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11/07/19 An endless trail of possibilities for local communities and businesses


Loretta McNicholas, Trail Gazers Project Manager (standing second from left) with Cathaoirleach Cllr. Nicholas Crossan and project partners at the recent launch of the project in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel.


Local communities and business are being urged to get in touch with the new Donegal County Council led Trail Gazers Bid project which was launched in Buncrana recently and which is set to help communities maximise the potential from the growing trend in walking and hiking trails. 


Loretta McNicholas, Project Manager with Donegal County Council believes that this project provides exciting opportunities for local and regional stakeholders including citizens, community groups, small businesses, tourism providers, schools, environmental agencies and public authorities to come together to collaborate on how to maximise the potential of walking trails in rural areas. 


“The last number of years has seen a growth in experiential travel, with people preferring to spend their holidays seeking out more meaningful and personal experiences in beautiful locations that are often perceived as ‘off the beaten track’ rather than in conventional or popular holiday destinations” says Loretta.  


“Travel is now more about appreciating the way of life these hidden gems can offer; learning about local history, cultural and natural landscapes and embarking on voyages of self-discovery that will stay with the person long after the holiday has finished”.


She adds “research also indicates that local people are also using these amenities to enhance their physical and mental wellbeing, meet up with their friends and simply to enjoy all that outdoor life can offer”.


Loretta McNichols believes that the growth in walking and recreational activity has huge potential to generate income for rural areas, helping to create more jobs in the hospitality and leisure sectors, whilst also enhancing the attractiveness of these regions as places to live, work and thrive.


The new Trial Gazers projects will examine the contribution that investment in walks and recreational infrastructure makes to the local economy and develop new and innovative ways to encourage visitors off the paths and into the surrounding local and rural communities to immerse themselves in new cultural, culinary and life experiences.


Loretta explains that “this is a new EU Interreg funded Atlantic Area Project with 10 partners from different regions in Ireland, the UK, Spain, Portugal and France and all are passionate about examining how the right type of investment in walks and recreational trail can grow small rural communities, increase the number of visitors and future proof destination management places to protect the area’s natural and cultural assets”.


“We are keen to hear from local communities, businesses and any interested parties on how we can work together to introduce new initiatives that will encourage visitors off the trails to explore what the wider hinterland has to offer such as cafes, craft shops, artisan foods, hotels, pubs and historical places of interest and create new virtual tourism initiatives that will showcase all that the regions natural and cultural assets to wider audiences.  We also want to look at introducing sustainable destination management plans that will protect the very assets that visitors come to see.”


If interested in finding out more about this project or how to become involved please contact Loretta Mc Nicholas, Trail Gazers Bid at [email protected] or call 074 91 72569.


This project is co-financed under Priority 4 ‘Enhancing biodiversity and the natural and cultural assets’; Programme Objective 4.2 ‘Enhancing natural and cultural assets to stimulate economic development ‘of the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme through the European Regional Development Fund.


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