The South Galway river system is a unique and magical natural wonder. There are not many places in the world where the rivers appear and disappear so sporadically leading to elements such as swallow holes, rise and turloughs.
One of three main rivers in the Slieve Aughty western slopes, the Gort river starts off as the Owendalulleegh in the peaks of the Slieve Aughty Mountains and it winds its way down the mountain and into Lough Cutra.
It takes on its first alias as it leaves Lough Cutra at Russaun as the Beagh River where it flows flows over 4km and disappears into the punchpowel area- a massive imposing cavern.
It briefly makes an appearance for about 150m as the Blackwater river before it sinks underground again and flows west into the earth for 1/2 km. It reappears in again as the Cannahowana (Head of the river) river
This river then flows in towards Gort Town
It then flows out toward Lavally, Castletown where it flows past Castletown castle and goes underground to Kiltartan and again underground to Coole and once again undergrouund to Kinvara bay.
Gort River Walks – Greenways
While this river flows through Gort – there are no real amenities to access it and enjoy it. There are no real picnic spots. There are no walks along the river. The Gort river offers significant safe access potential around the town and the residents of Gort and South Galway would really benefit from amenities around the river and be able to stroll through them and take in the beauty.
“Walking along the meandering and modest Castlebar river evokes the happiest of childhood memories for me and I thank it for having provided us with so many watery backdrops to our young , playful imagination,” David Staunton, Castlebar. 
This type of a walk would also draw more tourists to town. especially with links to Coole Park, Garryland, Kilmacduagh and Ballylee- More tourism equates to more jobs for the towns and more value for the town.
If you want to see the potential of what a public river amenity in Gort could like – What about this then? The convent gardens show the potential of what can be done around the river.
Decades in thought
River walks in Gort have been talked about for decades. Over 30 years ago, Church Street residents, including Damien McGrath and Josie McInerney sketched a vision of a river walk a picnic/family area close to laneway behind Supervalu and then expanding a walkway both north into bridge Street and south toward Big Hopes swimming area.
Michael O’Grady also mentioned that 15-20 years ago, having a walking, cycle path along the river was factored into many of the developments along they way (Supvervalu, Convent development, Aldi) etc.
There is also potential on the other side of the river and linkage to Courtney’s Lane and up to the Lady Gregory hotel, Playground etc.
Many locals have also spoken about walks out Kinincha road and Pounds roads and beautiful (and long) walks/cycle paths crossing the river close to the Childrens graveyard also.
Sr. de Lourdes Fahy and Adrian Feeney have highlighted a wonderful walk which has becomes Gort’s Golden Mile, which won the Golden Mile competition run by Galway County Council and Galway Rural Development. This route is out the Kinincha road, by Gort River, swinging left into Ballynamantan and coming back out the Galway road the Gort side of the Coole Park Entrance. Adrian Feeney highlighted the merits of Gort’s Golden Mile;
“Views stretch across the countryside into Gort lowlands and across to the Sliabh Aughty Mountains. The mid section of the mile consists of a green road. Hedgerow birds are abundant all along the road. A beautiful thatched cottage (Hallinan’s house) can be seen on the roadside; this was the miller’s house in the olden days. This is a beautiful road that can be utilised by all members of the community,” he said.
The Burren Lowlands group also has been looking into the potential of river walks in Gort and may facilitate their progress.
This list of routes could go on and on, as we cover more and more of South Galway. There are some wonderful walks, and cycle routes emerging and we’d like people to share their visions of some South Galway potential projects!
Current Plans (?)
The Galway County Countil 2013-2019 Gort Local area plan outlines accessible network of greenway linkages and amenities through the town. Here is the zoning (in Green) for these amenities and as Michael O’ Grady mentioned, many of the developments over the past 20 years may have had to leave provision in for these ammenties.
Objective CF9 – Amenity Network (refer to Maps 2A/2B)
“Support the establishment of an accessible network of greenway linkages and amenities that provide safe and attractive circulation routes for pedestrians and cyclists for the enjoyment and recreational use of the entire community. This network will include an amenity walking circular route along the Kinincha Road returning via the river bank to George‟s Street. The network will also link together community facilities, amenities and built heritage features in the Plan Area and surrounding areas. Galway County Council will also seek to promote the functioning of greenway networks as wildlife corridors and habitats to enhance biodiversity and the natural environment.”
Objective CF10 – Linear Park along the Cannahowna/Gort River (refer to Maps 2A/2B)
“Ensure that any development of lands along the Cannahowna/Gort River which may incorporate a linear park and amenity walkway is designed to avoid lands that are identified in flood risk areas associated with the river. The existing river, riparian vegetation and nearby tree lines should be retained as part of the park and any new development along the river will be required to be compatible with the aim of achieving good ecological status for the Cannahowna/Gort River as well as having a positive relationship with the park, including high quality streetscapes, overlooking development and active/responsive ground floor uses, where appropriate. This will include the lands zoned Open Space (OS) both north and south of the Gort Bridge and Town Centre (C1) located to the north and south of the Gort River in the vicinity of the Pound/Kinincha Roads and in adjacent to the Gort Railway station.”
What’s the plan then? Galway County council seem to have have a good vision here for Gort w.r.t. the amenities – but where are with the 6 year objecives? how far have we progressed? 2019 is just around the corner!
Not only does the detailed plan for these amenities not exist – These amenities are now being threathen
Drowning the vision
There has been zero progress on the development of these Greenways/Amenities and in the past few months we have already seen this vision potentially under attack from misaligned proposed industrial development and vested interest. The proposed building of a massive Biogas plant, that would be accessed from Gort would potentially bring 121 Heavy-Goods-Vehicles (Tankers) in through Gort town and contradicts the stated objectives of “safe and attractive circulation routes for pedestrians and cyclists” outlined in the Local Areal Plan. (See – A vision for Gort – The Slurry Capital of Ireland?)
The proposed development plan contradicts so many other objectives of the plan that Galway County Council, through the inital stages of approvals are tettering this plan over a garbage bin. Only in the coming months will we see if they actually throw it in.
Will the overall amenity network/greenway linkages vision be threatened? Will Galway County Council be open to other developments that threaten this potential of these greenway linkages?
There are also concerns on how illegal dumping is being handled in some of these areas.
Probably because of these threats, in recent weeks, I’ve never heard as many echos of Gort river walks, Greenways etc. and it is gaining a lot of momentum and therefore potential. It’s through positive action that we can help protect and realize this vision of a several wonderful amenities for Gort and South Galway
- Highlight awareness of the wonderful natural resource that surrounds us in South Galway
- Organise groups, get support from local community and sketch out concept proposals – Look for some quick wins!
- Do a Call-to-Action from our elected representatives – County Councillors,TDs and Galway County Council – Get greenways for Gorgeous Gort!
The aim of this blog is to help raise awareness of the potential of a truly Gorgeous Gort and help you to keep you informed of this progress as this vision is realised!
Please share, leave a comment or join the ‘South Galway Vision’ Facebook page. Please send on feedback, corrections etc snd I can amend the blog
-  https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/travel/ireland/down-by-the-river-the-pleasures-of-a-bankside-stroll-1.3316566