Funding will create significant visitor attractions in Mayo, Galway and West Cork
Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring has announced €1.4 million in funding for three locations along the newly developed Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s first long-distance touring route and the keynote tourism project for 2014.
The funding is part of the overall €10 million being invested by Fáilte Ireland during 2014 to ensure that the route, which stretches from the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal to Kinsale in Co. Cork, draws significant interest from overseas visitors.
The funding includes:
A €403,000 allocation towards the first phase of a Galway Greenway (similar to the walking/cycling trail in Mayo) which will run through central Connemara, linking Oughterard to Clifden;
A €640,000 grant to develop a “must-see” Signature Discovery Point for visitors at Downpatrick Head, North Mayo including an iconic “Spirit of Place” installation (complementing six others in North Mayo) built around a blowhole which will allow visitors to actually walk around its rim and experience it in a safe manner;
A grant of €364,000 towards the restoration of the Signal Tower at the Old Head of Kinsale as a further “must-see” Signature Discovery Point and viewing point.
Minister Ring said: “The Wild Atlantic Way is a game-changer for the west. It has massive potential to bring more visitors and more jobs to rural communities right along the western seaboard. Today’s investment is about developing must-see attractions along the route. It helps to make the route even more tempting and ensures that we develop its full potential to deliver and hold onto the greatest number of tourists.”
The Wild Atlantic Way is the top tourism project this year and the Government has allocated significant investment of €10 million.
Fáilte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn added: “The Wild Atlantic Way is an evolving project which will build and develop over the years and will significantly benefit those counties it traverses. The investment announced today will ensure the new route delivers on its ability to drive extra visitor footfall and become one of the most significant developments in modern Irish tourism as well as a significant engine of regeneration for rural Ireland.”
Down Patrick Head Projects
There will be a development at Downpatrick Head of a ‘Signature Discovery Point’ in North Mayo – a standout ‘must see’ site along the Wild Atlantic Way.
The central work at this site will be the Blowhole Commemorative Installation, which is being designed and installed by American architect Travis Price, who has collaborated with Mayo County Council over the past seven years on an annual ‘Spirit of Place’ installation on a variety of sites around Mayo, including the ‘Tale of the Tongs – The Gathering’ installation on Inishturk which was completed in 2013 for the Gathering.
The Blowhole Commemorative installation will consist of a walkway around the rim of the blowhole which will allow the visitor to experience the natural blowhole in a safe manner. A visitor experience of such close proximity is not possible at many other blowhole sites in Ireland.
The project will represent one of the key, must-see Signature Discovery Points along the WAW. It will form a compelling reason to visit the North Mayo stretch of the route and will act as a gateway to Erris and the Belmullet Peninsula.
It will also complement and augment existing attractions in the area, the most notable of which is the Céide Fields to the east as well as the other six ‘Spirit of Place’ installations in various locations in North Mayo, all of which are located on or very close to the WAW.
The funding allocated will also cover the restoration of an old World War II Watch Tower, conservation measures for St. Patrick’s Chapel, some improvements to existing car parking facilities and additional signage and interpretation.
First Phase of the Galway Greenway
This project will be a key tourism infrastructure investment on the Galway section of the Wild Atlantic Way.
The project will be multifunctional primarily serving international and domestic tourists, but also local recreational users including cycling and walking visitors, young families, school pupils and more serious sports cyclists.
The Greenway will form a strategic element of the National Waymarked Way walking trail network and will complement the comprehensive range of existing recreational walks throughout the county including the long distance Western Way route and network of Looped walks developed in recent years.
The project is also of national importance. It will form an important part of the proposed National Cycle Network and so offer users 78 km of traffic free cycling. The Greenway will ultimately link two of Irelands best established tourism destinations – Galway via Oughterard to Clifden. However this phase will initially concentrate on the Oughterard to Clifden section. A Cycle Hub has been recently developed in Clifden.
It is envisaged that this project will be developed to at least the same high standard as the Mayo Greenway Project which stretches from Westport to Achill. A recent Economic Impact Study carried out by Fitzpatrick Economic Consultants concluded that all direct expenditure associated with the Mayo Greenway project would amount to a projected €7.2m in spend in the local economy over a full year in 2011. The estimates suggest that almost €3m of this expenditure comes from overseas visitors.
Old Head of Kinsale Signature Discovery Point
The development at the Old Head of Kinsale Signature Discovery Point is as follows:
Restoration of the Signal Tower as a Panoramic Viewing Point and associated interpretation;
Re-creation of the associated Flag-and-Ball Signalling System;
The development of a coach and car parking.
The project will represent one of the key, “must-see” Signature Discovery Points along the WAW. It will form a further compelling reason to visit this stretch of the route. In itself, the Old Head of Kinsale is of major significance in the story of the Lusitania given that it is the closest point visitors can get to the site of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania and its close proximity to Kinsale where some of the victims are buried. The sinking of the Lusitania was not only a dramatic and tragic event in itself, but it is also significant in US history given its association the eventual entry of the United States into the First World War. The centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania is on 7th May 2015.
The Kinsale Signature Discovery Point also will be the first / last Signature Discovery Point on the Wild Atlantic Way and consequently has a further significance in this regard. The development will increase dwell time on the route and will undoubtedly benefit the town of Kinsale and surrounding region.
Funding for the preparation of a Feasibility Study and for technical assistance had been previously awarded to the Lusitania Museum/Old Head Signal Tower Heritage Limited, by the West Cork Development Partnership.
The Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s first long-distance touring route. Stretching from the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork, the route will offer visitors an opportunity to truly discover the West Coast. Following a comprehensive public consultation process, the 2,500km route has been finalised and includes 159 discovery points along the way. At this stage the route comprises of a main spine but in time, a series of looped itineraries will be created to further develop the experience for visitors.
Towns and Villages of the Wild Atlantic Way
Peppered right along the Wild Atlantic Way are a wealth of colourful towns and villages within which the visitor can engage with the real spirit of the west coast of Ireland. Ireland’s traditional heart is alive and well in these towns and villages where the visitor will bump into the locals and hear the music and stories that that make the Wild Atlantic Way so special.
The Wild Atlantic Way has also identified 159 existing viewing points and lay-bys which will act as ‘Discovery Points’ with €2 million being invested in these throughout 2014. Along the route, these points are distinct sites, large and small, each chosen for their potential to offer visitors an authentic and intimate experience of the natural and wild landscape and seascape. A Discovery Point is a viewing point at which the visitor can stop off along the route and learn more about that place by means of on-site information and interpretation.
Ultimately, as the Wild Atlantic Way funding is invested, the presentation of the parking facilities at each point will be improved which will serve as the arrival points for each site. Preliminary interpretation will also be provided at each site during 2014. They will afford the Wild Atlantic Way farer the opportunity to rest, catch their bearings and explore all there is to offer at each particular location.
All the 26 offshore west coast islands are also Discovery Points and each of these will have branded ‘Embarkation Points’ on the route to provide direction and access to the islands.
Signature Discovery Points – ‘15 Wonders of the Wild Atlantic Way’
Along the Wild Atlantic Way, 15 of these 159 Discovery Points have been identified as being “Signature Discovery Points” – in other words, iconic must-see sights along Ireland’s west coast.
Of these 15 iconic sites, three are already well-established visitor attractions and will require minimal work to play their part – Sliabh Liag in Co Donegal, the Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare and Mizen Head, Co Cork. Fáilte Ireland, in conjunction with the relevant Local Authorities, are assessing and prioritising the remaining 12 sites in terms of future development. It is envisaged that detailed plans will be commissioned for each site by the end of 2014 and implementation will be begin in early 2015.