The 40km route connects Rathkeale, Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale along the former Limerick to Kerry railway line
A new-look Limerick Greenway opens today, a 40km walking and cycling route hailed as the biggest outdoor tourism amenity project ever undertaken in Limerick by its City and County Council.
The €10m, fully accessible route connects Rathkeale, Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale along the former Limerick to Kerry railway line.
“There couldn’t be a better time for the Limerick Greenway and for sleepy West Limerick to be awoken,” says Olive Sheehan, who runs Leen’s Hotel in Abbeyfeale.
"We've been housed for so long because of the Big C [Covid], and we're just dying to get out and explore.”
Works on the route – previously known as the Great Southern Greenway - included the restoration of two 19th century station houses at Ardagh and Barnagh, the renovation of the 115m Barnagh tunnel, and a complete resurfacing of the trail.
Cyclists and walkers can access the greenway at Ardagh, Rathkeale, Newcastle West, Barnagh, Templeglantine and Abbeyfeale, and highlights include cast-iron Ferguson’s Viaduct, another “restored relic” of the old railway.
“Trojan work has gone into making the opening possible this summer despite the pandemic,” said Limerick City and County Council Chief Executive, Pat Daly.
Construction, which was supported by Fáilte Ireland and the Departments of Transport and Rural and Community Development, had to cease earlier this year, causing significant delays.
But it would now “provide a major boost for tourism this summer and in the years ahead, creating jobs and supporting local communities,” added Gordon Daly, Director of Service at the Council.
“The past 16 months have shown the value of outdoor amenities," he said.
The greenway is part of a growing network of off-road trails throughout Ireland, and follows the recent launch of the Royal Canal Greenway, Ireland's longest at 130km.
Funding of €63.5m has also been allocated to several off-road walking and cycling projects in 2021, including €9m for the New Ross to Waterford Greenway, €10m for Cork's Midleton to Youghal Greenway and €5.5m for an expansion of Mayo’s Great Western Greenway.
Other trails like the Waterford Greenway and Old Rail Trail linking Mullingar and Athlone in Co Westmeath have proved draws for visitors and locals alike, as interest surges in outdoor activities.
As well as encouraging people to get outdoors, Olive Sheehan hopes the rebooted Limerick Greenway will attract visitors and boost business in the towns and villages along the route – not least her own, where she is preparing to open a new cafe, and has welcomed a new bike hire business to the property.
"Everybody’s making little collaborations and itineraries, and that’s only going to grow,” she says. “You’re going to see loads and loads of little businesses growing along it.”
For more information, visit limerickgreenway.ie.