The unprecedented success of the Great Western Greenway, Ireland’s longest off-road cycling and walking trail, has become a template for similar developments across the country.
The 43.5 km route which follows the disused track of the Great Western Midlands Railway from Westport to Achill, is attracting 1,000 tourists a day during the summer season.
“It has been a total game changer for the west coast with new businesses being established and a lot of activity coming into the area,” says Anna O’Connor, Walking Development Officer with Mayo County Council.
“It complements the Wild Atlantic Way by offering another experience, to explore the Mayo countryside by bike or foot through every type of landscape, from mountain to bog and across to Clew Bay where there’s an island for every day of the year.”
Between new business start-ups and the consolidation of existing businesses, the project supports an estimated 200 jobs, attracts 255,000 visitors annually and is worth over €2 million annually to the local economy.
“Even existing hotels are taking on staff to cope with the extra foot flow and new tour operators, coffee shops and bicycle hire businesses have sprung up,” says O’Connor.
It’s an impressive return for a project which cost a total of just €6 million, €5.1 million of which was supported by National Lottery funding.
The money was channelled through Fáilte Ireland and Government Departments, including the Department of Transport and the former Department of Rural, Gaeltacht and Community Affairs.
Offshoots from The Greenway include an adventure sports trail, a Greenway artists’ group and Gourmet Greenway, which has brought together 18 local food producers who showcase their wares at different events throughout the year.
And why stop there? Mayo County Council plans to develop a 200km circular cycle network combining road, cycle path, and greenway along the coastline and incorporating all of Mayo’s key visitor attractions.