*Holy Island (Inis Cealtra). 

EAST CLARE TOURISM is set to be put on the map following the allocation of funding to create a visitor centre at Holy Island (Inis Cealtra).

With the provision of €3,906,252 from the RRDF, the way has been cleared for an ambitious tourism and regeneration project to develop Mountshannon and the broader East Clare area as an international visitor destination. Clare County Council have committed to invest €1m in the project.

This will transform the Old Rectory in Mountshannon into the gateway to one of the most significant ecclesiastical sites in Ireland.

According to the local authority, the Inis Cealtra (Holy Island) Visitor Experience has the potential to sustain 12 full-time equivalent jobs and create an additional 116 jobs through stimulated employment.

From a current base of a few hundred visitors a year, the estimates are for 20,000 visitors in the first year of operation, rising to 75,000 after five years generating an annual spend of €4.3 million.

Costs of repurposing the Old Rectory for visitor facilities will be aided through the RRDF allocation. It will also assist in acquiring land for parking; delivering upgraded wastewater treatment in Mountshannon and providing upgraded public realm spaces in and around the village.

The project received funding of €920,500 in 2019 for the design of visitor facilities while the Old Rectory, which is an historic building dating from 1905, was purchased by the council last year. The council also owns Inis Cealtra which has links to other heritage attractions in the region.

Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND) commented, “Since the closure of the youth hostel in Mountshannon, the village and East Clare more broadly has fallen far behind the growth in tourism on Clare’s west coast. A new project, centred on the iconic Inis Cealtra / Holy Island and led by Clare County Council, will help put East Clare and Lough Derg back on the tourism map. Holy Island is very well known across East Clare but there is little promotion of the attraction beyond that. I am delighted that this is about to change due to the actions taken by Clare County Council over the years now being recognised by government with funding allocated for the visitor project in Mountshannon”.

Speaking at Wednesday morning’s meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District, the Council’s tourism officer, Joan Tarmey briefed councillors on the plans. “It is probably the most significant tourism project in East Clare, there is a feeling that the time has come from East Clare to shine and rightly so. It is a real prominent location within the village and it can contribute to the village very much. It is a catalyst project and a key offering within the area”.

Numbers to Mountshannon will be boosted, she predicted while outlining that there was an opportunity “to do something” with the village’s vacant buildings. She confirmed that the tender process for the project has commenced and that they expected the centre to be open for visitors by the third quarter of 2024.

Vision is needed to bring the former youth hostel in Mountshannon back into use to benefit from the forecasted tourism bounce, Cllr Pat Burke (FG) maintained. Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) felt it was a chance to rebalance tourism in the county, “there is a different way of life around Lough Derg and it’s a different tourism product as well. It will be the growth of this area”.

“This is really going to be the jewel in the crown for East Clare and Clare going forward, without some landmark like Holy Island we wouldn’t be able to build around it, we’ve taken the step forward and I think drive on from here and then East Clare and the entire Mid-Wwest region will benefit going forward,” Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) predicted. “It sends the message that Clare is open for business,” observed Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF). Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) expressed his hope that all councillors would be in situ following the 2024 local elections for the official opening.

Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) believed it was “a massive opportunity” to develop the area as a tourism destination. He said, “As a proud Mountshannon man I’m delighted to see this significant funding finally confirmed after hard work on this project for a number of years”. Dooley added, “Holy Island is one of the most significant ecclesiastical sites in Ireland and this project will be a great amenity for locals and tourists”.

Cathal Crowe TD (FF) was also hopeful extra visitor numbers would add a new dimension to the East Clare village “Mountshannon is a beautiful village and its location means it has huge potential in terms of a tourism stop-off. I hope, in time, this funding will see visitor numbers increase in Mountshannon and the surrounding area and help support employment locally”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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