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Posted: 25/03/2022

More than half a million visits to Royal Canal Greenway in first year of operation

​New research from Waterways Ireland has found that more than 640,000 trips have been taken on the Royal Canal Greenway since it opened in March 2021. The 130km amenity crosses Kildare, Meath, Westmeath, and Longford and is a joint initiative between Waterways Ireland and the local authorities in those areas. It is the longest greenway in Ireland, running from Maynooth, Co Kildare to Clondra, Co Longford. It cost €12m to deliver.

A former towpath for barges, the Royal Canal Greenway features 90 bridges, 33 locks, 17 harbours and four aqueducts. Greenway users can choose to complete the entire 130km flat, off-road trail in one visit or to explore the shorter designated routes between the 14 connecting access points and towns. These range from 6km to 15km.

Waterways Ireland appointed Tracsis in 2021 to undertake a validation exercise on the data from physical counters in place along the Greenway and to undertake a consumer survey. The research found that the amenity has returned a dividend of €17.2million to the business community in its first year of operation, returning the investment in the project in eight months. The economic dividend was based on a weighted average visitor spend of €27.

The research also found that across the four counties involved, 17 new businesses have opened, and 13 businesses have confirmed that they have pivoted or expanded their business to provide for Greenway customers.

Commenting, chief executive of Waterways Ireland, John McDonagh said: “We are delighted that the Royal Canal Greenway has been an outstanding success in its first year. We acknowledge the commitment of our partners in Longford, Kildare, Meath and Westmeath county councils in delivering this greenway and that of local communities and businesses, which have helped to make it a success by creating new tourist and recreational opportunities. We look forward to welcoming more domestic and international visitors in the coming years.”

The Greenway links to a number of high-profile attractions along the route, including trails to Carton House in Maynooth; Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre — one of the largest prehistoric roads in Europe — and Center Parcs in Longford. The 165km self-guided National Famine Way also travels largely along the greenway, following the footsteps of 1,490 emigrants who walked from Roscommon to Dublin at the peak of the famine in 1847. The Royal Canal Greenway also forms part of EuroVelo 2, a 5,000km “Capitals Route” that passes through Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Belarus and Russia.

Acting Chief Executive of Kildare County Council, Sonya Kavanagh said: “The Royal Canal Greenway is of huge benefit to the people who live in and who visit Kildare, Meath, Westmeath, and Longford.  It   links a number of our counties’ top visitor attractions, providing a healthy recreational and cultural experience. In the first half of 2021, people’s movements were restricted by COVID measures and so it was very fortuitous that we were able to open the Royal Canal Greenway during this time. Local communities now use the greenway for regular off-road accessible recreation, and it continues to attract new and return visitors.”

Chief Executive of Westmeath County Council, Pat Gallagher said: “The Royal Canal Greenway is a very valuable amenity traversing our county, enjoyed by our local communities, as well as visitors who come to walk or cycle and experience its tranquillity and unique heritage. At the time of its launch, we were in the midst of COVID restrictions, and the Greenway has offered opportunities for the improved health and well-being of its users, as well as economic opportunities for hospitality businesses along the way.  We look forward to a continued partnership with Waterways Ireland, our neighbouring counties, the Westmeath tourism industry, and local communities to further enhance and promote the Royal Canal Greenway so that its benefits continue to grow.”

Chief Executive of Longford County Council, Paddy Mahon added: “Since its opening, the Royal Canal Greenway has proved itself to be a great addition to our county’s tourism offering. It has helped to bring new people to our towns and villages, with new businesses opening up along its route. It has also been great for local people. It helped people find enjoyment in their locality in times of lockdown. Now, with restrictions eased, we all continue to enjoy such a great amenity on our doorstep.”

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