Funding boost helps plans gain traction for cycling and walking track at old railway line past the Dark Hedges of Game of Thrones fame

The former railway line runs under this bridge close to the Dark Hedges

Plans to open up an old railway line to allow people to be able to walk and cycle past the ‘Dark Hedges’ made famous by ‘Game of Thrones’ have been given a boost.

As part of a £200,000 investment for eight new ‘Greenway’ designs, the Ballymoney to Ballycastle link has been given £25,000 to assist with the development of a detail design for the project.

It is estimated it could cost millions of pounds to open up the long-closed former Ballycastle Railway route which ran for 17 miles from Ballymoney, including underneath the Bregagh Road where the ‘Dark Hedges’ are.

The narrow gauge railway opened in 1880 and closed in 1950.

The Dark Hedges became an overnight tourism sensation after they featured as ‘Kings Road’ in Game of Thrones.

The Department for Infrastructure and the Public Health Agency have announced funding of £200,000 to develop plans for eight new Greenway schemes.

The funding has been provided under Stage 3 of the ‘Small Grants Programme for Greenways’ and will award £25,000 for the development of detailed designs for each project proposal across the four council areas of Newry, Mourne and Down, Antrim and Newtownabbey, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and Causeway Coast and Glens.

The eight successful Greenway proposal projects are as follows:

Downpatrick to Newcastle
Downpatick to Comber
Doagh to Larne
Craigavon to Aghagallon
Portadown to Caledon (via Armagh)
Portadown to Moy
Banbridge to Scarva
Ballymoney to Ballycastle

The old railway tunnel near the Dark Hedges.

Andrew Grieve from the Department for Infrastructure said: “Exercise – Explore – Enjoy: a Strategic Plan for Greenways, sets out the Department’s ambition for the creation of a 1,000km network across Northern Ireland.

“This funding will help more Councils to develop Greenway projects that align with that plan and we look forward to seeing their proposals move towards fruition.”

Mary Black, Assistant Director for Health Improvement at the Public Health Agency, added: “We are delighted to be working with the Department for Infrastructure to support Greenway development as the Greenways provide opportunities for children and adults to incorporate walking and cycling into their everyday lives, whether for active travel, recreation or health.

“As many adults and children are not taking the recommended amounts of physical activity, enhancing the infrastructure to help everyone get more active is a positive step.

“Being physically active can help prevent a number of serious health conditions and can cut your risk of heart disease and some cancers, as well as reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and joint pain. It also helps to boost mood and reduce depression and anxiety.”

In August 2017, three Councils (Mid and East Antrim, Lisburn and Castlereagh and Ards and North Down) were each awarded a grant of £25,000 to develop a detailed design for their proposal. These were completed in March 2018.

North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has welcomed the boost for the Ballycastle to Ballymoney project.

In a statement to ‘Ballymena Daily’ he said: “I really am an enthusiastic supporter of these Greenway projects. They will bring real positive benefits to the local and wider communities.

“They allow for greater active transport options, they are a safe environment for walking and cycling but they also link towns and villages providing a great economic and tourism potential.

“The £25k to further explore the Ballycastle to Ballymoney Greenway is particularly welcome. Whilst we are only at the initial stages of this project I have no doubt the economic benefit a Greenway along this route linking these towns would bring to this part of North Antrim.

“This is something the whole community should get behind.”



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