When I came home to Ireland in 1996 and installed myself in Westport at the time, I was amazed to find the old railway spur from Westport to Achill Sound lying disused.

Well, 14 years later, at last, the section from Newport to Mulranny is to be opened in early 2010 as a superb cycle and walking route.

Named the “Great Western Way”, this off-road track will be a 17.5 km peaceful, safe and truly beautiful route for walking and cycling. The track will, of course, retain old railway bridges and retention walls, which are really attractive features. At certain points along the way, there are wonderful views out over Clew Bay, to the West, as well as into the Nephin Beg mountain range, to the East. I know this, because I’ve walked it on more than one occasion.

The potential is clearly there to extend this route in the future, in both directions, on to Achill and Westport. What a pity it is that this wasn’t undertaken long ago – because several sections of the railway were lost to building in the 1990s, most particularly coming out of Westport and at the northern end of Newport village. Still, it’s better late than never and I, for one, will certainly be leading groups along it in 2010.

Looking forward to that. Great stuff.