Derry professors walk and talk the 75 miles to Belfast

Professor Paddy Gray.
Professor Paddy Gray.

Two Derry professors are set to brave the icy weather and walk the 75 miles to Belfast in aid of local charities.

Professor of Housing Paddy Gray and Professor of Mental Health Sciences Siobhan O’Neill are hoping as many people as possible will get out to support them as they begin their five day trek on December 17.

Professor Siobhan O'Neill.

Professor Siobhan O'Neill.

The adventure will begin next Thursday when the pair will be given a send off from the Guildhall by the Mayor of Derry Elisha McCallion.

Day one will take in Derry to Dungiven (20 miles), Day 2: Dungiven to Maghera (13.5 miles), Day 3: Maghera to Toome (11 miles), Day 4: Toome to Antrim (11 miles) and Day 5: Antrim to Belfast (15 miles).

“It all sounded like a good idea at the time,” said Paddy Gray, “but now it’s getting closer.”

However he has admitted to trying to get himself as prepared as he can for the trek by getting out and doing some walking the last two months.

The professors, who are both based at the University of Ulster at Magee have joined forces to help support four charities - Simon, Shelter NI, Samaritans and Cycle Against Suicide.

They will be walking in daylight hours and are keeping their fingers crossed that the snow stays off the Glenshane Pass.

On the way they will be joined at various points by different walkers.

Professor Gray said the pair were keen to get the message out that a person’s housing status can have an effect on their mental health.

“Mental health awareness has really come to the fore in recent years,” he said. “Mental health can be affected by the wrong housing.”

Hike4HopeNI aims to spread the word that “it’s ok not to feel ok and it’s absolutely ok to ask for help”.

To join with the professors on the walk or to sponsor them log on to