Minister officially opens Clare tourism projects

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, today visited County Clare to mark the completion of three tourism projects in the north and west of the county.

The Minister officially opened the recently upgraded Loop Head Lighthouse Visitor Experience in Kilbaha and Vandeleur Walled Garden and Visitor Centre in Kilrush. The Minister also will travel to Lisdoonvarna to meet with representatives of Lisdoonvarna Fáilte to view projects recently funded by her Department to the value of €691,000 before finishing her scenic visit to the county in Kilfenora where she will officially open the Burren Exhibition Centre.

Minister Humphreys said, “I am very pleased to be here in Clare today to visit projects funded under my Department’s Rural Investment Programme.

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“I was delighted to officially open two significant tourism projects, the Loop Head Lighthouse Visitor Experience project and the Vandeleur Walled Garden and Visitor Centre project. These projects benefited from an investment of over €3 million from my Department’s Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

“I also officially opened the Burren Visitor Centre project which received funding of €200,000 from my Department’s Town and Village Renewal Scheme.”

Minister Humphreys’ first visit of the day was to the upgraded Loop Head Lighthouse Visitor Experience. Funded by the Minister’s Department under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) scheme as part of Project Ireland 2040, with 25% match funding by Clare County Council, the completed works include the restoration and conservation of the historic lighthouse keeper’s cottages and a new visitor hub with interpretation panels featuring stories from the local area. The total investment for this project is €1,623,800.

Further investment is also earmarked for the historic 17th century landmark after An Bord Pleanála last month granted planning approval to Clare County Council for the development of new visitor experience facilities, a looped walking trail network, the construction of a new visitors’ carpark, the installation of wayfinding signage, and the upgrade of the existing wastewater system.

The Minister was welcomed to Loop Head by Cllr Gabriel Keating, Leas-Chathaoirleach of Clare County Council, and Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council.

“The future for this attraction is as bright as the light that beams overhead us,” said Cllr Keating. “The progress in further expanding and improving the tourism offering could not have been achieved without engagement with key stakeholders including the Department and the local authority, Elected Members, the Commissioners of Irish Lights, Loop Head Tourism, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Fáilte Ireland.”

“Developments such as these do not happen overnight nor by accident. Instead, they are the result of careful planning that involves the community and, ultimately, the support of Government Departments,” added the Leas-Chathaoirleach.

Mr Dowling said, “With continued Government support, Clare County Council is committed to investing in the future development of this attraction and other sustainable tourism developments across Clare. Investment in our tourism infrastructure is in line with the Clare Tourism Strategy 2030 and the Clare Rural Development Strategy, which seek to assist rural regeneration and create opportunities for economic growth and employment in the wider region.”

The Minister’s next visit was to Vandeleur Walled Garden and Visitor Centre, which also has been the subject of considerable investment by her Department. A new interpretive centre was recently completed along with the newly renovated stable block, a gardener’s maintenance building and public toilet facilities as well as the recently completed resurfacing of the public carpark and other ancillary service works. The total investment past and planned for this project is €4,205,828.

Addressing the Minister and invited guests at the Kilrush visitor attraction, Cllr Joe Cooney, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, said, “As a longstanding member of Clare County Council, I am very aware of the time, energy and creativity required to build a sustainable tourism product and one that injects life back into our communities. The Vandeleur Walled Garden and Visitor Centre is one small example of the benefits of the collective working to achieve something bigger than themselves for the benefit of everyone who lives in and visits this part of County Clare.”

Cllr Ian Lynch, Cathaoirleach of West Clare Municipal District (MD), stated, “We are proud of the tourism and community facilities that have been developed here and we are grateful for the role played by Clare County Council and the Minister’s Department. Kilrush Amenity Trust, with the support of the local authority, has delivered a visitor attraction that has firmly placed Kilrush and tourism in the wider region on the map.”

“I want to acknowledge the significant funding support of the Department and Clare County Council, as well as the support received from Coillte and the staff and management of the Centre for steering the development of this historically important site,” commented Noel Kilkenny, Chair of Kilrush Amenity Trust. “The ongoing enhancement of the overall tourism offering at the attraction, including the development of a 140-seat indoor and outdoor café and restaurant, will assist us in growing Vandeleur’s growing reputation as a signature attraction in County Clare.”

From Kilrush, the Minister will travel to Lisdoonvarna to officially open two projects; namely the Astro Turf and Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA), which were both funded under the Community Recognition Fund, in recognition of the warm welcome provided by the Lisdoonvarna community to new arrivals. In addition, she will visit the Heritage Trail, funded under the LEADER programme through Clare Local Development Company (CLDC), and view the improvements to the streetscape vista in the town, which were funded under the Streetscape Scheme.

The Minister’s final visit of the day is to officially open the Burren Exhibition Centre which received funding under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme. The Minister will also avail of the opportunity to view other recently completed works to the centre funded by her Department under the LEADER programme administered by CLDC. Located in the heart of the ‘City of the Crosses’ next to the ancient Kilfenora Cathedral, the popular attraction offers visitors a glimpse into the people, heritage and music of the Burren.

Visit for more information on Loop Head Lighthouse, Vandeleur Walled Garden and Visitor Centre and Burren Centre Café, Craft Shop and Exhibition.


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