Press Release: New Transformational National Outdoor Recreation Strategy launched, “Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors”

New Transformational National Outdoor Recreation Strategy launched, “Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors

29th November 2022: The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, has launched Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors – an ambitious and transformational National Outdoor Recreation Strategy.

This strategy will:

  • Support over 2.7m visitors take part in outdoor activities
  • Deliver major economic and health benefits
  • Focus on Hiking, Cycling, Wild Swimming, Kayaking & more
  • Expand the National Walks Scheme to 150 trails
  • Fund adventure tourism projects, with €14 million announced for development
  • Minister says: “I want to make Ireland the destination of choice internationally for outdoor adventures!”

Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors was developed in partnership with Comhairle na Tuaithe and is a collaborative cross-Government strategy that reflects the views of stakeholders and the public. The new strategy will set the stage to strengthen and support the sustainable development of the outdoor recreation sector in Ireland for years to come bringing huge economic and health benefits to communities across the country. The five year strategy was launched in Castlecomer Discovery Park in Co. Kilkenny.

Launching Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors, Minister Humphreys said:

“The pandemic awakened a new discovery to explore amongst the Irish public. When we were confined to our counties or we could only meet friends and family outdoors, we gained a new found appreciation for the unique amenities we have on our doorstep whether it’s our forest parks, our mountain trails, our rivers, our greenways or our stunning beaches.

“Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors is about building on this momentum. It is about the strategic development of Ireland’s Outdoor Recreation sector so we can deliver maximum benefits to communities across the country. 

“Those benefits are huge. Spending time outdoors supports our mental and physical health and it improves our quality of life. There also huge economic benefits, particularly for rural communities, with over 2.7m overseas visitors taking part in outdoor activities every year in Ireland.   Through this Strategy – I believe we can make Ireland the destination of choice internationally for outdoor recreation and adventure tourism.

Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors focuses on bringing a more joined-up and cohesive approach to the development of outdoor recreation infrastructure at both a national and county level. As part of the strategy new Outdoor Recreation Committees will be established in every County to ensure there is a focused and strategic approach to the development of local amenities.

Leave No Trace Ireland welcomes the launch of Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors – the new National Outdoor Recreation Strategy – which it says “marks a milestone in shaping connection to, engagement with, and preservation of the Irish outdoors.”

Leave No Trace Ireland Chief Executive, Maura Kiely, said the launch of the new National Outdoor Recreation Strategy represented the outcome of a detailed process of consultation involving a broad spectrum of stakeholders all of whom shared a common goal to support the development of outdoor recreation in Ireland.

Ms Kiely said:  “I believe the core Leave No Trace ethos of ethical, responsible and sustainable use of our outdoor spaces, will form a key element of the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy as it evolves from policy to practice.”

“This Strategy recognises the huge economic potential that the outdoor recreation sector holds, particularly for local, rural areas. It equally acknowledges as a key strategic objective the promotion of awareness and understanding of the need for caring, respectful and responsible enjoyment of the outdoors.”

Ms. Kiely added: “Leave No Trace Ireland welcomes the clear commitment in the Strategy to other core Leave No Trace principles, namely the protection of our natural landscapes, heritage, biodiversity and habitats.  It also recognises the need for the planned development and growth of the outdoor recreation sector that prevents adverse impacts on sensitive habitats, landscapes and species. We are greatly encouraged by this new strategy and look forward to working with the many agencies and interests at national, local and community level to implement Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors as a model for a caring and responsible national outdoor recreation sector.”

Concluding Minister Humphreys thanked stakeholders and the public for their engagement in developing the Strategy:

“Significant stakeholder and public engagement has been at the core of the development of this Strategy. I would like to thank the members of Comhairle na Tuaithe for their tireless work in developing the Strategy. Thanks to the high level of stakeholder and public engagement Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors is a truly collaborative Strategy that will set the stage to strengthen and support the sustainable development of the outdoor recreation sector in Ireland for years to come.

Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors – National Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2023-2027 is available here.




