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‘More Than Half a Million Visits’ to Royal Canal Greenway in First Year of Operation

26th March 2022
Pictured in Mullingar for the first birthday of the opening of the Royal Canal Greenway
Pictured in Mullingar for the first birthday of the opening of the Royal Canal Greenway are (from left) Michael Nevin of Longford County Council; Cathaoirleach of Meath County Council, Sean Drew; Sharon Lavin and CEO John McDonagh of Waterways Ireland; Leas-Cathaoirleach of Kildare County Council, Carmel Kelly; Leas-Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, Billy Collentine; and Paddy Mathews of Fáilte Ireland Credit: Lorraine O’Sullivan

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 €12m, 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 in Co Kildare to Clondra in Co Longford along a former towpath for barges on the inland waterway.

The greenway features 90 bridges, 33 locks, 17 harbours and four aqueducts along its route. High-profile attractions include 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.

The Royal Canal Greenway also forms part of EuroVelo 2, a 5,000km “Capitals Route” that passes through Ireland, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Belarus and Russia.

Visitors can choose to complete the entire 130km flat, off-road trail in one go, or explore the shorter designated routes between the 14 connecting access points and towns, which 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 €17.2m 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 confirmed that they have pivoted or expanded to provide for greenway customers.

Waterways Ireland chief executive 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.”

Acting chief executive of Kildare County Council, Sonya Kavanagh noted: “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.”

Published in Inland Waterways Team

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