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One of County Clare landmark attractions, Holy Island in Lough Derg Photograph by John Kelly.

Holy Island at centre of new plan to develop Lough Derg tourism

THE conversion of historic buildings in Tuamgraney, Scariff and Mountshannon for use as visitor accommodation is among the recommendations of a new tourism plan for the area around Lough Derg.

The draft Visitor Experience Development Plan for Lough Derg (2020-2024) is currently open to public submissions, and puts a focus on the development of Killaloe-Ballina as a lakeside destination, as well as the promotion of Inis Cealtra and urban centres close to it.

The new draft plan builds on the Lough Derg Road Map of 2014-2017 and outlines a vision for tourism development for the next four to five years. One of the key stakeholders promoting the document is the Lough Derg Marketing Group (LDMG) which has drawn down funding from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport as well as the agencies from Clare, Tipperary and Galway, who feed into its activities. The draft plan sets out coordinated priorities for the LDMG in developing the visitor economy around Lough Derg, and is the result of a number of stakeholder workshops, including one held in Killaloe. The plan will work in tandem with Fáilte Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands brand, as well as the Shannon Tourism Master Plan, which identifies the Lower Shannon as a key discovery zone.

The core focus of this Visitor Experience Development Plan is Lough Derg itself – the waters, islands, lakeshore and lakeside settlements,” the document outlines. “The success of the lake region, however, depends on a connected network of visitor experiences across a geography stretching from Limerick in the south to Nenagh and Cloughjordan in the east, as far as Meelick and Banagher to the north and including East Clare and the Slieve Aughty mountains.”

Both angling and food tourism are identified as areas for further development, with key target markets including young couples and the so-called ‘culturally curious baby boomers’.

Among those in Clare who contributed to the draft plan is Teresa Browne of Clareville House in Tuamgraney.

This is a very comprehensive plan,” said Mrs Browne. “We need a plan if we’re every going to succeed in making the most of everything we have to offer in East Clare. Like so many people in this area, I’m really keen to see Holy Island developed further, now that the council owns it. If I thought that Holy Island’s visitor centre would be in place by 2024, which is the time frame for the plan, I would be very happy.”

The Tuamgraney resident added that she felt it was important for Clare County Council to play a greater role in furthering the blueprint. “I was sad to see that it’s Tipperary County Council that is leading on this plan,” she said. “Lough Derg belongs as much to the people of Clare as to the people of Tipperary and I would like to see a bigger role for our council. Funding will come to activate the plan and we need to make sure that we get our fair share of it on this side of the lake. That’s why we all need to get behind the plan as much as we can.”

Holy Island/Inis Cealtra and so-called ‘destination villages’ connected to it, are among the key locations identified for development, as well as Killaloe/Ballina, Portumna in County Galway and Nenagh in County Tipperary.

The fact that Holy Island is already in public ownership and connected to five lakeside towns and villages is identified as a key asset, and the full implementation of a visitor management plan for the island is recommended. The development of scattered accommodation – which involves the conversion of historic buildings – is also recommended for the likes of Tuamgraney, Mountshannon and Scariff. Other potential projects supporting Holy Island include so-called ‘tranquility moorings zones’ which gives boaters the opportunity to experience travel on waterways, in easily reach of urban centres.

In relation to Killaloe/Ballina, the plan describes the twin villages as “a natural playground with fresh perspectives on this iconic Shannon crossing”. It notes that a new bypass and bridge are due for construction, removing traffic congestion and opening up significant tourism potential for the area. The plan lists the forthcoming town enhancement plan as a major opportunity, designed to improve pedestrian access. It recommends better linking of the nearby walking trails; the East Clare Way and the Lough Derg Way, as well as better connections between the trails and the town. The creation of a walking/cycling trail to Limerick City is also highlighted as a potential project, as well as the development of alternative accommodation such as glamping pods, huts and boat conversions.

Others from this county who contributed to the plan include Paul Brooks to the Tuamgraney Development Association, Councillor Pat Burke, Carole Clarke of Williamstaat House in Williamstown, Noel Enright of O’Briensbridge Community Group, Molly Lynch O’Mara from Mountshannon, Gerard Madden of Holy Island Tours, Patricia Farrell of Wilde Irish Chocolates, Joan Tarmey of Clare County Council, Eoin O’Hagan of Lough Derg Boat Trips, Cillian O’Mara of My Next Adventure, Bernard Giblin of Derg Isle, Aoife and James Whelan of Spirit of Killaloe and John N Whyte of Mountshannon.

The plan is available to view at the Planning Department of Clare County Council and online at clarecoco.ie.

Observations may be submitted until Wednesday, October 7, and can be sent by email to tourism@tipperarycoco.ie or by post to Tipperary County Council in Nenagh.

About Fiona McGarry

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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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