*Pictured at the official opening of Loop Head Lighthouse Visitor Experience in Kilbaha South were (l-r): Kitty Garvey, whose late husband Brendan was the Loop Head’s final lightkeeper before the lighthouse was automated by the Commissioner of Irish Lights (CIL) in 1991; Cllr Tony O’Brien, Cathaoirleach, Clare County Council; Leonard Cleary, Director of Rural Development, Clare County Council; Deirdre O’Shea, Head of Tourism, Clare County Council; and Colette Costello, Head of Operations, Loop Head Lighthouse & Vandeleur Walled Garden.
Loop Head Lighthouse Visitor Experience has swung open its doors for the first time in two years following a €1.2m upgrade.
Located at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary with its origins dating back to the 1670s, the lighthouse was first opened to visitors in 2011 and has since become one of West Clare’s most popular attractions. The lighthouse also is one of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland and is one of the county’s two Signature Discovery Points along the route of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Kitty Garvey whose late husband Brendan was the Loop Head’s final lightkeeper before the lighthouse was automated by the Commissioner of Irish Lights (CIL) in 1991, was among the special guests at Friday’s official opening.
A series of upgrade and renovation works have been completed at the Loop Head Visitor Experience as a result of funding received from the Department of Rural and Community Development through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) with match funding from Clare County Council. The combined works have cost €1.2m.
According to Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys (FG), the lighthouse is “an iconic stopping point on the Wild Atlantic Way, steeped in local and maritime history. Loop Head, like all of the stunning lighthouses around our coast, remains a source of eternal fascination to us as a people and to the visitors to our island”.
In one of his first official openings as the county’s first citizen, Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF) expressed confidence that the investment “will undoubtedly bear fruit for the surrounding communities of the peninsula in terms of profile and the local economy”. The Cathaoirleach noted that the content of the new interpretative panels within the visitor centre have been captured from local experts within the area, providing information on the history of this lighthouse, the people who worked there, local traditions and the abundance of wildlife that surrounds the site and the wider Loop Head Peninsula.
Clare County Council, which manages the facility, also recently submitted a planning application to An Bord Pleanála to further develop an environmental sustainability plan which will enhance the visitor management facilities on the headland. The designed investment at the site will include the provision of a Loop Head looped trail, waste-water treatment upgrade and new parking facilities.
Chief Executive of the Council, Pat Dowling acknowledged the €868,000 from the Department of Rural and Community Development in 2019 and thanked the Department for the additional funding of €115,800 in May of this year. He €1.2m investment will provide structural security to the building fabric for many years to come, with infrastructural investment in the provision of tapped water to the site for the first time in its history. He noted that the refurbishment within the visitor centre is a very welcome addition to this signature attraction whilst also providing for another self-catering accommodation for next year’s season.
Up to ten seasonal jobs will be provided in the location as a result of the reopening, Director of Rural Development with the Council, Leonard Cleary outlined. The development of a new visitor management approach for the Loop Head Lighthouse Visitor Experience will establish the attraction as an “exemplar project for sustainable tourism development,” he predicted.
Of the new plans, the Council’s Head of Tourism, Deirdre O’Shea explained, “They include a looped walking trail network to guide visitors around the headland, offering a range of managed walking trails of varied distances ranging from approximately 0.9km to 4.5km. The future plan also features the construction of a single storey building extension, providing additional and enhanced new visitor facilities such as a reception, café and seating area, toilets, and a covered walkway leading to the walking trail network. Meanwhile, the plans propose the construction of a new visitors’ carpark along the R487 Regional Road, with access control kiosk building featuring a reception, toilet facilities, visitor information signage and orientation, 45 bicycle parking spaces and 74 car parking spaces”.