£60k has been secured to carry out improvements along with parts of the International Appalachian Trail in Mid and East Antrim.
It’s part of a cross border cooperation project within the Rural Development Programme to enhance around 23miles of the world-famous walking trail that weaves its way through the borough and beyond.
The Ulster Ireland section of the International Appalachian Trail is approximately 302miles/485km in length and runs from west Donegal to Larne passing through six council areas. It starts at the spectacular Slieve League cliffs, passes through Glencolmcille, traverses the Bluestack Mountains in Co Donegal, before crossing into Co. Tyrone. Here it picks up the Ulster Way, taking in the Sperrins, the stunning North Coast and the Glens of Antrim.
The focus of this funding package will concentrate on the section in Mid and East Antrim, which runs from the A2 Coast Road to the Port of Larne. Works just started in March this year and include installation of new way markers, interpretation panels, timber stiles, branded disc stickers and pedestrian counters.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Peter Johnston said: “This cash boost is really welcome to help rejuvenate this spectacular walk. We’re very lucky to have so many amazing destinations right on our doorstep here in Mid and East Antrim and projects like this will certainly help drive footfall and put us up there as a top walking destination.
“Developing our tourism offering has been a focus for council in recent years and has never been more important as we recover from the devastating impact Covid19 has had on the tourism and hospitality sectors. By enhancing the visitor experience on the trail, the improvements will have the potential to attract more domestic and international visitors and therefore generate substantial economic benefit for the businesses along the route and the wider area.”
The International Appalachian Trail is one of the largest trail networks in the world, with route legs in a range of countries including the United States, Canada and throughout Europe.
Paul Wylezol, Co-Chair of the International Appalachian Trail based in Canada said: “The Ulster-Ireland section will be an inspiring addition to the International Appalachian Trail story and the commencement of works on the Mid and East Antrim section of the walking trail is a significant milestone.
“With shared geological and cultural storylines, combined with uniquely Irish attractions, the developed Ulster Ireland section has great potential to attract a wide variety of North American walkers, from eco, geo and adventure tourists to fans of the well-known Game of Thrones television series.”
As well improvements to the 23 miles section of the trail, five other councils are also making improvements to their own sections as part of works costing over £600,000. The widespread investment is the result of a collaborative effort by each council area, working together to ensure the overall visitor experience is improved across the entire trail for both locals and tourists.
As part of the effort to attract more local, national and international visitors, there is also significant investment being directed towards a project to promote the trail worth almost £120,000. Marketing campaigns in Ireland and North America will be carried out by Outdoor Recreation NI, an organisation with extensive experience in promoting walking trails to locals and tourists, towards the end of 2021.
The Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-20 is part-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the European Union. The funding is administered by Mid and East Antrim Local Action Group (LAG) on behalf of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
The project is supported by Donegal Local Community Development Committee, Donegal Local Development CLG, Donegal County Council and the Department of Rural & Community Development through grant aid received under The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development in Ireland 2014- 2020 “Europe investing in rural areas”.
For more information please contact Stephen Catherwood at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on T: 028 2563 3559 or E: Stephen.Catherwood@midandeastantrim.gov.uk