The Royal Canal Greenway has been announced as the winner of the award for the Best Tourism Initiative at the 2021 All Ireland Community and Council Awards. The Royal Canal Greenway received recognition in its category at the rescheduled awards ceremony, which took place on Saturday 09 April 2022, at the Crowne Plaza, Dublin Airport.
Sponsored by Fáilte Ireland, the Best Tourism Initiative award seeks to recognise an initiative which directly increases visitor numbers to an area or to Ireland as a whole and its overall impact on visitors, communities and new and existing businesses.
The Royal Canal Greenway, recently celebrated its first birthday announcing that over 600,000 visits had taken place since its launch in March 2021 deriving €17.2m for the local economy. It is the longest greenway in Ireland, stretching across four counties and runs through both Ireland's Ancient East and Ireland's Hidden Heartlands. It was developed by Waterways Ireland in partnership with the four Local Authorities of Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford. The Department of Transport also contributed significant funding to the Royal Canal Greenway that ultimately led to it's development in 2021.
The enchanting Royal Canal Greenway is 130km of level towpath, and starting from the trailhead in cosmopolitan Maynooth, which is 25km east of Ireland's capital city Dublin, it follows the canal as it passes through the pretty towns and villages of Kilcock, Enfield, Longwood, Killucan, before reaching the busy market town of Mullingar. Continuing west from Mullingar, the route passes through Coolnahay Harbour, Ballinacarrigy, Abbeyshrule, Ballymahon and Keenagh. At Keenagh, the trail either continues along the Royal Canal to where it meets with the Shannon, Ireland's longest river, at the tranquil harbour village of Cloondara, or heading north, follows the Longford Branch of the Royal Canal, to the bustling town of Longford.
There are many cafés, picnic spots and attractions along the way. Rustic and industrial landscapes combine, with rolling fields, pretty waterside villages, working locks and historic landmarks. It is possible to cycle between any of the main towns and return by train. Visitors are encouraged to follow where once horse‐drawn barges journeyed and keep an eye out for hidden wildlife wonders along the way.
The national award comes following last year's announcement that the Royal Canal Greenway was recognised as "highly commended" at the European Greenway Awards by the judges in the category of "Excellence". The European Greenway Awards took place in Valencia in October 2021 to promote examples of best practice and to support their replication on other greenways across Europe. At the European Greenway Awards, the judges noted the Royal Canal Greenway as "a model of sustainable development achieved through effective partnership working that has delivered a visitor experience of tremendous scale and unique distinction."
John McDonagh, Chief Executive, Waterways Ireland, said: "We are pleased to see the All Ireland Community and Council Awards recognise the potential of this phenomenal asset, which, thanks to the relatively level towpath is suitable for walkers, runners and cyclists. Launched in spring 2021, the greenway is in its infancy yet continues to impress visitors from across Ireland and beyond and has already contributed immensely to the local tourism industry. As we continue to further enhance the offering for those who visit the greenway, we are encouraged by the recognition received by these awards."
Sharon Lavin, Head of Marketing and Communications, Waterways Ireland, said: "Since its launch, we have been overwhelmed by the popularity of the Royal Canal Greenway. Winning this award is testament to the widespread support for the outdoor attraction and demand from visitors seeking nature-led holiday breaks, particularly within the staycation market. As we move forward, we hope to demonstrate how we have developed a world class amenity that has transformed the towns, villages and communities along it while also creating a destination with international appeal. "
"We want to congratulate all fellow finalists at the All Ireland Community and Council Awards for their success."