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Friends of the Reeks

Background to the MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Access Forum


photo of Carrauntoohil Cross

The MacGillycuddy Reeks cover a large area, over 100km2, with the land entirely in private ownership. The McGillicuddy Reeks Mountain Access Forum which was established in mid 2014 came together to implement an action plan to sustainably manage this well-known and loved, but fragile, upland area.

The Mountain Access Project is an initiative of Comhairle na Tuaithe, the national body with responsibility for outdoor recreation, which is resourced through the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. The MacGillycuddy Reeks, along with Binn Shléibhe in Co. Galway, is one of two pilot areas where a permissive access model is being piloted, based on awareness of, and respect for, private land. This project is being supported by The Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government-Rural Recreation Section and the Interreg IVB Rural Alliances Programme, through South Kerry Development Partnership.

The Forum was set up after more than ten months of intensive consultation with key partners such as the landowners, responsible local and statutory agencies and authorities - Kerry County Council, National Parks & Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, community groups, recreational users, etc.

The consultation was carried out by SLR Consulting Ireland (SLR) as part of a Mountain Access Development Assessment for the Reeks, initiated on behalf of South Kerry Development Partnership, Dept. of Environment, Community and Local Government and Failte Ireland. The SLR report, finalised in March 2014, identified the need for the establishment and resourcing of an appropriate local management structure to oversee the MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Access Scheme.

Executive Summary

South Kerry Development Partnership Ltd SLR 501.00313.00001 MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Access Development Assessment March 2014


The concept of the pilot Mountain Access Scheme (MAS) was devised by Comhairle na Tuaithe, the national countryside council. In 2009, Comhairle nominated two areas for pilot mountain access schemes, Binn ShlÊibhe (Mount Gable) in Connemara and Carrauntoohil, Co Kerry, respectively. A pilot scheme is being progressed at Mount Gable. On examination of the proposed Carrauntoohil pilot mountain access scheme, it became evident that because of the extensive nature of hill walking in the area and the numerous potential access routes, that a more expansive approach was required. In that regard, it was proposed the pilot scheme should incorporate the complete MacGillycuddy Reeks which are Ireland's highest mountains.

The aim of the MAS was to formally agree recreational access with landowners on a mountain/mountain range or in selected uplands area, to facilitate recreational access to those uplands. The MAS would map out designated access points, provide indemnity to landowners against specified claims, provide adequate parking and related facilities and any additional infrastructure required to support the specified recreational activities. Access to upland areas should be carried out only in a manner that protects and enhances the natural environment, local habitats and ecosystems, while supporting rural development and development of the economic potential of local assets for the benefit of landowners, local communities and other stakeholders. The MAS should also leverage the available public and private funding resources, including investigation of user charges / licensing/ donations/ philanthropy, commercial sponsorship and/or levies or contributions from commercial operators and beneficiaries. The overall aim is to ensure that use of the Mountain Access area and its associated facilities and services can be marketed and promoted, with clarity and confidence.

The Mountain Access Scheme is distinct from the existing Walks Scheme and is not generally intended to lead to development of marked walking trails or exchequer funded payments to landowners. The scheme should not generally involve the development or marking of trails on a mountain, other than where trail repair or construction is required to avoid environmental damage, or where there is a pre-existing trail. Recreational users are expected to and will be advised to be appropriately skilled and equipped when accessing upland areas. They will be so advised in relevant media when seeking information on mountain access areas.

Read more: Executive Summary

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