Rural Recreation Programme

County Donegal is one of 12 regions in the country to have been allocated the services of a Rural Recreation Officer (RRO) in 2008. The RRO works with communities, landowners, local and national agencies to support the development, maintenance and promotion of trail based outdoor recreation opportunities in County Donegal for residents and tourists alike. The programme is directly co-funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Fáilte Ireland.


  • To implement the Walks Scheme in County Donegal
  • To assist the implementation of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy
  • To coordinate and oversee the management and enhancement of existing trails in the county
  • To assist local communities developing and maintaining new trails
  • To assist in the marketing and promotion of trails in the county
  • To encourage the responsible use of the countryside
  • To assist with information to trail users, landholders, and all other interests in outdoor recreation in County Donegal Scope


The Walks Scheme is a national scheme through which landowners are paid for maintaining and upgrading nationally approved walks on their land.
•    The Walks Scheme in Donegal operates in several areas, including the Bluestack Way and the Pilgrims Path at Slieve League
•    The Bluestack Way was the first scheme implemented in Ireland in 2008. It has served as a template for the national rollout of the programme. Recently the Bluestack Way has been approved for a second 5 year contract.
•    Landholders are contracted for 5 years and payments are made on a 6 monthly basis.
•    The Bluestack Way was featured on the first RTE Tracks and Trails Series in 2010. Watch Packie Bonner and Rural Recreation Officer Inga Bock walking the trail.

All trail developments that traverse privately owned land, are based on permissive access. This means that developments take place with kind permission of the landholders, to allow access to the public. Our Rural Recreation Officer liaises with landholders and all other stakeholders to ensure that trails are developed in line with best practice, complying with all legislation and giving due regard to consultation with all relevant interest groups. We have been involved in establishing, upgrading and maintaining a variety of trails in Donegal including the Muckish Loops - Creeslough, Dore Loops- Crolly, Termon Trails - Pettigo, Dungloe River Walk, Inishowen Head Loop- Stroove, Glencolumbcille Loops, to mention a few.

We also work with Donegal County Council on potential off-road cycling routes, utilising the various disused railways in Donegal, and are exploring the possibility of developing Bridle paths with TREC Donegal. If you have been thinking of developing a route in your local area, or have any questions regarding trail development in Donegal, please contact our Rural Recreation Officer, Inga Bock, see details at the bottom of the page.

In 2010 we have joined in the effort to extend the renowned International Appalachian Trail (IAT) to all parts of that once-continuous, pre-Atlantic mountain belt. The existing IAT stretches from the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail at Mount Katahdin in the US state of Maine, through eastern Canada to the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland. When expansion is complete, the IAT will be the largest trail network and one of the largest outdoor adventure brands in the world, with a presence in 21 countries and across 3 continents.

Landfall of the IAT in Ireland and Europe has been designated as Slieve League in Co. Donegal. From here the (unmarked) route heads along the coast to Malin Beg and on to Glencolumbcille. From here the route is fully marked along the Tower Loop walk to pick up the Slí Cholumbcille via Port to Ardara. From Ardara, it follows the Bluestack Way to Glenties and over the Bluestack Mountains to Lough Eske. A few kilometres before Donegal Town it crosses the N56 at Clar Chapel and follows back roads to the border crossing into Tyrone at Kelly’s Bridge. The route then goes through Killeter and onwards towards Omagh, to join the Ulster Way going north along the Antrim Coast and into Larne. It then continues in Scotland on the Ayrshire Coastal Path and the West Highland Way. The Cross-border launch of the IAT Ireland took place at the Bluegrass and Appalachian Music Festival at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh on the 31st August 2013.

The main focus for the first 3 years of the programme was the development of walking trails in the DLDC area. Since January 2012, the remit of the Rural Recreation Officer has broadened in a geographical sense to take in the whole of County Donegal and also to include cycling trails, bridle paths and water-based trails as well as other rural recreation activities covered by the National Countryside Recreation Strategy. We support and assist communities to develop a variety of trails from local road-based routes, to longer national standard off-road tails.

To get a taste of the programme please follow:

For more information on the IAT Ireland please click here or watch here For further information, or if you would like to develop a trail in your local area, contact:

Inga Bock
Rural Recreation Officer