Funding of €2.4 million has been granted to develop 70 new walking trails across the country.

The development forms part of a planned major expansion of the Department of Rural and Community Development’s Walks Scheme, which will see the number of outdoor trails increase from 80 to 150 over the next two years.

The initiative is designed to boost outdoor recreation and rural tourism, and will see the Scheme work with over 2,500 farmers to open up the countryside to walkers, hikers cyclists and tourists.

Under the Walks Scheme, funding is provided to farmers and other landowners to maintain the trails that travel through their holdings.

At present, 2,200 farmers or landowners are participating, with Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys recently opening up a new call for expressions of interest.

Minister Humphreys stated: “Our walkways and outdoor trails showcase the unique beauty of our rural towns and villages. They attract millions of visitors every single year and provide people of all ages with the opportunity to get out for some exercise and fresh air.

“This is all about partnering with farmers and landowners to open up the countrywide – benefitting our walkers, hikers, cyclists and tourists alike. There are already 2,200 farmers and landowners involved in the scheme and I want to thank them for facilitating access to these fantastic trails.”

She added: “I want this expansion to focus on counties which have few or no trails approved under the Walks Scheme. I am also committed to reviewing the number of Rural Recreation Officers currently funded by my Department to deliver the Walks Scheme, particularly where a county is approved a trail under the Scheme and where there is currently no Rural Recreation Officer in place.

“I would therefore encourage potential applicants such as trail management committees, community groups or other similar entities to contact their nearest Local Development Company to make an expression of interest for inclusion in the scheme.”