Mallow Castle, the Ring of Kerry and Lough Gur are among 78 outdoor recreation projects which are to share an €11 million investment in greenways, blueways and walking trails around the country.
Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring TD announced the allocations as part of the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme.
The scheme is designed to support a mix of medium scale new developments and the repair and upgrade of many existing recreational trails in rural areas. Up to €200,000 was available for each project.
A number of projects are to receive the full €200,000 allocation including a walkway and cycleway in the grounds of Mallow Castle.
It is one of four Cork projects to benefit under the scheme, with €160,000 also allocated for the upgrade and repair of Béicín Foreshore Walk in Bantry. A further €158,035 was approved for the upgrade of walking trails from Dursey towards Charleville.
The Minister also confirmed an allocation of €156,876 for the development of a new nature trail, walking path and viewing hide near Glounthaune at the Harper’s Island Wetland Centre in the heart of Cork Harbour.
In Kerry, €103,798 has been approved for the restoration and maintenance works of walking trails in the MacGillycuddy Reeks. The funding comes just a day after the newly rebranded Reeks Region was named as one of the best places to visit in the world in 2019 by travel publication Rough Guides.
Elsewhere in Kerry, €160,000 has been allocated for the enhancement of walkways and cycle routes on the Ring of Kerry.
More than €120,000 will be spent on the development of a heritage trail at Lough Gur, Co Limerick, with the full €200,000 allocation approved for three projects in Co Tipperary: the improvement of access to Templemore Town Park, the development of a riverside walking trail on the banks of the River Ara, and the development of a pedestrian walkway in Cashel.
Other significant allocations include provisions for the development of a greenway between Cavan Town and Clones, trail works on the Western Greenway Network in Co Mayo, improved access to Achill Island, and the development of a greenway in Drogheda.
Each of these projects also received the maximum allocation of €200,000.
Mr Ring said that the importance of recreational tourism is growing in Ireland.
“Figures available from Fáilte Ireland reveal that in 2017, 26% of all overseas tourists engaged in some level of hiking or cross-country walking.
“This equates to 2.3 million tourists, spending an estimated €1.3 billion during their stay in Ireland. A further 451,000 overseas tourists took part in cycling activities,” he said.
“Local communities are also using these trails in large numbers. A survey of users on the Waterford Greenway, Ireland’s longest off-road cycling and walking trail, shows that almost two-thirds of users are local people.”
This latest round of funding follows an earlier allocation of €10 million which was shared among 150 projects in 2018.
Of the €11 million allocated in the latest tranche, €3 million was provided by Fáilte Ireland.
Orla Carroll, Director of Strategic Development with Fáilte Ireland, said: “We will continue to work positively in partnership with the Department of Rural and Community Development to deliver quality visitor experiences and to enhance and further develop our recreational tourism offering and the additional social benefits they bring to local communities.”