Town twinning is very common around the country and appears more popular in towns and villages in areas with particular tourist attraction. Ashbourne is the fastest growing town and district in Meath. It is the golden gate to the Boyne Valley and has huge potential in areas such as food, lodgings and local attractions including Tayto Park and the Hill of Tara.
The idea of town twinning came from conversations with likeminded local people with a passion for their town, their traditions and interests. Each member of the town twinning committee has travelled abroad at some point and were always curious and envious of other towns and regions involved in the town twinning process.
A little over a year ago, a meeting took place and a committee was formed; the four members each felt that they brought a certain level of expertise to the committee and it was decided that the town twinning would be themed on our Celtic heritage with four pillars based on each individual's area of expertise.
The Committee members and pillars they represent are as follows
Ian Jenkinson - Culture (including festivals)
Cllr Sean Smith - Music (including language and dance)
Martin Markham - Tourism (including hospitality and travel)
Cllr Alan Tobin - Enterprise (including food)
Our Celtic Heritage
Our Celtic heritage spans over 3,000 years; the Celts of which each and every one of us are related to, lived on the western fringes of Europe and included Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany, Gallicia and - of course - Ireland. While these areas are linked by common traditions, similar landscapes and - in particular - traditional and folk music, the Celtic language was lost some time in the Middle Ages in North West Spain, due to Roman influences in the area.
Corcubion is an old trading port town located 75kms west of Santiago de Compostella. In its heyday at the turn of the century, Corcubion was a major trading port. Large steam powered vessels came here to take on coal and other supplies and the area thrived on this international trade. To this day, it is located on one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with all traffic by see passing by its coast on the way to the Mediterranean, Asia and other areas around the world.
The area is very hilly with a large amount of wind turbines generating power and much needed taxes for the area. There is a steel plant in the adjoining town of Cee (population 7,500) a hospital, public swimming pool and a 200 seater theatre.
The Atlantic influence cannot be underestimated; fishing is big business and all restaurants offer excellent cuisine and value for money. Agriculture in the area is mainly small scale and although there is some tillage, most is fruit and vegetable production for local market or personal consumption.
The Camino de Santiago officially finishes in Fisterra, a town 12kms away. This means there is always a steady stream of walking tourists around the area. It also means there are lots of hotels and bed & breakfasts in the area, all clean and very reasonably priced. Road infrastructure is good with regional type roads connecting to motorway closer to Santiago. There are no tolls and road signage is easy to follow. Phone reception and broadband are both excellent!
Day by Day
Santiago airport to Corcubion takes just one hour. The airport is small and easy to navigate. During our stay, we resided at a local hotel; this particular lodging had 16 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar, and the local sandy beach is at the foot of the hotel. The hotel overlooks a shelter bay with a large steel works plant across from it. It was also possible to see the adjoining town of Cee, as well as mountains, in the distance. There is a beautiful walkway along the coast surrounding the town and we saw 6 Dolphins feeding in the bay the first day we arrived!
We were shown the end of the Camino at Fisterra on the Costa de Morte (or Dead Coast), named after its treacherous waters. There are numerous old lighthouses (Faro) in the area also. The landscape is very green and has similarities to our own. Eucalyptus, although a native plant species of Australia, appear to have been introduced here, grow rapidly and are used for firewood.
We visited an area used for a stage of the Tour de Spain bicycle race used for its 30% gradient hills! We also saw a local hydroelectric plant and the only waterfall to enter the sea in Europe. We visited a very plush fish restaurant and tasted octopus and razor fish as well as many other local delights.
We also brought with us locally crafted Irish beer, Tayto Crisps, Chez Emily Irish-made Belgian chocolates, Hugh Maguire's European award winning sausages, we cooked some black and white pudding (similar to Morcilla in Galicia) and gave some Ash Burners cycling tops to our hosts showing them local business sponsors on the jerseys.
We were given tourism literature from the region, some running tops from an annual cancer fundraising event and locally made porcelain plates. We were also introduced to other Council staff and got shown all around the municipal building and areas of interest around the town.
Cost of trip
Travel Dates: Thursday June 2nd to Friday June 5th.
From Ashbourne to Corcubion takes just 6 hours: flight time is just 1 h 45mins
Flights - Aer Lingus €246.50 return plus one bag.
As Hortensias - €40 per night (our hosts paid for this).
- Car Hire
Toyota Aygo - 3/4 days €192 with €150 deposit which was refunded.
- Dining and eating out
Eating out is at least 25% cheaper than Ireland! The eateries we tried were excellent with a generous offer of local dishes and specialities and all restaurants had menus in English. Alcohol is very reasonable with the cost of a beer in one of the local pubs just €1.50 for 33cl's.
