Seventeen walking trails across the county were recently launched by former RTE newsreader Anne Doyle.
Prior to the Wexford Walking Trail (WWT) event launch, the Lacken Wood walking trail was launched when a group of walkers tried out the surface.
The main event was attended by tourism providers, trade, and associated organisations. Guests were welcomed to a reception at the Dunbrody Visitor Centre before celebrating the official launch of the walking trail, as well as the associated trails' brochure, app and website. The event concluded with speeches from guest speaker Anne Doyle, with further speeches by representatives from Wexford County Council and Wexford Local Development.
This is the fourth in a series of tourism trails under the Wexford Trails brand, and sees the vision of this voluntary group being realised as they set out to promote a wonderful array of walking trails throughout the county for all to enjoy.
Currently there are seventeen trails in County Wexford suitable for all walking and hiking abilities and interests; be it walking for fitness and wellbeing, or simple appreciation of nature. The majority of trails are looped and vary from coast, mountain, riverside, woodland, historic and scenic.
Within the WWT network the majority of trails are supported and managed by voluntary community groups. Collaboration with a range of agencies and in particular the support of Wexford County Council and Wexford Local Development has been crucial to the development of the walking trail network.
The concept of Wexford Trails came about as a collaboration between Wexford County Council, Wexford Local Development and Failte Ireland to set up a series of tourism trails throughout Wexford. The trails also include the Wexford Craft Trail, Wexford Garden Trail and Wexford Heritage Trail.
Having completed a training programme, members of each trail formed a committee, developed network guidelines, identified objectives and sourced funding to launch each trail.
The objective of Wexford Walking Trails is to develop interesting walks in communities across the county, ensuring trails are of a high quality and meet the official National Trails Office (NTO) standard. The committee hope that with the promotion of walking trails across County Wexford this will positively impact on visitor numbers, thereby increasing the financial viability of tourism businesses and create local employment. Guests heard how visitors and locals alike can expect various events throughout the year along the walks, including an annual festival and activities focused on enjoyment of trails and the promotion of the health benefits.
The recently launched Norman Way heritage trail, which runs along the south coast of County Wexford featuring medieval sites which assist in the understanding of the Norman way of life, is also incorporated under the Wexford Trails brand. Wexford County Council Chairman, Councillor John Hegarty said: 'The launch of Wexford's Walking Trail finalises a series of tourism trails, including The Norman Way. Together, the trails will help to market the extraordinary tourism potential of County Wexford nationally and internationally.'
Cllr Hegarty said: 'We in County Wexford really do have an amazing county. I sometimes think that we can take it for granted or perhaps we are a little bit shy about blowing our own trumpet. Maybe it's the modest nature of our people that we go about our business in a quiet, unassuming manner. The people of the south west are not affected by the same shyness however, especially when it comes to pushing their counties of Cork and Kerry.'
He said nowhere is the beauty of our county more obvious than in our walks.
'From Croghan Mountain in north Wexford to Hook Head, from the wonderful walks around Bunclody to Curracloe, the Raven Point or any of our beach walks - all over the county we have hidden treasures. Indeed that perhaps has been the problem, they are hidden. Now under the guidance of the Walking Trail's group we can finally see the whole package and begin to spread the word properly. I have no doubt that Wexford walking trails will grow as a brand and develop the tourist product of Wexford in years to come.'
The main beneficiaries of improved walking routes around the county should be Wexford people, he said, adding: 'If we can attract more people into the county and they return each year, or perhaps twice a year, then that is great news. But if we can get the locals more aware of what is on our doorstep and get them out using our walks then they will return weekly; that for me would be real success.'
He said Wexford should aim to be recognised as a healthy county. 'It is one of the targets I have set for us as a council to achieve Healthy County status in the next year and within the council we are working with Healthy Ireland group to achieve this standard. The walking trails are an integral part of our plans. We have sporting facilities and clubs dotted all around the county. These Walking trails compliment these facilities to offer an alternative option to people.'
See www.wexfordwalkingtrail.ie for information on the walking trails.