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On the dance floor in Lisdoonvarna. Photograph by John Kelly

Spa Wells helps drive dancers to Lisdoonvarna

September has been the busiest month in a decade for Lisdoonvarna, according to local business people, with one hotelier highlighting last Saturday, in particular, as “well up on last year”.

After eight years, the Spa Wells reopened this season and many are attributing increased visitor numbers in part to that.

“We are getting about 200 people a day,” said Paddy Dunne, chairman of Lisdoonvarna Fáilte, the voluntary committee behind the reopening.

“This committee only took over in January. The numbers are more than we expected. Word of mouth spread rapidly and we are getting good visitor numbers here every day. There is nothing like this anywhere else. There is this hall which holds 350 in the Spa Wells itself and then the Pavillion, which holds 650 and it is owned by the community and run by the community and everything goes back into the facilities we have here,” he continued.

“This has been the biggest festival in 10 years and everyone would say that in the town. I think it is because of the Wells reopening and the promotion that the likes of Whites Hotel have put into it,” Mr Dunne added.

Throughout September, Larry McEvoy has been playing to a packed house from midday to 2pm and the feedback, according to Mr Dunne, has been unanimously positive.

“We were overwhelmed and delighted that we were able to bring back so many memories for people who have been coming to Lisdoonvarna for over 40 years. From a dancer’s point of view, we know we have the best dance floor in Lisdoonvarna,” he added

Ann Doherty of the Royal Spa Hotel agreed that last Saturday was one of the best nights for years in the town.

“Last weekend was very busy. This year has been good. Up to last weekend, September and the festival was on par with other weekends but last Saturday was well up on last year.”

“The reopening of the Spa Wells has been great. People are very happy to see it open. The September people, the older people especially, are delighted because that is what it is all about really, Lisdoonvarna. The baths are not open yet but it is a start,” she added.

Heather Crowe of The Ritz believes the weather has been very important.

“Last weekend was great and the weather really, really made it. The atmosphere here was great. There were hundreds of people sitting outside and the weather is looking good for the weekend ahead so, hopefully, we will have even more then,” she said.

“The reopening of the Spa Wells has helped. People loved it, it was their first dance of the day before they would go to the afternoon and evening dancing, so I would say it is onwards and upwards for it from here,” Ms Crowe continued.

Marcus White of the Whites Hotel Group, which includes the Hydro Hotel, the Imperial Hotel, the Burren Castle Hotel and the King Thomond in North Clare, believes this is the most vibrant Matchmaking Festival ever.

“This is one of the best years on record, definitely,” he said.

“I think we are heading for in excess of 55,000 people by the end of this year’s festival. Normally we get about 40,000, so there is a significant increase. The weather has helped as well,” he added.

According to Mr White, “From the beginning of the festival, there has been a big increase every weekend. It certainly has turned a corner and part of the reason is that Lisdoonvarna is now recognised as being for all ages. There are people here aged 18 and I met a women this week who is 92.

“The openness of Lisdoonvarna, the businesses and the people, has definitely helped too. The Outing, the lesbian and gay weekend, that attracts a lot of young people and as well as gay people, a lot of people are coming to Lisdoonvarna that weekend out of curiosity,” Mr White concluded.
The Matchmaking Festival continues this weekend, followed by The Outing in the first weekend in October.

By Nicola Corless

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