Benefits of Twinning
The European Union is a Union of likeminded nations, connected by trade, culture and wonderful people that cherish freedom and self-expression. Twinning encourages communities from different parts of Europe to develop lasting links and help one another. Twinning would introduce the Boyne Valley to the people of Northern Spain; an area untapped by Meath Tourism and, indeed, Failte Ireland.
Tourism on the Camino
Thousands of Irish people travel the Camino in the summer months, with the most popular section being the last 100kms from Sarria to Santiago. I already mentioned a possible school tour link and I have talked to our local walking group that expressed an interest in visiting the area also later this year.
Food artisan producers
We are actively forging links between food producers including our local Craft Butcher Hugh Maguire and their equivalent Craft Butcher; a producer of a rare breed of pig call a Porco Celta (or Celtic Pig)!!
Music traditional and folk music
Councillor Sean Smith's musical influence was essential for our visit; it became apparent that Jose’s knowledge of Irish and Galician traditional music was impressive. This prompted a call to Sean requesting that he bring some CD's of his fathers, his family’s and Sean's own personal music. We spoke of Carlos Nunez a world famous bag pipe player from Galicia. It was great to learn later on that Sean's sister had actually danced with Carlos on a tour in previous years.
Although Galician's speak Spanish in the main, which is advantageous for our schools links, they also speak Galician which is similar to Portuguese. This is a minority language but is encouraged in schools and used in particular by government departments.
We were presented with literature of famous Galician’s that spent time in Ireland, which is interesting because we are all engaged with our own historical society researching famous Irish historical figures that were influential in various wars. A Coruna is less than 100km away and there are historical links with this City and Ireland throughout the centuries.
Weather is similar to here; a wet temperate climate influence by the prevailing Atlantic winds. When we were there, we had three sunny days with temperatures at a lovely 22 degrees Celsius. We were told that this was unusual as it was normally cloudy around this time. In winter, there is a lot of rain but no frost due to its proximity to the sea. People from southern Spain visit the region during the summer to get away from the persistent heat, in particular from the Madrid region.
Culturally, Galician’s are very similar to us; we found them funny and quick witted as the Irish are. We enjoyed their company and there was a genuine friendship created over the few days we spent there. They are a proud people; proud of their town and region and proud of their history. They are steeped in maritime traditions and are connected to the sea just as much as they are to the land. Schools run sailing programmes with local sailing clubs and cycling big in the area with stages of the Tour of Spain in the area in late August. There are food, folk, music and medieval festivals during the summer months.
School exchange program
I spoke to Aine O’Sullivan, the Principal of Ashbourne a Community School. The school has 4-500 students doing Spanish language studies with 5 Spanish teachers in the School. They already have a programme where students from the Navarra region come to the school during Transition Year for a 30 week term to learn English. During school exam times, links could be set up to help students with oral exams. Next year, the school are going to Santiago to do a section of the Camino and if this twinning is approved, we will ensure that the students go to Corcubion.
Impression of Corcubion, Dumbria, Fisterra, Nuxia and Cee
In order to avail of EU funding (including the Wheel), we must, as we understand it, twin with an area of similar population. It is therefore our intention to twin with Corcubion and the surrounding region which includes the towns and villages mentioned above. This has created a really positive effect in the area already. We met with another Mayor from Fisterra, the Mayor of Corcubion drove us there personally and from that meeting - and some phone calls while we were present - it was agreed that all of these areas would and should work closer together into the future.
Jose and Sarah were our hosts for the weekend; we were treated like an extended part of the family. They treated us with respect and even invited us into their home for lunch. The people were very easy to get along with and they were passionate about their town and what the area has to offer. Language was not a barrier. We were brought to various sites of interest, given personal guided tours and were brought out on numerous occasions to sample the local foods and beverages from the area.
Meetings in their municipal building were industrious and taken very seriously. This town wants to become a part of ours and they showed us a genuine interest in who we are and what our common intentions are about. We particularly wanted to develop relations through enterprise, tourism and food, however, the jewel in the crown has to be the link through traditional music and the potential of having our local musicians playing in Galicia at the annual folk festival and having their musicians come to Ashbourne next April for our TradAsh festival.
Although all expenses on the trip were paid for by each of us, the Mayor insisted on paying for our accommodation. Sarah, Jose's wife, was available to us at all times as our personal translator and was so helpful with any questions we had.
Overall Celtic District Festival idea - possible future aspiration
There is a very real prospect that if Meath County Council got behind a county Celtic Festival, each of our other 5 Districts could twin with towns or regions in Brittany, Wales, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. There is EU funding available for this and we could, with some vision and resources, create one of the biggest festivals in the Country over (for example) the month of July attracting our Celtic cousins to create something truly unique.