who join the trail can record their progress through a special passport with 27 stamps that can be collected along the 165km route, and a guide that highlights historical landmarks and points of interest. The trail starts at the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park and takes in six counties, from east to west of the country, as it runs along the Royal Canal. Once it's completed and all stamps are collected, a certificate is awarded at the end of the trail at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin.

A replica passenger ticket for a ship in 1847
Replica passenger ticket ©Irish Heritage Trust

"As walkers and cyclists experience the natural beauty of the National Famine Way Heritage Trail, the Passport/Guide and OSI Map incentivises them to explore lesser-known sections by slowly unfolding the rich local history wrapped in the journey of famine emigrant," Caroilin Callery, of the Irish Heritage Trust and National Famine Museum said. "They will also be reminded of our history, through a mix of evocative storytelling, song, art installations and cultural centres along the route."

The trail follows in the footsteps of the 1490 men, women and children who were evicted from an estate in Strokestown, Roscommon in 1847 and forced to emigrate to Canada and the United States when Ireland was in the devastating grip of famine. The Strokestown tenants were marched from Roscommon to Dublin, after they failed to pay their rent, where they boarded a ship to Liverpool before subsequently journeying to North America on board some of the worst coffin ships at the time. Not all of them made it alive. They became known as the 'Missing 1490'.

A pair of bronze children's shoes
30 pairs of bronze children's shoes are scattered throughout the trail ©Irish Heritage Trust

Thirty pairs of bronze children's shoes are scattered throughout the trail to commemorate the journey of one particular emigrant: 12-year-old Daniel Tighe who survived the journey to Canada where he started a new life in Québec.

The National Famine Way is open year-round and can be completed at your own pace in your own time. It's free to join but the 14-page National Famine Way Passport/Guide costs €10.

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