Fáilte Ireland, in partnership with the Office of Public Works (OPW), has today announced a major investment of €4.3 million in four key heritage sites along the Wild Atlantic Way, which will enhance the visitor experiences at each location.
The investment, which forms part of Fáilte Ireland’s strategic partnership with the OPW, will significantly enhance the visitor experience and views at key locations, with new exhibitions and major upgrades. Fáilte Ireland is providing up to 75% of the funding for the projects from its Capital Grants budget, with the remainder of the funding being provided by the OPW.
The four heritage sites to benefit from this investment are:
- Blasket Island Visitor Centre in Kerry (Total investment of €2.25 million with Fáilte Ireland grant support of €1.69 million), which will see the development of a new signature viewing point and a number of interpretive galleries at the Centre, helping to enhance the visitor experience. It is hoped that this investment will lead to a doubling of the visitor numbers at the Centre to 100,000;
- Céide Fields in Mayo (Total investment of €1.15 million with Fáilte Ireland grant support of €862,000) – the Visitor Centre will be enhanced with a brand new exhibition and interpretation space to showcase new archaeological material and knowledge about the site and the surrounding area;
- Inis Mór in the Aran Islands, Galway (Total investment of €600,000 with Fáilte Ireland grant support of €450,000) – There will be a major upgrade of the existing Visitor Interpretation Centre at Dún Aonghasa and the introduction of interpretative information at other key sites on the Island under the guardianship of the OPW, such as Dún Duchathair;
- Carrowmore in Sligo (Total investment of €350,000 with Fáilte Ireland grant support of €262,500) - The visitor exhibition will be improved and updated with information about the monuments at Carrowmore, as well as the nearby ancient sites at Knocknarea and Carrowkeel. This will enable visitors to use the Carrowmore Centre as a hub to explore the archaeology of the area.
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D., visited the Blasket Island Visitor Centre today to see first-hand the way in which the new signature viewing point will transform the site.
He said: “We are very lucky in Ireland to have such breath-taking natural scenery and heritage, and the Blasket Islands, Céide Fields, Inis Mór and Carrowmore are some of the finest examples of this.
“It is incredibly important that we make the most of our cultural riches and boost the visitor experience wherever possible. I am delighted to see Fáilte Ireland and the OPW working in partnership to improve and transform many key heritage sites like these, opening them to even more tourists, enhancing the visitor experience and growing regional tourism. Investment through strategic partnerships like this is a key contributor to maintaining Ireland’s reputation as a brilliant place to visit.”
Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran T.D., added: "The OPW has a world-class portfolio of heritage sites which are enjoyed by millions of visitors every year. All of these sites have natural beauty and a unique story to tell, and this partnership will enable us to both invest in the future and preserve the past for future generations to enjoy.
“Through our ongoing partnership with Fáilte Ireland we are significantly improving and transforming 14 OPW heritage sites around the country, with many more to come in the future”.
Speaking about how today’s investment will benefit the Wild Atlantic Way, Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, said:
“The tourism sector is an integral part of our economy, providing 235,000 jobs and generating an estimated €7.2bn in revenue. Last year Fáilte Ireland invested over €60 million in 40 tourism capital projects. Our partnership with the OPW is reflective of Fáilte Ireland’s determination to work with all parties to grow tourism in a sustainable manner and is critical to unlocking the full potential of the west’s landscapes and heritage to drive tourism-based economic and employment growth”.
Today’s announcement follows previous investments of €11.5 million from Fáilte Ireland for 10 key OPW projects in Dublin and within the Ireland’s Ancient East region last year. Fáilte Ireland’s strategic partnership with the OPW and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is one of a number of engagements the tourism body has entered into with other State agencies to work together to grow tourism. It has also partnered with Coillte and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to develop visitor experiences.
The 10 OPW projects which Fáilte Ireland provided funding for under the partnership last year were:
- The Record Tower, Dublin Castle, Co. Dublin - €3m
- Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, Co. Meath - €2.58m
- Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary - €1.78m
- Knowth, Co. Meath- €1.4m
- Newgrange, Co. Meath - €1m
- Ormond Castle, Co. Tipperary - €585k
- King John’s Castle, Carlingford, Co. Louth - €400k
- Glendalough, Co. Wicklow – €349k
- The Phoenix Park, Co. Dublin (tourism and amenity study) - €300k
- Boyne Valley, Co. Meath (Interpretation Masterplan) - €120k
The Céide Fields Visitor Centre stands in a remote and scenic clifftop location at Ballycastle on the North Mayo coast. It is located beside some of the most spectacular cliffs and rock formations in Ireland and a viewing platform is positioned on the edge of the 110m high cliff.
It highlights the archaeological history of the Neolithic period and celebrates in particular the hugely complex and extensive remains of ancient field systems and habitations. The stone walled fields, extending over thousands of acres are almost 6,000 years old, the oldest known in the world. They are covered by a natural blanket bog with its own unique vegetation and wildlife. The Visitor Centre has won a number of awards, including the RIAI Gold Medal for architecture and a Europa Nostra Diploma of Merit. Most recently, the Céide Fields was awarded the prestigious Carlo Scarpa international landscape award for Gardens.
The Blasket Centre is located on the mainland in Dún Chaoin on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. It tells the story of the unique community who lived on the remote Blasket Islands until their evacuation in 1953. The location has been designated as a Wild Atlantic Way Signature Discovery Point due to its cultural richness. The Blasket Centre tells of island life, subsistence fishing and farming, traditional life including modes of work and transport, home life, housing and entertainment. The Centre details the community’s struggle for existence, their language and culture, and the extraordinary literary legacy they left behind - classics such as ‘The Islandman’, ‘Twenty Years A-Growing’ and ‘Peig’. Their story is told using a variety of means - exhibitions, interactive displays, artefacts, audio visual presentations and artworks.
Dún Aonghasa Visitor Centre in Inis Mór is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts of the Aran Islands. The fort consists of three massive dry-stone walls and a chevaux-de-frise, a dense band of jagged, upright stones, surrounding the fort from cliff to cliff, designed to impede attackers. Originally constructed c.1100BC, it was re-fortified around 700-800 AD. Excavations revealed significant evidence of prehistoric metalworking, as well as several houses and burials.
Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery is the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland and is also among the oldest, with monuments ranging from five thousand years to six thousand years old. It is a visitor site within easy driving distance (approx. 6 km) of Sligo Town which celebrates the history of the largest collection (30 visible) of megalithic tombs in Ireland, representing some of the country’s oldest monuments dating from up to 5,800 years ago.