By Frances Toner
Five years after the launch of one of county’s biggest tourism success stories, the Great Western Greenway, Mayo County Council has unveiled an ambitious plan to develop a 200 kilometre cycling route around the county.
Outlining the plan at a meeting of the council’s tourism and food sector policy committee on Monday, senior executive engineer Padraig Philbin said the award-winning Great Western Greenway has gained “cult status in the cycling community”.
“In year one, it attracted 145,000 visitors. It had 265,000 visitors in 2014. It is only five years old and it is already one of the busiest tourism attractions in the country,” he pointed out.
Mr Philbin said the route had created the template in Ireland for developing greenways and demonstrated the huge potential of a greenway to attract a high volume of tourism to rural economies.
“There is an increasing number of international visitors on the greenway too and they now make up 25 per cent of users,” he added.
Mr Philbin said expanding Mayo’s routes into a 200 kilometre greenway, looping the county, would be a strong enough attraction to bring major cycling tourism here.
The proposed route would take in the west Mayo greenway and the Monasteries of the Moy greenway between Ballina and Killala, which is currently under development.
It would also link in with the Turlough to Castlebar greenway, which will be officially opened on Friday next, May 1.
“We want a cycle network that will connect all of our greatest tourism sites, such as Croagh Patrick, the Foxford Wollen Mills, and the Ballycroy National Park,” said Mr Philbin.
He said the greenway would ideally incorporate a number of interesting elements such as rope bridges and raised, wooden platforms across sections of blanket bog to make the route even more attractive.
It will include on-road as well as off-road sections, and use some county roads with very low volume traffic.