Former west Limerick railway line reopens as 40km greenway

Off-road walking and cycling route developed at cost of €10 million

Seán and Delma Carter with their daughters Emma and Grace on the Limerick Greenway. Photograph: Seán Curtin/True Media

Seán and Delma Carter with their daughters Emma and Grace on the Limerick Greenway. Photograph: Seán Curtin/True Media

 

The newly-renovated 40km Limerick Greenway, an off-road walking and cycling route, opens to the public today.

Built along the former Limerick-to-Kerry train line, the route has been completely resurfaced and can be accessed from Ardagh, Rathkeale, Newcastle West, Barnagh, Templeglantine and Abbeyfeale.

A €10 million project, it has been led by Limerick City and County Council with funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development, the Department of Transport and Fáilte Ireland.

Olive Sheehan, chair of West Limerick Tourism and owner of Leens Hotel in Abbeyfeale, points to the attractions along the route, which are sandwiched between better-known tourist hotspots in counties Kerry and Clare.

She mentions “the hub” at Barnagh with its cafe and playground for children, where people can leave their dogs while walking or cycling. At the Barnagh viewing point, sweeping views of the Limerick plains and the Golden Vale are available, while visitors can pass through the 115m Barnagh train tunnel and cross the cast-iron Ferguson’s viaduct, both restored relics of the 19th-century railway line. Visitors can also tour Desmond Castle in Newcastle West and visit the village of Ardagh, where the Ardagh Chalice was discovered.

Formally known as the Southern Rail Train, the project had difficulty attracting large numbers some years ago, as well as a lack of support from some landowners. But this time, thanks in a large part to the €10 million injection, everyone is keen to make the rebranded greenway visitor experience one of the best, says Sharon Noonan, programme co-ordinator for the West Limerick Food Series.

Hospitality

Hospitality businesses in the three major towns of Rathkeale, Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale, as well as the smaller towns along the way, are offering links to bike hire, pick-up and drop-off services and overnight accommodation packages.

Among the places along the route in which to stay and to eat, Ms Noonan says, are the Rathkeale House Hotel where the owners have invested €1.2 million; the reopened Barnagh station or for a more refined chill-out; the Mustard Seed Country House Hotel, straight out of the pages of Ireland’s Blue Book. The Mustard Seed is offering to make picnics for cyclists and to organise delivery and collection of bikes.

Ann Madigan of the Rathkeale House Hotel says a lot of businesses are invested in the reopening of the greenway. Her own venue is pet-friendly for walkers who want to take their dogs on staycation.

The Limerick Greenway is part of the 85km route taken by the railway line from Limerick to Tralee in Co Kerry which opened in stages between 1867 and 1880 and closed between 1975 and 1977. Plans are already under way to ultimately extend the line to Tralee.