Walking and rambling trails in Ireland have become very popular in recent times. There are three main walking schemes in Ireland for walking route developments:
However, it's important to remember that there are certain restrictions in Ireland that apply to those walking or rambling across private property.
The National Trails Offic (NTO) of the Irish Sports Council is responsible for the registration and regulation of all Waymarked Way - walking route developments in Ireland. The NTO assists and works in close association with all local authorities, Local Sport Partnerships and local communities throughout the country in the development of new trails and in the promotion of existing trails.
Waymarked Ways are paths that are developed with the agreement and support of landowners whose lands are crossed on the route. They are not necessarily rights-of-way, although old roads and paths are used on many of these walking routes, which are all waymarked and signposted. There are over 40 National Waymarked Way around Ireland , including the Wicklow Way, Kerry Way, Burren Way, and there are many shorter walks that are associated with these larger developments. It is possible to search and find information on all National Waymarked ways on the irishtrails.ie website.
Although the routes of the ways are marked with yellow signs, it is advisable to bring a guide book with you in case some of the signs are obscured by wildlife or if you need details of transport, restaurants or local accomodation. Some private companies also offer guided walking and cycling tours along the waymarked ways.
For details of local accomodation around ireland, contact your local tourist office or see Fáilte Ireland's (the Irish tourist board's) website.
Maps and guidebooks are available for all trails that are approved by the NTO.
Contact your local authority, Local Sports Partnership Co-ordinator or the Irish Sports Council directly if you require any information on establishing a walking route in your area.
Slí na Sláinte, meaning "Path to Health", is a scheme developed by the Irish Heart Foundation to encourage people of all ages and abilities to walk for leisure and good health.
It uses signage at kilometre intervals on established walking routes to help walkers identify the distance they walk. The signs are not numbered so you can start and finish at whatever kilometre sign you like. You can view a list of Slí na Sláinte routes throughout Ireland here.
For health benefits you need to walk at a brisk pace for at least 30 minutes, 5 days of the week. You can accumulate the 30 minutes or more over two or three shorter sessions.
Slí na Sláinte can be implemented in your locality by the Local Authority in partnership with the community and, where appropriate, commercial organisations, and become part of the approved list of Slí routes. If you would like to develop a Slí na Sláinte route in your locality, contact the Slí na Sláinte National Coordinator in the Irish Heart Foundation. Further information on setting up a route is available on the Irish Heart Foundation's website.
Coillte runs 10 Forest Parks around the country, most of which provide facilities such as toilets, parking, picnic sites, playgrounds for children, and a shop or restaurant (seasonal). Coillte also runs 150 recreation sites around the country, most of which provide basic facilities such as parking, picnic sites and walking trails.
There is a distinction in Irish law between public and private rights of way. A public right of way is a person's right of passage along a road or path, even if the road or path is not in public ownership. A private right of way is the right to enter onto private lands, but only for the purposes of gaining access to or exiting from another piece of land.
The rights of walkers and ramblers are specified in the Occupiers' Liability Act 1995, which includes "recreational user" as a category of users of privately-owned lands. Under the Act, a recreational user is a person present on the premises or land of a private citizen, without charge (other than a reasonable charge for parking facilities) for the purposes of engaging in a recreational activity. Under these circumstances, the owner of the land is obliged only to not intentionally injure or harm the recreational user or act with reckless disregard for the recreational user's welfare. This is an important distinction because it removes previous insurance liability concerns, which still apply to an invited visitor onto private land.
However, under the Planning and Development Act 2000, the owner of private land can apply to his or her local authority to have the public right of way removed from a part of his of her land. Typically, this would occur if the owner wished to develop his or her property in a way that would affect access to it by the public. In these circumstances, the local authority has the power to recover the costs involved with closing a part of land off from public access from the landowner.
Before a public right of way can be removed, the local authority is required to place a notice on the land detailing the proposed extinguishment of the right of way and must also place advertisements in local newspapers publicising the proposed change for at least 14 days. Both the notice and the advertisements must give details of where and when the proposed changes will take place and give leave for citizens to appeal the extinguishment in writing. The local authority may choose to give a person opposing the change an oral hearing. The local authority reserves the right of judgement over appeals to extinguishments of public rights of way, however, it must publish the decision to extinguish the public right of way as soon as it has been decided to do so and must also inform any persons who objected in writing to notify them of the its decision.
Although it is not a legal requirement, walking, rambling and mountaineering associations all advise their members and members of the public to take due care when availing of their right to use private land for recreational purposes. . The conservation of the local environment and avoiding causing disturbance to on-site activities such as farming should be considered by all walkers and visitors to the countryside. Copies of an agreed Country Code are available from the Irish Farmers association.
Section 24 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002 added new rules governing criminal trespass to the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994. It is now a criminal offence for anyone to enter, occupy or bring anything onto privately owned land or land owned by local authorities if that act is likely to
If a landowner believes that someone is illegally occupying his or her land to the extent of committing one of the above offences, he or she should inform the Garda Siochana. The Garda Siochana are then empowered to visit the land, and if they find any person on the land, they can demand that the person gives them his or her name and address and that he or she removes himself/herself and any objects under his or her control from the land. If the person refuses to comply with a Garda's directions, that person is liable to prosecution. A person who is convicted of one of these criminal trespass offences is liable to a class B fine or 1 month's imprisonment or both. If a person does not co-operate with the Garda Siochana when asked to leave the land, any objects brought upon the land can be seized and stored by the Garda Siochana. These objects can be subsequently sold or disposed of by the Garda Siochana if the owner of the objects does not reply in writing to an official notice that the object has been seized within one month of receiving that notice. The person must also agree to pay the Garda Siochana for any reasonable expense incurred as a result of seizing and storing the object before being allowed to reclaim it. Contact information for Garda stations throughout Ireland is available here.
If you wish to appeal against a proposed extinguishment of public right of way, you must write to your local authority. There is no charge for doing so for making such an appeal. Contact information for local authorities throughout Ireland is available here.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.