HUNDREDS of walkers christened the latest extension to the Great Southern Trail in Abbeyfeale over Christmas as the new three-kilometre, €290,000 section was formally opened.
The new extension now brings the walking and cycling route all the way to the Kerry border at Kilmorna, and marks the culmination of years of efforts to expand the trail by volunteers and Limerick County Council.
Liam O’Mahony, cathaoirleach of the Great Southern Trail committee, said that “scores” of walkers visited the latest extension over Christmas, and that the official opening on December 27 was keenly attended.
Over the past two decades, the Great Southern Trail has been extended from the old station house in Rathkeale all the way to the Kerry border along the disused old Limerick to Kerry rail line. In recent weeks, local politicians have urged their counterparts in Kerry to continue the development of the trail on their side of the border, with the ultimate aim of creating a connected ‘green way’ from Rathkeale all the way to Fenit.
The newest section of the trail was completed in a short space of time last autumn, following the granting of planning permission and funding from the National Cycle Network. The extension, which runs from the old station house in Abbeyfeale to the Kerry border, also saw three new bridge crossings developed at Knockbrack, over the Oolagh River and at Islandboy.
The extension also runs close to Purt castle, an ancient but dilapidated fort which used to guard a river crossing over the Feale. Calls have been made for the castle to be renovated and turned into a tourist attraction in its own right, but this may be unlikely for some time due to the castle’s uncertain ownership status, as well as a lack of central funding.
Next month, the Great Southern Trail will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the last scheduled passenger train from Limerick to Tralee with a walk on Saturday, February 2 from Abbeyfeale to Duagh village. The walk will include one mile of undeveloped walking route, and as such participants are advised to bring waterproof clothing and footwear.