Wicklow Issues 24Apr24


Unfortunately there are numerous problems in accessing some traditional upland walks in Wicklow and public access to beaches and the shoreline is extremely limited along the 35 miles of coast as much of it is privatised by caravan parks and marinas. Even the famous Murrough is not a right of way, nor is the access to Magheramore Beach

Following a huge amount of work by members of Keep Ireland Open and some local groups to fight the closure of walks in Enniskerry and Wicklow Town the council planners explored their obligations and opportunities in preparation for the 2016 Wicklow County Development Plan This was helpful to bring clarity to the situation but still failed to register many traditional walks as public rights of way and failed to support many local communities deal with locked gates and fences that block well walked paths. The Council are frequently reluctant to go to court to enforce open access for fear that the current laws will not support them.

ENNISKERRY is a prime example of the inadequacy of current legislation. Old Coach Road, marked from 1760 was deemed not to be a public right of way, Supreme Court ruled against any further appeals, leaving a hefty bill for two members of Enniskerry Walkers Association.A GoFundMe appeal has been set up to assist addressing these costs. The Fund is already active HERE.
Alternatively donations can be lodged directly to the Enniskerry Walking Association via
Account name: Enniskerry Walking Association (EWA) IBAN: IE49AIBK93340608771042 (BIC AIBKIE2D)



More successful was the WICKLOW CLIFF WALK .

In 2016 a local group, Friends of the Murrough, succeeded in lobbying for a right of way along the cliff path from Glen Strand to Wicklow Head and found funding for the path to be upgraded to a level 4 standard in 2019. Wicklow Council took charge of this and made many concessions to the golf club to facilitate the work including fencing beside their land with many keep out signs in a previously open landscape. Despite this unfortunate addition, the walk is stunningly beautiful and is now maintained by the council who have taken it in charge.

At the southern end of the path there were problems with land owners regarding use of the concrete path leading back to the road and car park so the council put in a small loop rather than confront the issue of a disputed right of way there. Of course walkers continue to use the concrete path to the road but the council have not registered it as a right of way.


At the southern end of Cliff Walk, before walkers take the loop, the path leads towards the lighthouses which were always open to the public but the route is now blocked with locked gates, security cameras and unbadged persons acting as a security guards frequently in attendance. This is causing public anxiety: it is reported that the council are negotiating with landowners (August 2022) but currently we do not know to what effect. A Freedom of Information on the Environment request has been made to see whatever paper trail exists and we await a response. Meanwhile Keep Ireland Open are working with local people to organise a protest meeting on the site on 16th September 2023.

Keep Ireland Open are supported a protest walk to the Lighthouses on Wicklow Head on Saturday 16th September 2023, leaving from the Glen Turn carpark and walking out along the public footpath to the Lighthouse Road and the lighthouses.
Protesters want Wicklow County Council (WCC) to re-establish and make permanent access to the first two Lighthouse sites together with access right out to Wicklow Head.

Concerns have been raised by councillors during the year at the arbitrary closure of part of the access road to the Lighthouses on Wicklow Head, a Special Protection Area , by a local landowner but there seems to be no progress on sorting out this issue. Whilst WCC are to be commended for their registration of the Cliff Walk as a Right of Way and development and maintenance of the looped cliff walk, this is only accessible to those with good mobility.
Many locals use the Lighthouse Road for exercise, birdwatching, photography and other outdoor pursuits as it is a suitable surface to access the countryside within walking distance from the town. Traditionally this walk has been enjoyed by townspeople but recent years have seen locked gates, security guards and confrontations between one landowner and walkers. Fintan Clarke, a local activist of long standing, recalls this route has been used for as long as he can remember,
”This Irish Lights roadway has provided the only connection that people have with Wicklow Head, the most Easterly point of the Republic. It is a place of enormous national interest not alone because of its natural beauty but also because of its built heritage dating back to the late 1700’s.The people of Wicklow and potential visitors from further afield deserve better than to have this priceless heritage snatched away and one might ask what our public representatives intend to do about it”.
Wicklow Preservation Group member Sam Conway remembers when they entered the Lighthouse Road in the Pure Mile competition and won the Best Natural Heritage award. In order to enter the competition, permission was sought from the Irish Lights who have a private right of way there and maintain the road. Sam mentions that Irish Lights
“had no problem with members of the public walking the road down through the years. Now we have the very sad situation that people are deprived of walking the full length of the road […] and the Irish Lights and Wicklow County Council it would seem are unable or unwilling to get involved.”
Locals during the recent pandemic experienced the importance of access to a quiet, natural landscape for health, both physical and mental – and this benefit should not be denied by the actions of one individual. Direct action now is called for. Chairperson of Keep Ireland Open Robert Dowds believes this walk is an example of the problems with current legislation, “Even if Wicklow County Council negotiate a solution under the current legislation this could arise again. This is why Keep Ireland Open are campaigning for legislative change”.

Also successful was work to reopen the VARTRY RESERVOIR CIRCULAR WALK IN ROUNDWOOD.

Following years of lobbying a local group with the support of a local councillor and Irish Water, succeeded in getting significant government grants to upgrade 2 interlinked circular paths offering 20km of walks around Roundwood Reservoir, County Wicklow. In 2018 the Vartry Trail was opened by then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar following input of almost €158,000 of public money.

