THE tourism and economic sectors in West Clare received a seismic boost on Wednesday when the Loop Head Heritage Trail won the Best Cultural Heritage Attraction at the World Responsible Tourism Awards in London. The awards are staged each year as part of World Travel Market.
Launched in November 2014, the Loop Head Heritage Trail was created by a network of 47 local businesses, now the Loop Head Tourism Network, which is based in the area.
Loop Head Tourism Network chairman Cillian Murphy attended the World Travel Market and, speaking to The Clare Champion on Wednesday, expressed his delight at the global award.
“I’m very proud of what a group of people have achieved back in Loop Head. Some of the people are involved in the tourism industry but some aren’t and are just involved because they are interested in our heritage. It’s a great validation of where we live and the people we live with and how they view their home. Integral to us being here was our taking part in the official Irish Responsible Tourism Awards,” he said, adding that it is difficult to predict so soon what the scale of the possible economic impact on the West Clare tourism sector might be.
“I don’t know is the answer. We’ve never won an award of this scale before. But, for us, the real thing is we have a heritage trail, which is basic,” he said.
The 60km 14 site trail features Carrigaholt Castle and Bay, the Bridges of Ross, Kilkee Cliffs and Pollock Holes (Wild Atlantic Way Discovery Points), Church of the Little Ark (Signature Discovery Point), Bishops Island, Dunlicka Castle, Loop Head Pilots Memorial and Kilbaha Bay, Grave of the Yellow Men, Rinevella Bay and Submerged Forest, Kilcredaun Churches and Holy Well, Querrin Pier and the West Clare Railway.
“We have, on purpose, not put out any hard interpretations on the sites because we haven’t found anything that would gel with where they have to go. It’s going to be very important how we physically put hard infrastructure on the ground here. There is a reason why, a year after we launched the trail, we don’t have 4x5ft interpretation boards out there. One of the first places I went to was the tech centre [at the World Travel Market] because I want to see what’s new out there that we could use on the heritage trail in an innovative way that is going to have no impact environmentally,” the Kilkee restaurant owner explained.
Mr Murphy is very confident that the win will be a major help to the peninsula’s marketing strategy.