Mountain Access Scheme

Conflict in a small number of areas regarding access to the uplands prompted Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, to establish Comhairle na Tuaithe, a national body to address matters to do with countryside recreation. Comhairle has come forward with the Mountain Access Scheme, a project currently being piloted on Binn Shléibhe (also known as Mount Gable) in Co. Galway and Carrauntoohil in Co. Kerry.

By formally agreeing access with the landowners on a mountain, producing a map showing designated access points, indemnifying the landowners, providing parking and any infrastructure required to sustain recreational use, the Mountain Access Scheme sets out to manage recreational enjoyment of mountain areas in a way that minimises inconvenience for landowners and local residents, and means that use of the area can be promoted with clarity and confidence.

The Mountain Access Scheme is a different proposition to a waymarked walking route. The scheme should not involve the development or marking of trails on the mountain, other than where trail repair or construction is required to avoid environmental damage.  As these are mountain areas, recreational users are expected to be appropriately skilled and equipped to look after themselves. 

MI visits to the two pilot areas have uncovered some of the factors that can detract from the relationship between walkers and landowners. Dogs are a key concern. As not all dogs are kept under control, there is a clear message coming from the landowning community that dogs are not welcome on the hills. Inconsiderate parking can cause problems. Parked cars can at times prevent livestock or wide machinery gaining access to fields or along narrow roads. The increased commercialisation of walking has irritated some landowners, as they see other parties generating income from activity on their land without any consultation.

Comhairle na Tuaithe’s Mountain Access Scheme potentially provides a mechanism to acknowledge land ownership, and to prevent frustrations growing into problems, while at the same time meeting the reasonable expectations of walkers with regard to access. One of MI’s priorities in our engagement with Comhairle is the successful completion of these pilots and extension of the scheme to other mountain areas.