Ireland’s first floating boardwalk has opened at Acres Lake in Co Leitrim.
The 600m boardwalk – between Drumshanbo and Carrick-on-Shannon – will serve as the final leg of the Shannon Blueway, part of an expanding network of recreational trails that offer walking, kayaking, and cycling routes in lesser-known parts of the State.
The boardwalk will provide access to Acres Lake and via the Lough Allen Canal northwards to Lough Allen and southwards to Battlebridge, Leitrim village and Carrick-on-Shannon, and farther south from there.
In all, the Shannon Blueway encompasses more than 200km of waterborne or waterside trails. It links to the river Boyle near Carrick-on-Shannon, allowing access to Lough Key and its adventure playground, as well as the town of Boyle in Co Roscommon via Boyle Harbour.
A turn at Leitrim village gives access to the Shannon-Erne Waterway, which in turn leads to Lough Erne, the Fermanagh lakelands and Enniskillen.
Going south from Carrick-on-Shannon, the Blueway winds its way through lakes and rivers to the river Camlin and Richmond Harbour in Cloondara, Co Longford, where the Royal Canal offers access all the way to Dublin.
Minister for Rural Development Michael Ring, opening the boardwalk on Tuesday, said the €500,000 cost was “an excellent investment”.
A further allocation of €1.1 million had been made to Leitrim County Council for a walkway and cycleway from Carrick-on-Shannon to Leitrim village, and from Acres Lake to the Lough Allen Hotel.
Drumshanbo was once a well-known location for transporting coal from the Arigna mines, first via the Lough Allen Canal and later, from 1888, via the Cavan and Leitrim narrow-gauge rail line.
The line, which closed in 1959, was largely a roadside tram and was particularly useful during the war, when imported coal was hard to get. Today, the Arigna mines function as a museum and are open to visitors.
Greenways based along former railway tracks include the Great Western Greenway between Westport and Achill Island in Mayo; the Déise Greenway in Waterford and the Mullingar to Athlone Greenway in Co Westmeath.
Greenways have also been proposed for the former western railway from Galway to Sligo and along the cross-Border route of the former Ulster Canal.