More than 300km of bicycle trails are to be developed over the next three years, with €13.6 million from the State’s Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.
The the aim of the funding is to create an “international mountain biking proposition” in Ireland consisting of four national trail centres. They will be located at Ballyhoura with trails in Limerick and Cork; Coolaney, Co Sligo; the Slieve Bloom Mountains with trails in Offaly and Laois as well as Ticknock and Ballinastoe with trails in Dublin and Wicklow.
It is hoped the investment will generate more than €22 million per year from visitors in areas where there are few other sources of tourist revenue.
The project will be delivered over a three-year period and each site or additional trail development will be opened to the public as it is completed. The plan involves a partnership between Coillte which controls the State’s forests and Fáilte Ireland which is responsible for tourism product development.
Deborah Meghen, director of stewardship with Coillte, said investment had been made in the past by project partners in mountain biking across Ireland, “but never to the scale needed to elevate this to an international proposition. This funding will now allow the existing trails to be upgraded to a standard that can attract visitors at home and abroad.”
Fáilte Ireland said the location of the trails in rural and remote areas would have a positive impact on local communities and help expand their tourism offerings. The project will build on existing investment in facilities such as Ballyhoura MTB across Limerick and Cork and is expected to generate visitor numbers of more than three million over the next 10 years.