Donegal County Council is the lead partner of the new Atlantic Area Trail Gazers Project, which includes trails in locations from Donegal to Portugal, set up to stimulate rural community growth by linking strategic walking and recreational pathways in areas of natural, built and cultural heritage with the surrounding towns and villages.

The EU-funded project is being led by Donegal County Council in association with its next-door neighbour Sligo County Council, and partners from Portugal, Spain, France the UK. The overall aim is to explore the impact of walking and recreational trails on sustaining rural communities, and to provide incentives for visitors to further explore, experience and enjoy all that surrounding towns and villages have to offer.

Following the online launch of the project’s website in June, Donegal County Council joined the other partners of the Atlantic Area Trail Gazers Project in an online meeting, where detailed planning on this unique project continued.

Loretta McNicholas, Project Manager for Trail Gazers at Donegal County Council, said that despite the difficult times during the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, she was delighted with the progress being made and with each project partner’s commitment to push forward and deliver key outputs over the next number of months.

The project partners have selected a wide variety of trails to test best practice methods in installing sensors and counters, capturing and predicting footfall patterns to future-proof trail maintenance and service plans.

They will also survey trail users to identify factors that would enhance the visitor experience, and will work with local business to develop Business to Consumer (B2C) initiatives based on feedback from visitors, in addition to developing develop community trail plans that are focused on niche experiences.

The eight trails selected  to test this project: ‘Knocknarea/Killaspugbrone Loop’ in Sligo and ‘Inch Levels’ in Donegal; ‘Chemin De Mémoires’ in Bretagne (France); ‘Via Verde del Plazola’ in Navarra (Spain); ‘La Caldera de Taburiente’ on the Canary Island of Las Palma; the ‘Seven Hanging Valleys’ in the Algarve (Portugal); ‘Sacred Mountain’ in Viana do Castelo (Northern Portugal); and the ‘Taff Trail’ in  West Wales and the Valleys.