The Irish Government has announced 62 new walking trails in 17 counties as part of the expansion of its National Walks Scheme. 

Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys announced the expansion on Wednesday, taking the total number of nationally recognized walking trails to 140. 

The expansion includes 62 way-marked walks and hikes across the country including five trails on islands Inis Meáin and Oileán Chléire. 

It will also bring National Walk Scheme Trails to Counties Wexford and Monaghan for the first time. 

The scheme is designed to boost outdoor recreation and rural tourism in Ireland and is a key element of "Embracing Ireland's Outdoors" - the Irish Government's Outdoor Recreation Strategy. 

The National Walks Scheme provides funding to farmers and other landholders to maintain trails that pass through their land, with over €15 million paid to farmers and landholders since the scheme was launched in 2017. The Government has spent a further €1.4 million on materials and maintenance of the trails. 

The latest expansion will see an additional annual investment of over €500,000 to rural areas through the scheme. 

The highlights of the latest expansion include a walking trail at the majestic Devils' Chimney in County Sligo and a trail at the Ardmore Cliff Walk in County Waterford. 

The scheme will also install a walking trail at the Dún Fearbhaí loop on Inis Meáin off County Galway. Dún Fearbhaí is a stone ringfort dating back around 2,000 years to the first century AD. 

Speaking at the launch of the expansion, Humphreys said the scheme will help make Ireland an international destination of choice for walkers and hikers. 

"We have a unique offering in terms of our natural landscape filled with mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, and sea," Humphreys said in a statement.

"Often these amenities can only be truly appreciated by crossing through fields and land owned by local farmers. The National Walks Scheme is about working in partnership with landowners so we can open up access to local communities and tourists to enjoy these wonderful hidden gems we have all across Ireland.

"I want to acknowledge and thank the work of all the farmers and landowners involved in the Walks Scheme who provide access to their holdings and who help to maintain the trails to a high standard for the benefit of a huge number of locals and visitors.

"Without the goodwill of farmers, we would not have access to many of our favorite tracks and trails. It is incumbent on all of us to use these amenities responsibly, respect local landowners, and of course – Leave No Trace.

"These trails allow people of all ages and ability the opportunity to enjoy open countryside, riverside walks, and mountain hikes. There is something for everyone, just put on your walking shoes and get out there and have a go."