Here in Ireland’s Mid-West region we are privileged to have some of Ireland’s most beautiful unspoilt countryside. Not only that, we are doubly privileged to have a dedicated walking and cycling track right in the heart of that lush green landscape. This is the jewel of the South West, the Great Southern Trail Greenway.
The trail winds along the route of the now defunct Limerick to Tralee railway line that linked Limerick and Newcastle West in 1867 and then Newcastle West and Tralee in about 1880. The line finally fell into disuse in the 1970s and through the extraordinary efforts of a small group of local people down the decades, this has now become 40 kilometers of magnificent country walks.
This is Ardagh station, with the long platform gradually being claimed by vegetation. Station houses were traditionally made of beautifully hand cut limestone, such as can be seen here.
Deserted railway stations have a particular fascination for me, as I was born in one such beautiful building, the home of my grandparents, in Newtownforbes Co Longford seen below.
Station House, Newtownforbes, Co Longford where I was born and the track I walked with my grandfather.
I spent many an hour walking the railway line with my grandfather, jumping from sleeper to sleeper, trying to keep up with him,and helping him to pull the great big levers that changed the direction of the tracks, sending the engines to the store. Telegraph lines traditionally ran alongside the railway line and my grandfather would lift me up so I could press my ear to the pole and hear the lines ‘singing’.
It was not until several years after I came to live in this area that I discovered that my grandfather’s brother Alfie Clinton, had served as station master in Newcastle West in the early 1950s which made the opening up of the trail of extra special interest to me.
The beautifully restored and modernized Station House in Newcastle West, Co Limerick.
The beautiful cut limestone is also used in the bridges, platforms, and tunnels that lie along the trail. Apart from these lovely examples of our built heritage the trail offers a unique close encounter with nature in all her glory.
These photos are from a walk on the stretch between Ardagh and Newcastle West in the month of May, when Ireland is at her prettiest with the branches of the white Hawthorn weighed down by heavily scented white blossom.
The meadows at either side of the line are filled with Spring flowers and the occasional cow peacefully grazing.
The hedgerows along the line have their own microclimate and are populated with copious wildflowers.
Sometimes you have to look very closely to discover the tiniest of little flowers…
The Great Southern Greenway is one of many such trails being developed on disused railway lines in many parts of Ireland. Each is unique. The award-winning Great Western Greenway that runs along the Atlantic from Westport to Achill Island in County Mayo, with its stunning scenery; the Deise Greenway between Dungarvan and Waterford in Co Waterford with its spectacular arched viaducts; the recently begun Burtonport Old Railway Walk which traverses some wild Donegal scenery – to name but a few.
The tourist potential of these Greenways is enormous and it is to be hoped that they will continue to be funded – not just to attract tourists, but for the benefit of local communities that work so hard to get these recreational amenities up and running.
Some sites of interest with some stunning scenery!
Great Western Greenway in County Mayo
Deise Greenway in County Waterford
Burtonport Old Railway Walk in County Donegal
Great Southern Trail in Limerick/Kerry
29 responses to “A walk on the wild side: Ireland’s Greenways”
Looks like a fabulous walk or cycle.
Oh it is indeed Joan ! Thanks for visiting 🙂
What a fantastic idea to turn the unused railway lines into walkways!
It is a wonderful idea! The tracks and sleepers were lifted decades ago and sold off, so the flattened surfaces are still there. I hope you get to stroll on one of these green ways on your next trip!
Very nice, Angela. My Mom (Maureen’s) grandfather, Daniel Meara, was a ganger for the Great Southern and Western Railroad. He started work in Killarney and settled in Milltown, Kerry.
Railway jobs were good jobs and often as in my family, entire families were employed on them. My grandfathers 2 brothers were stationmasters and their children often followed in their footsteps. It is nice to have relatives that settled in beautiful Kerry! I hope you get to visit! Thanks for dropping by today!
Looks wonderful, Angela… one day… 🙂
It is Chris! And YES…one day!
On our short visits to Ireland time feels way too urgent to undertake such a walk, even if it was just a single day. It does look like a great place to unwind though, so maybe some day. Thanks for these kind of posts, keep them coming. All the best.
Yes indeed these are places to unwind as you are far from the madding crowd! The loop that I walk regularly takes just over an hour and there are lots of access points all along teh way.I hope you might get a little taster on your next trip!
