The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in the Republic of Ireland administers a multi annual National Cycle Network Funding Programme. This year, more than €16 million was allocated under this Programme to the development of greenways in Ireland over the period to 2016. This funding will support the development of a number of new greenways some of which will be part of the EuroVelo route network in Ireland.
Ireland has sections of two EuroVelo routes, EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route and EuroVelo 2 – Capitals Route.
EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route
The Atlantic Coast Route starts at Larne over the border in Northern Ireland and follows a section of the UK National Cycle Network westwards to County Donegal where the route in the Republic of Ireland begins. From here there is approximately 250km of the route signposted on quiet rural roads to Sligo town. After that, much of the route is still to be developed however notable exceptions to this are in County Mayo and County Limerick where the route joins the Great Western Greenway for almost 30km and the Great Southern Trail for 40km respectively. South of this, there are some further sections signposted on quiet roads which are part of existing local cycle routes in County Clare, County Cork and County. Waterford. While sections of the route have yet to be developed, progress is being made and the recent funding announcements will now allow the addition of some high quality sections.
Development of a new greenway along EuroVelo 1 in County Kerry in the southwest of the country is to be funded. This will provide a 30km cycle route along the disused Great Southern and Western railway line and will open up the outstanding natural beauty of the coastline in the area offering an exceptional and unique visitor attraction in its own right. Other equally exciting projects will be the development of a further 14km section in County Mayo in the west of the country as well as the first 12km of what will be known as the Connemara Greenway which will ultimately run from Galway city to Clifden. This greenway will be part of EuroVelo 1. In the south, development of a former railway corridor in County Waterford is to be funded. A section of this is already in place and it will be now be possible to complete a further 17km.
EuroVelo 2 – Capitals Route
EuroVelo 2 – Capitals Route reaches its most western point in Europe at Galway in the West of Ireland. At the request of the Department of Transport a plan has been developed by the National Roads Authority, for the development of the complete EuroVelo 2 route in Ireland – from Galway to Dublin. This is to be an entirely traffic free route and the project has been endorsed by the Minister for Transport.
The first section of the route from Dublin westwards will be on canal tow path as far as Mullingar in the midlands. 25km of this section has been developed and with the funding now allocated a further 40km is to be developed west of Mullingar along a disused railway line.
The delivery of cycleways in recent years represents a new and exciting aspect of tourism and recreational development in Ireland. Ireland’s Programme for Government contains a commitment to continue to invest in Ireland’s National Cycle Network.
Cycle projects are well received at all levels of society given their potential to deliver great benefits to local communities from the perspectives of recreation, health, transport and tourism and job creation. In relation to tourism particularly, cycling tourists represent a growing and valuable market segment, particularly for rural areas in Ireland. Cycling can provide an extra dimension to multi-activity holidays, which helps to extend the length of tourist stays and encourages repeat visits.
Ireland looks forward to taking its place alongside other European countries in the development of a world class cycle network and hopes to harness the potential of the EuroVelo brand in the process. In that context, Ireland hopes to align itself with funding opportunities under the next EU Structural Funds Programme 2014 to 2020.