Trail Gazers

An endless trail of possibilities for local communities and businesses...

The last number of years has seen a growth in experiential travel, with people preferring to spend their holidays seeking out more meaningful and personal experiences in beautiful locations that are often perceived as ‘off the beaten track’  rather than in conventional or popular holiday destinations.  Travel is now more about appreciating the way of life these hidden gems can offer; learning about local history, cultural and natural landscapes and embarking on voyages of self discovery that will stay with the person long after the holiday has finished.


These trends have seen an increase in the number of recreational tourists enjoying the many greenways, blue ways and walking trails that different Atlantic Area regions can offer.  Research would also indicate that large numbers of local communities are also using these amenities to enhance their physical and mental wellbeing, meet up with their friends  and simply to enjoy all that outdoor life can offer.  The growth in walking and recreational activity has huge potential to generate income for rural areas, helping to create more jobs in the hospitality and leisure sectors, whilst also enhancing the attractiveness of these regions as places to live, work and thrive.

Recently a new Atlantic Area Project entitled The Trial Gazers Bid was launched in Buncrana, County Donegal, Ireland.  This project will examine the contribution that investment in walks and recreational infrastructure makes to the local economy and develop new and innovative ways to encourage visitors off the paths and into the surrounding local and rural communities to immerse themselves in new cultural, culinary and life experiences.

This project has 10 partners from different regions in Ireland, the UK, Spain, Portugal and France, all of which are passionate about examining how the right type of investment in walks and recreational trail can grow small rural communities, increase the  number of visitors and future proof destination management places to protect the area’s natural and cultural assets.


This project will provide an exciting opportunity for local and regional stakeholders i.e. citizens, community groups, small businesses, tourism providers, schools, environmental agencies, public authorities etc to come together to collaborate on the development of:

  • New virtual tourism initiatives that will showcase all that the regions natural and cultural assets to wider audiences.
  • Business to consumer initiatives that will encourage visitors off the trails to explore what the wider hinterland has to offer such as cafes, craft shops, artisan foods, hotels, pubs, historical places of interest, environmental etc.
  • Sustainable destination management plans that will protect the very assets that visitor come to see.

If interested in finding out more about this project or how to become involved please contact your regional partner whose contact details are outlined below.

This project is co financed under Priority 4 ‘Enhancing biodiversity and the natural and cultural assets’; Programme Objective 4.2 ‘Enhancing natural and cultural assets to stimulate economic development ‘of the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme through the European Regional Development Fund.

For further information:

Michael Carty,
Senior Executive Engineer,
Local Enterprise Office,
Sligo County Council,
City Hall


Telephone:  071 9144779


The partners found a virtual space to gather and present their works, showcasing the first steps of the effective implementation of this European project, which promotes the sustainable development of rural communities on eight pilot trails in the Atlantic Area.

The team of the European TrailGazersBID project recently presented at the II Steering Committee the progress of their last technical proposals and their application on the eight trails participating in this pilot experience. The goal? To share technology and experiences to progress towards the environmental, economic and social development of natural areas and their local populations.

The project, which will last until March 2022, will, on the one hand, measure the socioeconomic return of investments in trail infrastructure helping to define criteria of greater efficiency. Secondly, explore improvements in the promotion of these natural spaces with the use of new technologies such as social networks, augmented reality applications and digital marketing tools.

Out of the ten partners, eight have pilot itineraries participating in the project: Plazaola (Navarra), Chemin De Mémoires (Brittany), Taff Trail (South Wales), La Caldera de Taburiente (Canary Islands), Knocknarea/Killaspugbrone Loop (North West Ireland), Inch Levels (Northern Ireland), Sacred Mountain (Portugal) and Seven Hanging Valleys (Portugal).

Balance and monitoring

The online meeting, which replaced the face-to-face assembly in Merthyr (Wales) due to the Covid-19 crisis, served to monitor the progress made in recent months and to define the next joint steps.

The Knocknarea/Killaspugbrone Trails which were proposed to the Steering Committee for inclusion in an online tool that allows identifying the services, attractions and characteristics of the different itineraries.

Likewise, the official website designed by Nasuvinsa for the TrailGazersBID and an informative project brochure were advanced. The actions proposed in the field of participation to involve the population and extend the benefits of the project as much as possible were also presented. In the coming months, the Project Advisory Group will continue the programmed meetings and define, among other issues, the Community Ambassadors Programme sessions, that will take place in the area according to the interests and needs detected.

The Knocknarea/Killaspugbrone trails highlights among its strengths its ability to unite two unique recreational experiences, with the attractiveness of each of them and the potential of a joint promotion of over 11 kilometers of trail which have, Strandhill village at its core and easily reachable by public transport.

Additional strengths of the Sligo trails is that they are an established and developed recreational offering, with potential for future opportunities to be introduced which can be replicated through many of Co. Sligo outdoor trails. The project engagement will set an example for the rest of the Sligo Walks trail locations throughout Co. Sligo, which will be able to leverage the synergies and learning in terms of management and innovative promotion.

Data Capture and farther steps

The session continued with a discussion on data capture. A large amount of information has been collected from the pilot itineraries to conform exhaustive trail profiles of each one of them. In addition, the design of the user survey -which will provide information on the profile of the visitors using the trails- is about to be completed.

The University of Ulster presented the various sensors identified and argued which ones they consider most appropriate in each pilot itinerary. Finally, Louvigné du Désert presented the different initial proposals for the Community Ambassadors Programme, which should be held twice a year and be collected (with video, podcast, etc.) as far as possible in order to be distributed among interested people who cannot attend the events.

Various topics were scheduled to continue progressively working. 3D tools and possible virtual tours that will allow a better and more accessible visibility of the project spaces -these tools will be defined collectively, both from the communities and with the contributions of the partner entities- and the definition of the SME and tourist providers´ workshops, which will nourish local Business to Consumer initiatives, are two of those examples.

Of course, the best way to continue working given the health emergency generated by COVID-19 was discussed. TrailGazerBID suggested teleworking and the progress on internal tasks. The Project Advisory Groups are also planned to continue, online. The team proposed to analyze the situation of the participants in relation to their technological possibilities and technical knowledge. It will be a joint effort that wants to be promoted without leaving anyone behind. As the use of technologies is a focal point of the project, let´s lead by example and expand the technological possibilities.

2.5 million € budget

TrailGazersBID is co-financed by the Interreg Atlantic Area program, through the European Regional Development Fund, and has a budget of 2.5 million euros.

The study of the eight pilot trails represents an opportunity for local actors, community groups, municipal entities or small companies to collaborate in the development of new nature tourism initiatives. The resulting experiences will be translated into a transferable toolkit for the management and promotion of sustainable itineraries. A boost to rural development.

For further information: 

Michael Carty,
Project Manager,
Sligo County Council,
City Hall,
Quay Street,