Press Release, 1 March 2021

Progress to enhance IAT Ulster Ireland Walking Experience on track

Work to enhance the Derry and Strabane section of the International Appalachian Trial (IAT) is on track to be completed by the end of May 2021. This could potentially allow walkers and hikers the opportunity to enjoy a much improved walking route experience in late Spring or early Summer when restrictions for outdoor activity may be eased.

Funding from both DAERA and partner Councils totaling £750,000 has been allocated to facilitate improvements to the entirety of the 302 mile walking trail through the Rural Development Programme cross-border cooperation scheme. The aim is to provide a high quality visitor experience with a potential to increase local and international tourism for the global trail brand. 

The Ulster Ireland section of the International Appalachian Trail starts at the Slieve League coast in County Donegal and finishes in Larne on the east coast of Antrim, traversing a further two counties and a total of six district council areas in its route. Enhancement work includes the addition of new way marking, trail re-routing, infrastructure improvements, trail furniture and amenity improvements along sections of the route. 

New IAT Interpretive Panel at Castlederg on the Derry and Strabane section of IAT Ulster Ireland

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Brian Tierney, said the upgraded route will provide a welcomed outdoor tourism offering to the City and District.

“I am delighted that work within the Derry-Strabane section of the IAT section, which runs form Killeter Forest and ends in the upper reaches of Glenelly Valley in Sperrins, is on schedule with some great enhancements and additions already visible. The improvements on this eco and geo tourism project with our five other collaborating Council areas and will have the potential to attract more domestic and international visitors and generate substantial economic benefit for the businesses along the route and the wider area. The IAT Ulster Ireland offers a unique opportunity to promote our local spectacular landscape, areas of natural beauty and scientific interest and a world heritage site – which are all on our doorstep.”

New Shelter and Picnic Table at Barnes Gap on the Derry and Strabane section of IAT Ulster Ireland

The International Appalachian Trail (IAT) Ulster Ireland is just one of a growing number of established IAT walking trails stretching across two continents, North America and Europe, which share a common geological heritage, the Appalachian – Caledonian Mountains.   These formed more than 250 million years ago during the Paleozoic Era, when the earth’s plates collided to form the supercontinent Pangaea.

Paul Wylezol, Co-Chair of the International Appalachian Trail who based in Canada said: “The Ulster Ireland section is a great addition to the International Appalachian Trail story and the progress at each stage of the trail to date has been inspiring in meeting its milestones despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic. The Ulster Ireland section has great potential to attract a wide variety of North American walkers, who are eager to explore the shared geological and cultural storylines, combined with the uniquely Irish attractions, stunning scenery and Irish hospitality.”

New Warning Signs for Trail Users Installed at Big Bridge on the Derry and Strabane section of IAT Ulster Ireland

Alderman Graham Warke, Chair of the Derry and Strabane LAG added: “The International Appalachian Trail is extremely popular with fans of the outdoors worldwide and there is great potential for further development in terms of creating bespoke walking and hiking packages for visitors to our area and region with a focus on the important aspects of rural economic growth. We have worked collectively as a co-operation project to ensure we have enhanced the trail and explored all local tourism potential that our connection with the International Appalachian Trail will undoubtedly bring. We will continue to work together to ensure the full economic and social potential of this cooperation is realised as we rapidly move towards the roll-out of the Ulster Ireland section of this international trail with all work on track for completion May 2021.” 

The next stage is to engage with providers along the route and provide details of the exciting marketing campaign planned for 2021.  To keep up to date with progress and more information on the IAT Ulster Ireland you can follow @IATUlsterIre on social channels.

The IAT Ulster Ireland crosses SIX District Council areas with varying distances in each of the following Councils and is managed by a Rural Partnership LAGs (DEARA funded):

  • Donegal County Council – 72miles
  • Derry Strabane Council – 41miles
  • Fermanagh Omagh Council – 24miles
  • Mid Ulster Council – 9miles
  • Causeway Coast & Glens Council – 115miles
  • Mid and East Antrim – 23miles

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