The Lough Derg Blueway was launched at a ceremony in Killaloe, Co. Clare yesterday – tying together 21 paddling trails, multiple walking and cycling routes and over 90 heritage sites under a brand new tourism brand.
“Tourists do not distinguish between county boundaries, so there is no reason for local tourism operators to do so,” said Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council, at the launch. “The Lough Derg Blueway sees tourism providers in this region point the signposts towards each other.”
Blueways are multi-activity recreational trails set on or alongside lakes, canals and rivers. Lough Derg’s is the third on Irish inland waterways, joining two others on the North Shannon and Shannon-Erne waterways.
Between them, the three Blueways now provide over 300km of paddling and hundreds of kilometres of walking and cycling trails in rural Ireland.
Blueway brands are owned and managed by Waterways Ireland, but developed and marketed together with local interests – in Lough Derg’s case including Clare, Tipperary and Galway County Councils, as well as the Lough Derg Marketing Group and local businesses from areas like Portumna, Dromineer, Killaloe/Ballina, Scarriff and Mountshannon.
As well as boosting local amenities, the idea is that Blueways can help to grow tourism, jobs and local economies by encouraging visitors to linger a little longer.
“Waterways Ireland is confident that the Lough Derg Blueway will bring new visitors and a welcome boost to tourism in this rural part of Ireland,” Dawn Livingstone, its Chief Executive, told Independent.ie Travel.
The North Shannon Blueway, for example, which includes a dramatic floating walkway, attracted some 136,000 visitors last year. The boardwalk alone clocked 11,000 users within six weeks of its opening last September.
In the future, Waterways Ireland aims to bring further Blueways to Lough Erne and the Royal Canal, which at 144km will be the longest off-road walking/cycling trail in Ireland.