No neighs for horse bridleways
Things went from a trot to a canter in County Hall recently as councillors called for the provision of a network of horse trails across Cork.
Already common in Europe, the trails, known as bridleways, would offer riders an alternative to using main roads and are considered a major draw for tourism.
The Beara Bridleway, Ireland’s first ever dedicated horse trail, has been operating in west Cork since last year and councillors are now pushing for more trails to be established as part of an overall national bridleway plan connecting Cork to Cavan.
Macroom Cllr Gobnait Moynihan, who tabled the motion at County Hall on Monday, said horses are currently excluded from things like greenways and bike trails and have nowhere to go but beaches and main roads.
“The goal is to provide safe, designated paths or trails for horses. There are huge advantages in having these trails available. We all know the benefits of outdoor physical activity like this,” she said.
In terms of tourism, Cllr Moynihan said the trails would greatly enhance Cork’s offerings and would have a positive “knock-on” effect on businesses in the county such as B&Bs, hotels and stables.
“If we could get these trails going, we'd attract national and international tourism. This isn't a new thing. They are so common around Europe that you can go from country to country on horseback. We can learn a lot from looking at other countries. I think there's huge scope here,” said the councillor.
Cllr Moynihan’s motion received widespread support from elected members including recently appointed Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Gillian Coughlan.
“I was at the opening of the Beara Bridleway and the joy it brought to that community – it’s very sustainable and holistic and I would certainly love to see it extended right across the country. It would be magnificent,” said the Mayor.
Also in support was Cllr Ian Doyle of Kanturk and Mallow who suggested the council approach state-owned forestry group Coillte which manages seven per cent of Ireland’s land.
“The growth in equestrian sport is huge. If we identified Coillte lands in each of our municipal district areas to start off with and develop it from there,” he said.
Responding to the motion, Director of Service, Municipal District and Operational, Niall Healy said the council recognises the value of horse trails as a driver of tourist, economic and recreational activity.
“Local community involvement is key to enabling the successful delivery of such projects. The council is happy to engage with trail promoters and will continue to collaborate with and support groups who are working to deliver trails that meet national standards,” said Mr Healy.
The Beara Bridleway is a 17-kilometre trail linking Clonglaskin townland, several kilometres west of Castletownbere town, with the colourful village of Allihies.
The terrain has something for all experience levels and can be undertaken at any pace.
For more information, visit bearabridleway.com.