Mention snorkeling and Ireland isn't a destination that exactly leaps to mind. Despite possessing some 4,000 miles of coastline, the perception of Irish water as being cold and murky isn't exactly encouraging for snorkelers. However, the Irish Underwater Council hopes to dispel that notion with its planned Blueway Trail. Featuring a network of ‘free water trails’ at individual sites, people will be able to participate in activities such snorkeling and kayaking in a safe, controlled environment.
With a total of 80 diving clubs around Ireland, the council is seeking to increase the number of snorkelers nationwide. “We have really looked at snorkeling as next adventure sport,” said Louise Gilligan, a full-time administrator and diver with the Underwater Council. “It’s fun and family friendly. You could learn snorkeling with your children, ” she added.
The Blueway now has Fáilte Ireland, the Ireland Canoe Union and three rural development companies on board, as well as the National Trails Office. A total of five sites, five canoe trails and snorkel trails were chosen on the Mayo – Galway coastline, with an official launch planned for early in 2014.
Risk assessments have been conducted on the sites and signage is currently being worked on. It is hoped local guides will be utilized to bring people on guided snorkels. During a trial on Achill island during the summer, 350 people paid for guided snorkel trails over a two-month period, confirming interest in the sport.