Green Light: Ireland's longest greenway opens in Waterford
Spooky tunnels, dramatic viaducts and Copper Coast views are all in store for walkers and cyclists on Ireland's newest greenway.
The Waterford Greenway, a 46km reboot of the Great Southern and Western Railway line, opens today as Ireland's longest off-road walking and cycling experience.
"When the sun is out, there's already been a kind of a Mediterranean feel with bikes lying around and people dallying and soaking up the atmosphere," says Helen O'Mahony, who runs O'Mahony's pub and shop in Durrow with her husband Tom.
The €15 million trail stretches from Waterford City to Dungarvan - with 11 bridges, three viaducts and a 400-metre tunnel dotting a swathe of coastal, forest and farmland landscapes that show An Déise off at its very best.
The route is 4km longer than Co Mayo's Great Western Greenway, the gold standard for Irish greenways, and businesses are already feeling a boost.
"It's made a difference - socially and economically," says O'Mahony, who has recently welcomed visitors from Wales, Scotland and England to her 150-year old pub.
"Before any signage went up, people seemed to have found out about it. I think social media does the trick."
Irish greenways have mushroomed since the success of the Westport to Achill trail, breathing new life into old railway lines and canal paths - and providing safe and scenic ways for both locals and visitors to experience the Irish outdoors.
Several new greenways are at various stages of development - albeit with plenty of land ownership and acquisition issues along the way.
Waterford's greenway was developed by Waterford City and County Council with the co-operation of local property owners and communities along the route, and supporting funding from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
"It's steeped in history and natural heritage," says Mayor of Waterford, Cllr Adam Wyse, who expressed his delight at seeing the railway "re-imagined" into an amenity 50 years since the last passenger train travelled the line.
The official launch takes place at Kilmacthomas Station House today, with festivities including multiple family-friendly events at Waterford Institute of Technology’s West Campus, the Dungarvan Causeway and Kilmacthomas village.
See visitwaterfordgreenway.com for more.