A new 115km walking trail connecting historic parts of south Tipperary and west Waterford was officially opened this morning, coinciding with the announcement of 31 more trails nationwide.

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, performed the opening of St Declan's Way at Mount Melleray Abbey in Co Waterford, marking the culmination of years of work by local communities.

She also announced funding for up to eight new rural recreation officers to deliver the Government's "walk's scheme" which includes 31 new walking trails in 13 counties.

There will now be 80 official walking trails across the country, with funding being provided to farmers and other landowners to help maintain routes that travel through their property.

St Declan's Way in Waterford and Tipperary is an example of the sort of trail to be promoted under the walk's scheme, she said.

The trail runs from Ardmore to Cashel and has long been part of local heritage and folklore, recalling the journey made by St Declan in the fifth century from his Ardmore monastery to Cashel which was the seat of the kings of Munster.

Local communities along the way came together in recent years to make the ancient path accessible and walk-able and now it's expected to become a key attraction for this little-heralded part of the country.

According to the Waterford Leader Partnership, who supported the project along with counterparts in South TIpperary as well as the two relevant county councils, the walk could end up being used by 20,000 people every year.

The initiative was also backed by Minister Humphreys's department under the Rural Recreation Fund, with the work co-ordinated by the St Declan's Way Management Committee, a voluntary group made up of representatives of local communities along the trail.

Other routes to be supported in the coming months include the Dingle Way in Kerry; the Ballyhoura Way in Limerick; the South Leinster Way in Kilkenny; the Cavan Way, the Wicklow Uplands Way; the Lung/Lough Gara Way in Roscommon; and the Sli Gaeltacht Mhuscrai in Cork.

"Our walkways, trails, greenways, blueways and cycleways are a defining feature of rural Ireland," Minister Humphreys said.

"They have been a godsend throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, providing so many of us with the opportunity to get out for some exercise and to meet up with family and friends.

"By adding 31 new trails to the walks scheme, we are opening up our rural countryside further to walkers, hikers, adventurists, cyclists, as well as domestic and international tourists."