However in February 2022 access to a significant section of the Upper Trail was blocked off by an adjacent paintball business. Apparently a walker had been splashed by paint from the Paintball Operation.

The land on this section of the path was not owned by Irish Water but a local landowner who had leased his land to the business. The Paintball Operator, (who had not been consulted in the negotiations for the trail to cross the land) immediately blocked off the trail in response to concerns over potential insurance claims.

KIO submitted a Section 5 Query to ascertain if the barriers required planning permission but were unable to get sufficient evidence that this particular stretch of land was walked in the past 10 years and so legal attempts to get this problem remedied stalled. It is worth noting that such evidence is important to collect in any campaign.

The Council and the Sports Ireland refused to share any information but begged KIO not to protest for fear of angering the Operator and insisted that negotiations were ongoing. This must have been true but was it coincidence that the Trail was finally opened in October after being closed for six months – just days before our advertised protest meeting ?

The urgent need for new legislation is clearly shown by this situation where public money is wasted, the rights to walk denied, the Council refuse to keep locals informed and local businesses hold such power.

The Council have also finally got involved in attempting to enforce a notice to the caravan park owner at Seabank to take down a fence and unlock a gate that blocks public access to the coast and the stunning PORTER’S ROCK BEACH IN NORTH ARKLOW that has been enjoyed for over 150 years. Locals have formed Arklow Residents Rights Of Way (ARROW) and are awaiting a court date for their affidavits to be heard as supporting evidence for Wicklow County Council’s case against the leaseholders and their unauthorised development in 2017. After many months of inaction KIO campaigners succeeded in pushing this along and action in the High court will now begin at the end of April 2024

Whilst the gate has been re-opened due to local activists, other paths from the Arklow Bay Hotel and the local leisure centre that joined with the access lane remain blocked. This historical area of the town has been managed and nurtured by local groups such as the Tidy Towns; providing signage, planting memorial gardens for the Kynoch victims, maintaining paths, litter-picking, and was an amenity to both visitors and locals.

Walkers from the town walk along the top of the rip-rap until they reach the fence, chains, barriers and wire across the gravelled path. Despite the council having installed this path, this private individual has so disturbed the large boulders that only those with good mobility can access the rest of the path past the fence. Walkers with limited mobility or those with prams or buggies can see the beautiful sandy beach, can see walkers through the barrier who have accessed the coastal path via the access lane on the caravan park side, but must return along the rip-rap or via the lower path to the duck pond.

Another case that illustrates the need for legislation to support citizens and local authorities in preserving and maintaining rights of way.

See below for links press articles re this issue:






Just off the Wicklow Way and beside the Luggala estate is another traditional walk across the hills leading to the deserted Scotch Village. Much of the walk is marked on numerous maps but one small section that makes a useful loop is not mapped even though it is regularly walked.

This has now been blocked with a new fence and, as KIO now have photographic evidence of this section being walked, we will be following this up with a complaint of unauthorised development.

Further issues have been raised with regard to an unauthorized development, an electric gate, on the road leading to CALLOW HILL FORESTRY, NEWTOWNMOUNTKENNEDY which has been habitually open and used as a means of access to Callow Hill Forestry.

At the entrance to the forestry off this road, Coillte have erected a sign, the purpose of which is to notify walkers of restrictions in place (no motorbikes, dogs to be kept on lead, etc.). This sign was put in place precisely because it was recognized that this entrance is used by members of the public. This entrance to Callow Hill Forestry cannot now be accessed by locals.
It is an established right of way for Coillte and for locals who have traversed this route to access the Callow Hill Forest for generations. The erection of signs for walkers by Coillte at the entrance to Callow Hill Forestry is clear indication of the established use of this entrance. This entrance can only be accessed by using this roadway that is now blocked by this unauthorized development.
To date the Council’s response has been to quote the Supreme Court decision of Walsh and Cassidy v County Sligo County Council that enforcement action of an amenity route that is not listed for preservation as a public right of way is extremely onerous with potential legal costs. However, this case is significantly different in that the route is along a roadway and does not go through any private garden, farmyard or farm land, all of which is fenced along the route.

The council have suggested that the roadway is deemed to be a private road however the evidence of this is unclear.

The website https://wicklow.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer does not distinguish this road as private. It does show this road to be a through-road accessing the Coillte Callow Hill Forest (as indeed does the Coillte website which specifically references this forest as a public amenity) and local residents maintain that this route was surfaced with tarmacadam by Wicklow County Council some years ago.

People have confirmed that they walked to the Coillte Woods using this road 40 years ago. Photographs submitted to Wicklow County Council confirm that Coillte believes walkers access the Callow Hill Forest using this route. At the entrance to the Callow Hill Forest, signs informing walkers that the alternative laneway is “private land” confirms that locals are also clearly aware that walkers historically use this route.

Planners in KIO will submit a section 5 query to the council asking if this or is not development and if we do not get a positive response will pursue the matter to An Bord Pleanala. This is a reliable way to establish the facts though it is a matter of concern that the draft Planning Bill would remove this option .