A POPULAR walking trail in Co. Wicklow has been closed after an alleged assault on the landowner by a hiker walking his dogs.
The Zig-Zags in Glenmalure Valley, which provides access to Lugnaquilla and is entirely on private land, was closed to the public with immediate effect following the incident on Sunday.
The owner, who had long allowed hikers to access his land provided they did not bring dogs, said the incident was 'the final straw' after previous abuse.
Pat Dunne was one of the first farmers in the country to operate an Agreed Access Route after the scheme's launch in 2007.
"The only request in return for open access to our land was that no dogs were brought onto the mountain due to the disturbance they can cause to livestock," said Mr Dunne, in a statement released by Mountaineering Ireland.
"It is not an unreasonable request as we have had many instances of sheep being mauled by dogs on the mountain.
Watch @rtenews SixOne for the latest on the incident on a farm in Glenmalure, Co Wicklow. The Dunne family had to close access to a popular walking route after what @TimCullinan_IFA called disgraceful behaviour. pic.twitter.com/jLcYFNqpSo
— Irish Farmers' Association (@IFAmedia) March 22, 2023
"However, over the years we have had many instances of verbal abuse with people as they ignored signage asking that dogs were not brought onto our lands.
"In one case this even resulted in a threat that our house 'would be burnt down'.
"The final straw came on Sunday, March 19 at 11.10am when, after repeatedly asking a man and a youth accompanying him to not bring their three dogs onto the track, he physically assaulted me, knocking me to the ground, before continuing up the mountain with the dogs."
'Sickened and disheartened'
Mountaineering Ireland said that while the closure was a blow to hikers, it fully supports Mr Dunne's decision.
"I am sickened and disheartened that Pat has suffered this assault," said Alan Lauder, Chair of the organisation's Access and Conservation Committee.
"He has worked closely with those in the access and recreation community to enable responsible access over his land and by doing so, has helped thousands of people to enjoy the Wicklow Mountains.
"The individual responsible has forced Pat to close this access route and in turn, has affected us all in the hillwalking community.
"We will support Pat and the Dunne family in recovering from this incident, and we add reassurance that the issues of responsible access, and of dogs in the uplands, will feature at the top of our agenda for action."
The Zig-Zags has long been a popular route for thousands of hikers.
It provides access from the base of Carrawaystick Waterfall to Lugnaquilla, the highest peak in Leinster.