£250k awarded to help realise new 66km local Appalachian Trail
Upgrade work have started on a new 66km of walking trail, as part of a cross border project to enhance the Ulster-Ireland section of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT).
The project aims to boost domestic and international tourists in the future.
The work is part of the wider development of the Ulster Irish section of the IAT, which is approximately 485km in length and runs from West Donegal to Larne passing through six council areas; each area represented by a Local Action Group (LAG).
It starts at the spectacular Slieve League cliffs, passes through Glencolmcille, traverses the Bluestack Mountains in Donegal before crossing into the Derry & Strabane area where it picks up the Ulster Way, taking in the Sperrins, the North Coast and the Glens of Antrim.
The focus of this package will concentrate on enhancing the domestic and international visitor experience of the Derry-Strabane section from Killeter Forest – the most westerly part of Tyrone at the border with County Donegal - and ending at the upper reaches of the Glenelly Valley in the Sperrin Mountains.
Works include installation of additional waymarking signage and interpretation panels, new trail furniture, as well as key amenity enhancement at both Killeter Forest and Barnes.
Deputy Mayor Graham Warke said: “The development of our Derry-Strabane walking trails is a key action within the Derry City and Strabane District Tourism Strategy. It has the potential to attract many domestic and international visitors to the region and generate significant economic benefit, particularly in the hospitality and food and beverage sectors.”
The Appalachian Trail is one of the world’s largest trail networks with routes in the United States, Canada and throughout Europe.
Paul Wylezol, Co-Chair of the IAT 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 Derry and Strabane 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.”
Mary Hunter, Chair of the Derry and Strabane Rural Partnership (LAG), added: “We will continue to work together to ensure the full economic and social potential of this cooperation is realised as we rapidly move towards the roll-out of the Ulster Ireland section of this international trail, with work to be completed by April 2021.”