Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey TD was in west Mayo last Friday to officially open the Great Western Greenway from Newport to Mulranny. Also being officially opened was the popular new walking and cycling route through Westport town.
Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny TD has welcomed the opening of the disused rail line as part of the development of a national cycle network.
The Great Western Greenway is a 17.5 kilometre off-road trail that links Newport and Mulranny by following the track of the famous Newport to Mulranny railway line which closed in 1937. Its development has been made possible by agreement of local landowners who have allowed permissive access to users by passing through their lands.
Deputy Kenny, who walked the route on Good Friday with a group of friends, spoke of its outstanding potential with “history etched in every step”.
“The fact that it is now becoming a reality is a tribute to all the agencies concerned, but specifically to the landowners and farmers who have co-operated and given their consent that it could actually happen.
“The rail route/cycle way is absolutely ideal for families or leisure walkers and is adjacent to other walks in the locality of varying length and degree of difficulty,” said Dep Kenny.
He praised the quality of the original stonework in walls and arches which he said was a testament to the quality of the craftsmen who built them. Dep Kenny also complimented the current tradesmen who provided new bridges using different materials of steel and timber.
“This will become an experience for all to participate in. It will be enhanced by quality signage giving historic evidence of the development of the rail system, the prophecy of Brian Rua Carabine of Erris who forecast its coming and being removed, and other items of interest along the route. Similar developments have taken place in other areas throughout Europe with great results.
“Mayo now leads in this area of development. When the route is eventually open from Westport to Newport and from Mulranny to Achill, it will be a truly wonderful asset and will add immeasurably to the proposal to make Mayo the walking capital of Ireland,” concluded the Fine Gael leader.
The greenway is the longest off-road cycling and walking trail in Ireland and is the first portion of the national cycle network to be constructed. It offers the potential to connect Mayo’s existing cycle hubs at Westport and Achill.
Passing through some of the most idyllic scenery in the west of Ireland, the greenway is expected to be of great benefit to local recreational, school, and work travel users and it is anticipated the facility will attract many international touring cyclists and walkers to the west coast.
The overall cost of the project was €1.6 million with financial support for the development coming from the Department of Transport; Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Fáilte Ireland and Mayo County Council.