“You’re looking for something that breaks the picture,” said Philip McCormack.
We were paddling the Suir Blueway in Co Tipperary and the water was flat as a board. Trees and reeds lined the river banks; The only sounds were our voices, the occasional hello shouted to nearby cyclists or hikers, and the thud of our paddles.
Philip is a kayak guide with Pure Adventure and we shared our interest in wildlife. He encouraged us to observe the scene in front of us and look out for flashes of movement that shattered the stillness.
A splashing fish. A snow-white swan. martins scurrying to and from little sandy holes in the banks; Wagtails, which were surprisingly yellow.
Eventually we lay back and drifted, closing our eyes just to listen. At another, a kingfisher broke cover to dart across our path, then circled and darted up the waterway far behind us.
“It’s a tumbling river,” Philip mused. “It’s a good river for excursions.”
I know what he meant.
You’ve heard of Greenways. But what about “the world’s first accredited Blueways”?
Blueways on the Suir, Boyne and Lough Derg officially opened this April and are the first to receive such accreditation, according to Fáilte Ireland.
Developed by Waterways Ireland and local authorities, they are recreational routes closely linked to water – the Suir Blueway, for example, stretches 53km from Cahir to Carrick-on-Suir (with a 21km cycle and walk route). Lough Derg has over 100 miles of coastal walks.
The Shannon Blueway, a 10 mile route along the river and Lough Allen Canal, is another (its showpiece is a 1,950 ft floating boardwalk at Acres Lake near Drumshanbo).
A few years ago I did a stand up paddle trip down the Blueway here with Lee Guckian from Leitrim Surf. He named a section of the canal that has surprisingly dense foliage leaning against it to give a real one lost world feel, “the Drumshamazon”.
“The beauty of it is that it’s so simple,” he said.
One idea behind Blueways is that they can facilitate many activities, from paddling to hiking, biking and swimming. And like greenways, the more locals and visitors use them, the more small coffee stops, activity businesses, and accommodations are likely to crop up along the way.
Tracks and trails are currently fascinating the travel world. Be it a Camino or a cliff hike, these routes offer a catchy hook and combine with the sense of wellbeing and safety we felt in nature and outdoors during Covid.
They can be cheap (and often free) to use, and I think they also allow remote, rural destinations like Tipperary and Leitrim to focus on “slow travel” – an approach that promotes sustainability over more engaged visitors Mass tourism and puts communities in the foreground. leitrim, our least populated countycleverly presents itself as “the home of slow-paced adventure in Ireland”.
Our trip through Tipp ended in Kilsheelan where we pulled the kayaks out of the water.
“I used to have stressful jobs,” said Philip. “I always thought about paddling.”
Pól has been a guest on pureadventure.ie and tipperary.com. See also enjoyleitrim.com and bluewaysireland.org.
https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/ireland/youve-heard-of-greenways-but-did-you-know-ireland-is-home-to-the-worlds-first-accredited-blueways-41596841.html You’ve heard of Greenways, but did you know that Ireland is home to the world’s first accredited Blueways?