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We can't promise Irish seas will be this blue... Family snorkelling via Shutterstock

Ireland to get its own snorkelling trail

The Blueway is currently being developed along the Galway and Mayo coast.

IF YOU EVER wanted to explore Ireland’s coastline in a whole new way, snorkelling could be the sport for you.

The Irish Underwater Council is encouraging people to get into their wetsuits and put on their snorkels, and get to see the seas in a new way.

Laura Taylor, sports development officer of the Underwater Council, came up with the idea for a Blueway trail. It will be a network of ‘free water trails’ at individual sites where people can take part in activities such snorkelling and kayaking, in a safe controlled environment.

Louise Gilligan is a full-time administrator and leading diver with the Underwater Council which promotes teaches and diving across the country as well as setting standards for their member clubs.

She explains that there are 80 diving clubs around the country. The council is looking to increase the number of snorkellers in Ireland, and the Blueway is part of that.

They are currently in the process of setting up snorkel groups around the countries, with one recently being set up in Skerries.

“We have really looked at snorkeling as next adventure sport,” said Gilligan. “It’s fun and family friendly. You could learn snorkelling with your children.”

All that is needed for snorkelling is a wetsuit, mask and snorkel. There are 4000 miles of coastline and “not many places you can’t snorkel in”, said Gilligan.

She said that snorkelling will show that the perception of Irish water as cold, and murky is not always true.
People are not advised to go out without training, and the council provides training and can also provide people to bring others out on a guided snorkel.

“Though it is a very family friendly sport, you still need to be trained on what to look out for,” said Gilligan.

Taylor explained that winter is the best time to learn snorkelling in the pool. She thought of the idea 18 months ago as there are some “really gorgeous snorkel sites” around Ireland and she wanted to build awareness of them.

Now the Blueway has Fáilte Ireland, the Ireland Canoe Union and three rural development cmpanies on board, as well as the National Trails Office.

They are nearly finished the pilot and hope to launch the Blueway early next year.

“We decided to pick five sites, five canoe trails and snorkel trails on the Mayo – Galway coastline. We linked in with the Trails Office,” said Taylor.

These are:

  • Boffin Harbour, Inis Boffin Island
  • Killary Fjord, Galway/Mayo border
  • Keem, Achill
  • Mannin Bay, Connemara
  • Old Head, Co Mayo

They have done risk assessments on the sites and currently are working on the signage. It is hoped there will be local guides available to bring people on guided snorkels at the sites.

During a trial on Achill island during the summer, 350 people over two months paid for guided snorkel trails, confirming the interest in the sport.

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