The new national outdoor recreation strategy 2023-2027 acknowledges that the goodwill of landowners in facilitating access to their lands must be respected by users, Minister of State for rural and community development Heather Humphreys has said.

The strategy is to shape the future of outdoor recreation over the next five years.

Its ambition is to work with landowners to “protect and enhance the access that is currently facilitated and seek to improve access in other locations”.

This will be done through the expansion of the walks scheme and changes in legislation.

Upland recreation

An upland recreation scheme is to be rolled out in the next five years, which would see path maintenance payments made to landowners.

The strategy will also look at ensuring that the needs of landowners and the outdoor recreation sector are reflected in proposed changes to the Occupiers’ Liability Act.

Clear communications are also to be developed which enables “better understanding of the landowner’s position around access and liability, and the personal responsibility of recreational users".


Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) hill farming chair Caillin Conneely said the strategy is a positive first step in addressing concerns of landowners surrounding access to land for recreational use.

“Recreational activities can bring huge economic benefits for rural communities. However, the role of the landowner should not be diminished compared to those accessing private land for recreational use.

“Without private landowners’ consent, users would not be able to access these spaces for recreational use,” he said.

In a meeting with the IFA, Minister Humphreys announced plans to further expand the walks scheme to 150 trails.

This target is set out in the strategy, with an expected completion date of the fourth quarter of 2024. No funding has yet been outlined to facilitate the expansion.

“The current walks scheme, which has been in existence for nearly 14 years, has proved very successful in developing tourism in peripheral and other rural areas throughout the country,” Conneely said.

“The expansion of the scheme will be a valuable support to farmers in the creation of walking routes and provide a significant boost to farm incomes for those participating.”