Key Lessons Learned for the USA from Studying Ireland: 48
CASE STUDIES – links to online text 48
Burren Way 48
Case Study of Burren Way 48
Trip Report on Burren Way 48
Profile of Harry Jeuken and his Splendid Lough Avalla Trail 49
Kerry Way 49
Case Study of Kerry Way 49
Profile of Rural Officer Patricia Deane 49
Wicklow Way 49
Case Study of Wicklow Way 49
Trip Report of Wicklow Way 49
Profile of Sean Byrne: Wicklow Way Farmer, Host, and Advocate 49
APPENDIX 1 49
This is an informal overview written from the perspective of an American amateur. It is an attempt to pull together widely scattered information to present a coherent overview of how one nation – Ireland -- supports long distance walking. The intended audience for this work is primarily recreation planners and trail managers in the USA who are interested in learning about how long-distance walking is supported in other nations. My findings are encapsulated in the following components:
“profiles” of a few of the interesting people I met along the way who have strong connections to the trail and/or walking culture of the region.
The case studies, trip reports, and profiles are online and are linked at the end of this Country Overview document. Together these comprise something approaching 100 pages of text. The methodology was to walk the walks, talk with the people who operate the trails and with locals, talk with government officials and others involved with long distance walking, and visit libraries and archives to read relevant sources.
The eleven-page historical sketch outlines how Ireland quickly developed a robust hillwalking culture over the last two to three generations, and set itself up as an international destination for walkers. Since the history of hillwalking in Ireland has not yet been written (an oversight that really should be remedied), this bare-bones outline is the most complete I have seen. This is followed by discussion of how the nation has addressed two major challenges it faces: 1. there is no legal right of access to the Irish countryside and traditional rights of way are not recognized, and 2. fears on the part of private property owners of exposure to claims in cases of accident or injury. Since these challenges are also very concerning in USA, the Irish solutions bear study.
Tourism is a major component of the Irish economy and walking is one of the most frequently cited reasons for visiting Ireland. Working with Failte Ireland data, a rather crude summary of the economic impact of hillwalking is attempted. 23% of domestic tourists participate in walking, and among overseas tourists hiking/walking was by far the most popular active pursuit., exceeding the combined participation in cycling, golfing, angling, and equestrianism. It appears Failte Ireland’s priorities after the recession have drifted away from walking, growth remains robust. The section on Economics is not complete pending information from National Trails Office. The roles played in supporting long distance walking by 10 governmental organizations and 7 NGO’s are outlined. The conclusion includes a summary of the challenges and opportunities Ireland faces in the hillwalking arena, and lessons the USA might learn from the Irish experience in developing a stronger walking culture. Among the takeaways that bear study for American planners are: the importance of focused NGO’s, like Mountaineering Ireland, a network of walking clubs, and walking festivals; the potential for international tourism with walks development offering greater amenities, including accommodations; the model of Rural Recreation Officers, and the potential of models of independent management councils with missions like those of the Wicklow Uplands Forum, the McGillicuddy Reeks Forum, and the Irish Uplands Forum.