Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys has announced the addition of 31 new walking trails across 13 counties to her department’s Walks Scheme, along with funding for a number of new Rural Recreation Officers.

Under the scheme, funding is provided to farmers and other landowners to maintain the trails that travel through their holdings.

Today’s (Wednesday, September 29) announcement means there will now be 80 trails under the scheme, which is operated by the Department of Rural and Community Development in conjunction with the Local Development Companies (LDCs) and over 2,400 farmers and landowners in total.

The trails added today involve over 400 farmers and include the Dingle Way; St. Declan’s Way; the Ballyhoura Way; the South Leinster Way; and the Slí Gaeltacht Mhuscraí.

The Cavan Way, the Wicklow Uplands Way, the Lung/Lough Gara Way and the Durrow Leafy Loop are also among the trails being added to the scheme.

Additional funding will also be provided to the LDCs that deliver the scheme locally, as well as for the salaries paid to the Rural Recreation Officers who play a role in delivering the Walks Scheme.

There will be up to eight new Rural Recreation Officer posts created in addition to the 13 already in place.

Minister Humphreys also today published a review of the Walks Scheme, which sets out a number of recommendations aimed at enhancing the scheme and the role of Rural Recreation Officers, and will be implemented in consultation with key stakeholders.

Working closely with farmers in rolling out the Walks Scheme

The minister made the announcements during a visit to officially open St. Declan’s Way in Co. Waterford, a 115km trail involving 45 farmers and landowners which is amongst the trails being added to the scheme.

“Our walkways, trails, greenways, blueways and cycleways are a defining feature of rural Ireland,” the minister said.

“They have been a godsend throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, providing so many of us with the opportunity to get out for some exercise and to meet up with family and friends.

“We are investing in some of the most picturesque locations in the country, so that they can be enjoyed and experienced by millions of people every year.”

The minister added that in rolling out the Walks Scheme, her department “works closely with rural farmers and landowners”.

“We are indebted to our farmers and other landowners throughout the country that facilitate access to these wonderful trails and who now, through this scheme, are being funded to maintain the walks to the high standard we have all come to expect,” the minister said.