Thank you so much So glad you enjoyed it!
Oh SV, this is such a lovely post and your passion for railways and railway houses shines through. How interesting that you were born in a railway station house. We have a beautiful one here in Tramore and I just hope, hope, hope that it will be saved from decaying.
Thank you SB! What beautiful buildings they were and it seems to me that the bigger ones would make beautiful homes, albeit at a cost. Newtownforbes station house is once again a family home. I hope yours can be saved. There is a nice one in Rathkeale Co.Limerick that was reconstructed stone by stone when a new road was being built. It is now a Museum.
That’s great news about Newtownforbes and Rathkeale. Give me a lot more hope.
Hopefully it can be saved!
Station House, Newtownforbes, Co. Longford is my family home. I recently came upon a very old photo. Email me and I would be happy to send it to you.
Hello Yvonne. Thank you very much…I have such lovely happy memories of holidays and Christmas in the house. My grandfather who was stationmaster there died in 1959. I have sent you an email.
Kind regards Angela
Wonderful post on so many levels! It’s neat that you have such a personal connection to the railway houses and your photos are lovely. This idea of turning old railways into hiking paths has always appealed to me. We’ll be in Ireland in the autumn–I’ll look into one of the walks in Donegal or Mayo!
So glad that you enjoyed the post! It is indeed a great reinvention to turn these long pathways to recreational use. I hope you get to try one of them when you visit! Thanks for dropping by!
Thank you so much for this post and the beautiful photographs.
I suppose the railway line to Dingle has gone many years ago (I think the line was cut in the 1930s), but it’s a great idea to make walkways where it is possible. The grey limestone of the station buildings is very evocative, but negative memories crowd out the happy ones because stations are place of departure and tears of farewell as well as as arrival and expectation…
So true that stations are indeed lonely points of departure and there is a ghostly feel to the long empty and now overgrown platforms that once buzzed with life and commerce. The Tralee to Dingle line would make a great walking route and perhaps some of it survives. The magic of the old railways with their dirty steam trains stays with me as warm memories of visits to my grandparents throughout the 1950s. Thank you so much for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. A
Thankyou for such a delightful post. I will come back time and time again to enjoy. Old railways stations fascinate me despite not having a historical connection with them. Saddens me to see so many, here in South Australia either fall into disrepair or destroyed. The occasional old station which is preserved and treasured is such a joy and a huge tourist attraction.
Thanks again Angela… 🙂
It is sad to see them disappear! I have some photographs of a very old station in Western Australia that is still in use. I am glad you enjoyed the post …thanks a million for dropping by!
What beautiful, stunning countryside! I would love to be able to take a tour. How wonderful that these trails are being kept up.
It is looking great in Spring with all the wildflowers and lush growth. I hope you get to make the tour and see some of these stunning walking/cycling tracks. Thanks for stopping by!
I agree with others above, wonderful post. Great memories and images. The greenways are one way that Ireland is able to deliver the beauty of the Irish countryside to both the residents and tourists. For too long people have been denied access to the countryside by intransigent landowners and the lack of legal access rights such as exist in the UK and elsewhere.
I too have fond (though distant) memories of the old railways – my uncle was a level-crossing keeper on the West Cork line, just outside Dunmanway. Sadly I think it’s impossible to reclaim that line though it would be great if it were possible. There is a nice stretch out from Blackrock to Passage West though which is well used by all and sundry.
Hi Roy. It often took long years to get agreement to establish these trails. The rail company handed over the lines but often local farmers objected and it took patient negotiation and reassurance to get the trail open and surfaced. This will be extra special when the Kerry portion is developed . It is a fabulous amenity for all and free! I must check out that monks town trail as it sounds good and I am often in the area. Thanks for your kind comments and for dropping by!
What a beautiful post, Angela it’s so good to catch up with your lovely blog again! Apologies for my recent absence from the blogging world, I’m dropping by now to offer you a dragon’s loyalty award. You can view it here: http://childoftheisland.com/2014/05/27/belated-blessings/
Many thanks for all your lovely posts and your continued support of my own work. Have a very blessed week, Bia 🙂
Thank you so very much and welcome back!
You’re most welcome 🙂 Have a lonely week 🙂