The Waterford Greenway is the longest off-road walking and cycling experience in the country. At the cost of €15m, the 46km project stretches from Waterford City to Dungarvan along the old Great Southern and Western Railway line which opened in 1878 and is part of Failte Ireland’s ‘Ancient East’ experience.
— Waterford Council (@WaterfordCounci) March 25, 2017
Spooky tunnels, dramatic viaducts and Copper Coast views are all in store for walkers and cyclists on Ireland’s newest greenway. The route is 4km longer than Co Mayo’s Great Western Greenway, the gold standard for Irish greenways, and businesses are already feeling a boost. Irish greenways have mushroomed since the success of the Westport to Achill trail, breathing new life into old railway lines and canal paths – and providing safe and scenic ways for both locals and visitors to experience the Irish outdoors. Several new greenways are at various stages of development – albeit with plenty of land ownership and acquisition issues along the way.
The official opening of the Greenway is taking place at the Kilmacthomas Station House between 12 pm and 4 pm, and will be attended by Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Simon Coveney. Speaking ahead of the launch Waterford’s mayor Cllr Adam Wyse said it was the perfect way to mark the 50th anniversary of the last passenger train to travel along the railway.
“It is fitting that the Waterford Greenway officially opens on March 25th, exactly 50 years after the last passenger train travelled along the old railway line between Dungarvan and Waterford,” he said. “The Waterford Greenway is steeped in history and natural heritage, and I’m delighted to see it now re-imagined into an amenity that will continue to give great enjoyment to the people of Waterford and visitors to this great county well into the future.”
The Waterford, Dungarvan & Lismore Railway Company, was set-up in 1872. This 43 mile stretch of railway was the most expensive line to be built in Ireland at the time, as it followed the most difficult route of any railway in the South. It was a very hilly line with a series of sharp curves, a tunnel 418 feet long near Durrow and two viaducts, one at Durrow and the other at Ballyvoyle. It also included a great number of under and over bridges and three road crossings at Dungarvan. Waterford’s fourth railway line opened to traffic on 12th August 1878 and it was considered the most scenic route in Ireland with the most amazing views of the ocean and the lush green countryside through which it travelled.
he interactive map at visitwaterfordgreenway.com gives information about cycling conditions, greenway highlights and parking availability.
The Greenway idea has yielded great rewards in terms of access to amenities and alternative cycle links since being pioneered on the Continent and by Sustrans in England. Reusing old railway lines and their often dramatic infrastructure of bridges, embankments and tunnels creates new access ways into to nature which often have dramatic vistas and the gentle gradients provide routes which are pedestrian, cycle and disabled friendly. More than that they boost local economies which often atrophied when the railways were closed in the mad dash for roads in the 1960’s.
An obvious infrastructure to examine for the next Greenway Project is West Cork which was united by the Cork, Bandon and South Coast railway which was closed in 1961 precipitating economic decline and depopulation in one of Ireland’s most attractive and most visited areas. The mainline to Bantry would provide a needed boost to the central region which has been neglected, a neglect made worse by a history of strange planning and transport decisions and ironically by the success of the Wild Atlantic Way which has concentrated attention on coastal communities. The main line from Cork through Bandon and Dunmanway to Bantry and the four branches to Kinsale, Clonakilty / Courtmacsherry, Skibbereen and Schull would provide a wonderful resource to an area which receives much guff from Official Ireland but very little in the way of real investment other than token topping up of Local TD’s Pork Barrels.
So let’s hear it for next big project, the West Cork Greenway #WestCorkGreenway