Grace Fox – Communications Officer, Leave No Trace Ireland: [email protected]


Editor’s Notes:

Leave No Trace Ireland

Leave No Trace Ireland is Ireland’s only outdoor ethics programme, which promotes the responsible use of the outdoors. Through education, research and partnerships, Leave No Trace Ireland enables and supports individuals, communities, organisations and companies in reducing the environmental impact of outdoor activities.


Our Rural Future

Our Rural Future is the whole-of-government policy for rural Ireland for the period 2021-2025. It represents a new milestone in the approach to rural development policy for Ireland and adopts a more strategic, ambitious and holistic approach to investing in and maximising opportunities for rural areas.


Comhairle na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council).  

Comhairle na Tuaithe is collaborative body which supports the development of outdoor recreation activities. It is comprised of representatives of farming organisations, recreational users and State bodies with a responsibility for, or interest in, outdoor recreation and the countryside. Its mandate is to act as a forum for consultation and collaboration between stakeholders and to advise the Minister on matters relating outdoor recreation.


National Outdoor Recreation Strategy

Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors – National Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2023-2027 was developed in collaboration with Comhairle na Tuaithe.


Definition of outdoor recreation

Physical activities that take place in the natural environment, such as walking, canoeing, mountain biking, orienteering and wild swimming. It does not include activities that take place outdoors on confined courses or pitches (such as golf, football, show-jumping) or motorised activities (such as quads/scramblers) with the exception of motorised mobility aids.



Examples of some of the key actions which will be delivered through Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors include:

  • The Department of Rural and Community Development to take a lead role ensuring a more strategic approach to outdoor recreation at a national level.
  • Sport Ireland to assume a co-leadership role, with the Department of Rural and Community Development, with a particular focus on guidance and technical experience.
  • Establish county structures including County Outdoor Recreation Committees and County Stakeholder Forums which will bring all the key stakeholders together.
  • Develop County Outdoor Recreation Plans identifying the amenities that are in the County and also the gaps. Agree the key priorities for the county to create a more strategic approach and ensure value for money.
  • Ensure greater emphasis on the management and maintenance of existing outdoor recreation infrastructure.
  • Continue to provide support to outdoor recreation businesses/enterprises through the Local Enterprise Offices, Local Development Companies and other channels.
  • Communicate updated information to landowners and recreational users on access and liability so that there is greater clarity and awareness.
  • Further expand the Walks Scheme.
  • Review approaches and models for physical access used in other countries, based on principles of respect for land ownership and responsible conduct.
  • Explore cross-border cooperation on key initiatives.
  • Develop new visitor management approaches for Ireland’s most crowded outdoor recreation sites.
  • Develop a communications campaign on responsible behaviour in the outdoors.
  • Increase the number of programmes and participants engaged in outdoor recreation, particularly from under-represented groups.
  • Establish methods to measure and review the engagement in, and the benefits of, outdoor recreation.



Ireland’s outdoors, a world of activities for all



To lead, guide and facilitate the sustainable development and management of outdoor recreation and increased participation, in order to realise social, health and economic benefits. We will do this whilst respecting the custodians of land and water, caring for the environment and promoting responsible recreation.



The strategic objectives of Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors are:

  • To create a more coordinated, cohesive approach at national and county level to ensure best use of our resources.
  • To protect the environment through better planning and development of outdoor recreation, in keeping with best practice management of landscape and habitats.
  • To create awareness of our outdoor opportunities and how to enjoy them responsibly.
  • To increase and support the number of people active in the outdoors, especially young people and under-represented groups.
  • To protect and improve access to the outdoors, for the benefit of all.
  • To improve the knowledge, skills and expertise of stakeholders and partners


€1.6 billion has been invested over the last four years to support the enhancement of natural spaces and the development of recreational amenities such as walking trails, blueways and greenways. This figure also includes funding provided through the Department of Transport’s Greenway funding and its Active Travel Investment Programme funding which supports the development of high-quality new and improved walking and cycling infrastructure. The Active Travel Investment Programme does not specifically focus on outdoor recreation, however the walking and cycling facilities developed through this programme provide a valuable and accessible resource for recreational users, as well as commuters.