Over 800,000 overseas visitors claim to have gone hiking/cross-country walking in 2009. However, the number who walked off-road, for more than 5km on average, is 388,000 and they spent an estimated €183 million. Holidaymakers who stated that walking was an important factor in their choice of Ireland as a holiday destination number 366,000 and they spent an estimated €215 million while in Ireland in 2009.
Fáilte Ireland provides a range of opportunities and support information in relation to walking in Ireland. With support from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, we have developed 120 looped walks under the National Loops Initiative throughout the country over the last three years. The walks come under the themes: Island, Nature, Mountain and Coastal.
Market research by Fáilte Ireland has shown that most walking visitors are occasional walkers. This is broadly defined as a person who has variable fitness levels, limited navigation skills and unlikely to have done research on walks prior to arrival.
Visitors are now seeking quality looped walks in areas of outstanding scenic beauty, off road and of 1.5 to three hours in duration. Visitors also want to interact with local people and enjoy a relaxing, peaceful holiday in rural areas.
Phase four of the national looped walks initiative has been completed, with looped walks in all counties. A number of walks have two to three loops from the trailhead to choose from.
Each trailhead provides facilities such as car parks, map boards and picnic areas. By the end of 2008 over 100 looped walks in 26 counties were completed. Local community and walking groups have been very supportive of the initiative as have the Irish Sports Council and Coillte.
The walking product made up of National Way marked ways (30 throughout the country), Coillte forest walks, heritage trails and escorted walking holidays has been further enhanced with the development of looped walks.
Fáilte Ireland has prepared guidelines for the development of the National Loops Initiative (PDF, 40kb), the nationwide series of looped walks. An application form for the National Loops Initiative (PDF, 74kb) is also available. For additional statistics about walking tourism in Ireland, please refer to our Tourism Facts for Activities section.
We are also cooperating with local authorities and other parties to develop sections of coastal walking routes, which are targeted to eventually form part of a complete National Coastal Walk. For more information on these coastal walking routes, please read Coastal Path Development Draft Guidelines (PDF, 32kb).
The website www.discoverireland.ie/walking gives details for all looped walks including directions and downloadable maps for visitors to take with them.
It also gives details for all walking operators and links to all other walks available to visitors. Festival and event information is also available.