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62 new trails added to National Walks Scheme

As longer spring days herald the beginning of the outdoors season and tourism ramps up once again ahead of St Patrick’s Day, 62 new trails have been added to the National Walks Scheme.

Addition to the scheme gives private landowners yearly income and public liability insurance cover and provides assurance to walkers and hikers there is open access to high quality maintained trails.

The National Walks Scheme was established in 2008 to facilitate the development and maintenance of walking trails through private lands.

Over the last six years €15 million has been paid to farmers and landowners for participation in the scheme and the maintenance of trails through their holdings.

Today 62 new trails were officially added to the scheme across 17 counties from Cavan to Kerry and includes two offshore islands, Inis Meáin in Co Galway and Oileán Chléire in Co Cork.

It brings the total number of nationally recognized trails to 140.

Minister Heather Humphreys, centre, at Bóthar Na Naomh Walking Trail in Cloone, Co Leitrim, with local walkers Lily Mitchell, left, and Collette Charles (Photo: Brian Duignan)

Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys TD said: “We have so many natural amenities, whether its on our coastline, in inland counties, forest walks or mountain treks.

“Now we have expanded the scheme to 140 walks and I would say come out, you’re going to find something that you really really treasure and enjoy.”

Most of the those trails already existed and were accessible to the public, but addition to the National Walks Scheme guarantees users there is open access to all the trail length and the surfaces and surroundings are maintained, kept litter free and inspected regularly.

Participating farmers and landowners benefit from public liability cover from the State and there are other benefits too.

Laois Offaly Rural Recreation Officer Conor Browne, who liases with landowners, said: “Landowners role is to maintain the trail, by carrying out various tasks such as trail upgrades, trail maintenance and repairs on paths, styles and trail furniture. It includes litter picking and strimming of hedges.

“They get paid an hourly rate, depending on their workplan and the amount of land they have in the scheme.”

Signage at Carraigmeal Woodland Walks in Co Laois

On a visit to Carriagmeal Woodland Walks in Co Laois Minister Humphreys thanked farmers for providing access to their lands and invited more landholders to get involved.

“It really is wonderful for people to have these local amenities and farmers are very co-operative,” she said.

“We work closely with them and will continue to do so, so we can use their land for these walks. I’m saying to farmers to get involved with us and to talk to their Local Development Companies (LDCs).”

The National Walk Scheme operates through those LDCs with funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development.

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