Ireland is now Promoting itself as an Activity-Based Destination
There was a time – not so long ago – when a holiday in Ireland meant a fortnight in a rain-swept seaside caravan park, kids fighting each other to relieve boredom and parents finding a new depth of meaning in the phrase “for better or worse”.
The Irish tourism industry has recognised that Ireland cannot compete as a ‘sun holiday’ destination, and is now promoting activity-based holidays instead. For example, disused railways, canal banks, and similar cross-country ‘corridors’ have been identified as potential tourism and recreational facilities. Around the country, many such features are being converted into world-class tourist magnets by developing them as ‘Greenways’.
What are Greenways?
Greenways are described by the European Greenways Association as transport corridors, developed along independent routes following past or disused communication pathways and tracks.
They share common features:
- Accessibility; their easy gradients allow their use by all, including people with restricted mobility
- Safety, due to the absence of cars, and to the design of track width and surfacing, and safety barriers
- Promotion of rural development and local employment
- Promotion of Health, replacing sedentary pastimes
- Promotion of respect for the natural and cultural environment
Often, Greenway developers convert the old infrastructure, such as disused railway stations, to provide facilities for general accommodation, museums, bicycle rentals, or hostels. Typically, a Greenway should have information available such as OSi maps and brochures on the route itself and on access to nearby sites of interest.
The Waterford Greenway
As a current example of a typical greenway, the Waterford Greenway is being developed by Waterford City and County Council, converting a 45km disused railway line from Dungarvan town to Waterford City. The Council identified four goals for the project:
- Local Investment
- Tourism Development
- Mobility and Access
- Health and Recreation
The first section, Dungarvan to Ballinroad, was officially opened by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar in 2013, has received widespread approval and is a good indicator of the likely success of the finished route in 2016.
- 3 high railway viaducts
- The greenway runs parallel to a working steam train
- Adjacent to Mount Congreve house and Gardens
- Spectacular views of the Comeragh Mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, and the majestic River Suir
- A 386m tunnel at Ballyvoyle with special lighting to support a bat sanctuary
Mr Ray Mannix, Senior Engineer with responsibility for managing the project estimates that the total cost of the project will be about €8 million. Ray expects that the Waterford Greenway will be officially opened in summer 2016. “Ordnance Survey Ireland maps are simply excellent for planning this type of project” he says. His team used OSi 1/50,000 Discovery Series mapping for sectional overviews; here is the route of the rail line on OSi Discovery Series mapping:
OSi 1/2500 and 1/5000 mapping were also used for detailed technical planning; download here.
What outcome can we expect from the Waterford Greenway?
Let’s look at an established project; the 42km Great Western Greenway, in County Mayo. Opened in 2011, it is the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. It follows the route of the Westport to Achill railway which closed in 1937. Fáilte Ireland research in 2011 shows that this Greenway had an estimated economic impact of €6.3 million in 2011 and is expected to attract annually nearly 58,000 visitors.
Fiona Monaghan, Head of Operations for Fáilte Ireland in the West, said “The Great Western Greenway is a classic example of taking an underused local asset, looking at it in a new way and exploiting its full potential for the betterment of the local community and economy.”
The study also consulted with local enterprises and assessed the impact of the Greenway on their business.
Results included –
- 47% of businesses saw an increase in business turnover
- 31% of businesses increased their expenditure in the region
- 38 new full-time jobs, with a further 56 existing jobs being sustained by the Greenway
Business optimism was now generally higher. So, all over Ireland, walkers and cyclists will be setting out to see the most beautiful country in the world in a new, safe and healthy way. With Ordnance Survey Ireland’s ‘Discovery Series’ 1/50,000 map (available from all good bookshops or from our Online Shop) in their pocket or on the handlebars, they can scan the horizon from river banks or railway viaducts, and identify places and names of the glorious countryside. Let’s get out there!
1. Interview with author 13/02/15
3. http://www.waterwaysireland.org/SiteAssets/documents/24-10-11 – 11.08 Great Western Greenway – Economic Impact Case Study – FINAL REPORT.pdf