Cuilcagh from the Cavan side.

New Cuilcagh climb to be explored

Cavan County Council is to examine the feasibility of developing a safe pathway to the pinnacle of Cuilcagh from the southern side of the mountain at Bellavalley, similar to how the Boardwalk Trail was developed on the Fermanagh side.

Conscious of the hype surrounding the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and the huge tourism spin-off, the potential to deliver such a landmark attraction has now been included in the Draft Cavan County Development Plan 2022-2028.

Fianna Fáil Cllr John Paul Feeley’s proposition, seconded by Peter McVitty (FG), is to explore ‘feasibility of establishing access to Cuilcagh via Bellavalley Gap’ while also recognising the ecological and natural sensitivities associated with the site.

Senior Planner Nicholas O’Kane welcomed the motion’s inclusion, saying it served to “enhance” the tourism product already being developed in the west of the county.

The motion was one of almost a dozen, which look to drive investment locally in walking trails, as well as developing tourism linkages with other more established routes across the region. The revised County Development Plan is expected to go up for public consultation later this month.

Looped walks

Cllr Feeley had several more motions, including where he sought formal recognition in the document of the Hawkswood Loop, Cuilcagh Lowlands Trail, Gowlan Loops, Bawnboy Loop, Agharaskilly, Leitrim Way through Dowra, links between the Cavan and Leitrim Railway Greenway with the Cavan Way and Sligo Leitrim and West Counties Railway Greenways, and the Aghakinnagh Walk near Swanlinbar.

Another motion requested that the council ‘engage’ with Waterways Ireland in the promotion and development of links, as well as walking and cycling trails between Dowra and the Shannon Navigation System and, separately, that landowners countywide be supported in securing funding for the maintenance of local walkways.

The recently published Shannon tourism masterplan looks to invest more than €70 million in visitor facilities in towns and villages along the Shannon river by 2030, and in doing so attract an additional 500,000 tourists a year to the region.

Cllr Feeley further sought to amend an existing objective of the plan to support the enhancement of the Cavan Way Walking Trail and the development of Ireland’s longest national waymarked trail, the Beara Breffni Way walking route, by including the need to strengthen links with the Ulster Way.

He also put forward a motion, albeit amended at the request of the executive, to include boating that would support the extension of canoeing links between Killeshandra and Killykeen using Lough Oughter and the River Erne to Belturbet.

Turbet Island

Belturbet Independent Cllr Brendan Fay meanwhile had a motion down asking that the council support the creation of an exclusive Management and Development Plan for Turbet Island, which has received significant investment in recent years. The plan, Cllr Fay envisages, would also zone in on the town’s historic Railway Station and include linkages between the sites, while having due regard to their protection as National Monuments, Protected Structures and a Natura 2000 site.

Belturbet Heritage Railway (BHR) Company, which manage the railway site, is currently fundraising to deliver about one kilometre of the Cavan Leitrim Narrow Gauge track, and about a half a kilometre of the Great Northern Railway line.

It is anticipated the works will cost in the region of €200,000, and there are plans too to lay down a Velorail to transport visitor groups from the station to the Railway Bridge at Turbet Island.

The amendment to the Draft CDP was seconded by John Paul Feeley (FF), and supported by the council’s executive planner Nicholas O’Kane.

Cllr Fay further sought the inclusion of Lough Oughter and its associated loughs as part of an objective to develop geotourism and the recreational potential of the Cavan Burren, Shannon Pot, Killykeen, Cuilcagh and other Geopark sites.

He also asked that the council include in the plan a commitment to promote Castlesaunderson as an ‘important amenity’ for the county with the potential to become a recognised forest park in its own right.

Bailieboro lakes

To the east of the county Sinn Féin’s Paddy McDonald requested that links between the town amenities such as Bailieborough Lough, Town Lough and Castle Lough, as well as the lake in the St Anne’s area, not just be promoted but supported also.

His motion was supported by Aontú’s Sarah O’Reilly; while Fianna Fail’s Aiden Fitzpatrick successfully passed a motion asking that the council ‘protect and support’ the development of the Ballybay to Cootehill Railway line for the provision of a future greenway. The motion, supported by Carmel Brady (FG), was amended to include a connection with the existing Cavan Greenway.

Virginia masterplan

In Virginia, TP O’Reilly asked that a proposed masterplan for the town ensures that lands adjacent to the lake are identified for ‘public amenity and open space purposes’, including walkways along the shoreline at Lough Ramor. The motion was supported by Independent Cllr Shane P O’Reilly, with Mr O’Kane confirming that the area is known locally as ‘The Pottle’.

Elsewhere, Fianna Fáil’s Philip Brady had a motion passed asking that the council support the development of walking trails and amenity areas at Dernaferst Forest on the Cavan-Longford border. Cllr Brady stated that the area was popular among tourists.

Finally, Fine Gael’s Winston Bennett submitted for inclusion that the council carry out an audit of existing tourism signage and notice boards in the county to ensure that they meet the needs of visitors. The motion, as an objective under ‘Tourism in Cavan’, also sought the preparation of a countywide co-ordinated strategy for the enhancement of the signage network.