New Fáilte Ireland review of the Boyne Valley Drive seeks public feedback
Fáilte Ireland has appointed a multi-disciplinary team to review the established Boyne Valley Drive and its wider landscape setting to advise on opportunities to help make it a world class experiential route that celebrates both the heritage assets and the wider Boyne Valley setting.
A set of consultation boards has been made available for further information, and they are asking for feedback via a survey which can be found here (you can also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Navan Cycling Initiative have put forward the following submission
QUESTION: Are there any additional elements of the regions development context we should review? (The Boyne Valley’s Context – Board 2)
Why is it marketed as the Boyne Valley Drive? Particularly, as a ‘driving’ experience? Is it a necessity for visitors to drive in order to experience it? The region is in close proximity to Dublin, well serviced by bus services, with plans for a rail line from Navan to Dublin, as well as two greenways currently in various stages of development. Similar tourist regions such as the Wild Atlantic Way or the Burren Way attract millions of visitors yet are known as ‘ways’, with a lot of different options for people to visit and enjoy. The Boyne Valley Way would be a more suitable name, especially in today’s current climate with the urgency of climate change and the need to encourage more sustainable modes of transport.
I moved to the town of Navan about six years ago and have explored most of the Boyne Valley by both bike and by car, and whenever I have seen the signs for the Boyne Valley Drive I felt a bit confused as to what they were. The Boyne Valley Drive sounds limited to driving, when most of the ancient historic cultural sites in the Boyne Valley are in fact off road, part of nature or mountainous trails, or alongside the River Boyne, more suited to walking. By definition, exploring the Boyne Valley by foot or by bike on greenways or blueways would be excluded from the ‘Boyne Valley Drive’.
QUESTION: Are there any other visitor groups that the Boyne Valley Drive should be targeting? (Tourism Context – Board 3)
Greenways have huge potential to attract visitors to the region, and the Boyne Valley will soon have two top-class greenways: the Boyne Greenway and the Boyne Valley to Lakelands County Greenway. A recent Fáilte Ireland training and information workshop showed that:
- 46% of all overseas holidaymakers to Ireland last year engaged in walking and cycling as part of their holiday experience.
- The number of tourists coming to Ireland on walking and cycling holidays has grown exponentially; from 37,000 in 2012 to 1.8m in 2017.
- Over 280,000 tourists have visited the Waterford greenway
- 68% of visitors to county Waterford said visiting the Waterford Greenway was the main motivation for their trip
With the region set to have two greenways, the potential to attract cyclists to the region should be highlighted more and become a key element in the promotional and marketing campaign. In addition, the Covid pandemic has seen a 30% increase in bike sales in Ireland compared to last year, while cycling in Ireland was up by 45% in some places during the summer lockdown. Bicycles are projected to outsell cars in Europe two-to-one by 2030.
The development of the Boyne Greenway, in particular, which runs in close proximity to many of the heritage assets that the region has to offer, has great potential to attract a huge number of visitors from Ireland and oversees on cycling trips, similar to the Waterford Greenway or the Great Western Greenway. The Boyne Greenway has the potential to not only equal the aforementioned established greenways, but in many ways surpass them as Ireland’s number one greenway, as in addition to some beautiful countryside along the River Boyne it also offers a huge amount of spectacular sites along its route. These range from the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, Brú na Bóinne, Slane Bridge and Castle, Donaghmore, Bective Abbey and Trim Castle, not to mention the towns of Drogheda, Slane, Navan and Trim themselves. There are also plans (in various stages of development) in the National Cycle Network to further expand the Greenway to connect up to the Dublin to Galway Greenway at the Royal Canal in Enfield. At the Drogheda end, the Greenway will run to Mornington on the coast, which will in turn connect up ‘The East Coast Trail’, which extends all the way to Dublin City. This would all come together to form a cycling loop (Dublin > Drogheda > Navan > Trim > Royal Canal > Dublin) which would have enormous tourist potential for the region.
QUESTION: The drive works, is intact and links the heritage sites well but how could it become a world class proposition benefiting the wider region? (Existing Route Review – Board 4)
While the route of the Boyne Valley Drive has been clearly presented in the full map of the route, it is felt that it lacks a central hub or focal point. The town of Navan is located in the heart of the Boyne Valley and will be the starting point of both the Boyne Greenway and the Boyne Valley to Lakelands County Greenway. There are also plans currently in review to reinstate the Navan Rail Line. When the town is developed with these amenities, as well as an increase in tourist accommodation options, it has great potential to be marketed as an ideal base to explore the region. The centre of Navan town is within easy access to both greenways, and sites such as Slane Castle, Newgrange, the Battle of the Boyne, the Hill of Tara, Dunsany and Bective Abbey would be within cycling distance for visitors, as well as for driving to other areas to explore.
QUESTION : Are there Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities or Threats relevant to the drive that you feel should be included in our considerations? (Emerging opportunities – Board 5)
The strengths lie in the sheer depth of attractions found along the route. These are listed and detailed on your website which is a good source of information.
As previously mentioned, there is a great opportunity to develop the region as an ideal area for cycling and outdoor trips. With two greenways (the Boyne Greenway and the Boyne Valley to Lakelands County Greenway) and further plans in the National Cycle Network which open up a cycling loop all the way from Dublin, Drogheda, Navan, Trim, the Royal Canal and back to Dublin, the region could be unrivalled anywhere in the country as an outdoor cultural and heritage destination.
Marketing the region as the ‘Boyne Valley Drive’ sounds limiting and confusing. The Boyne Valley Way would be more inclusive and open up the possibility of exploring areas around the River Boyne and the River Blackwater, the Boyne Navigation, greenways, blueways and outdoor areas of recreational use.
As mentioned above, other areas in Ireland are promoting scenic and cultural itineraries but not restricting them to driving. Given the need to move towards increased climate awareness and a more sustainable society, the Boyne Valley Drive will be at risk of losing out to other areas if it doesn’t address the points raised above.
Vice-Chairperson, Navan Cycling Initiative