Management strategy will link attractions on all sides of lake and spread the benefits
THE full implementation of the Holy Island Visitor Management Plan is identified as a key objective in a new five-year Lough Derg Visitor Experience Development Plan, reports Dan Danaher.
Clare County Council is developing a management plan to facilitate sustainable tourism from this sixth century holy island, which is connected across lake waters to a necklace of historic lakeside villages and harbours.
Chief executive officer, Pat Dowling described the development of Holy Island as a local visitor and tourist attraction as an “exciting new project” for the coming years.
“The council will be developing the island as a unique feature on Lough Derg. Holy Island has a long and wonderful history and it will be a very important addition to our tourism product in Clare.”
Padraig Giblin of Sportworld Netting, Scariff, said it will be very important for towns and villages in East Clare to connect with all the tourists coming to the island.
“Tourists can start in the morning with some exercise or some family outing, go to Holy Island on one of the new organised boat trips and finish up in Garrykennedy, Nenagh or Dromineer for a nice meal in the evening.
“We feel very privileged to be part of a new hub that can criss cross the lake. Having Inis Cealtra at the heart of the hub, families will be able to go to Mountshannon, Whitegate, Garrykennedy, Killaloe for a nice lunch or evening meal.
“It will be very significant for us. We are only a community of 900 people with very small parishes and communities. This will bring in worldwide and European tourism, which all rural towns and villages badly need. This plan greatly complements the strategic link of all the local businesses around this island and the surrounding local communities.”
Stating there is no hotel open in this part of the lake, the plan identified the opportunity to trial the scattered accommodation concept in Borrisokane, Mountshannon or Tuamgraney.
It outlined creative interpretative elements can be incorporated in the new public realm scheme in Scariff.
The relatively short time it takes to cross the lake is little known. More boat trip providers would be required as the visitor economy grows.
Some of the smaller and out of the way lakeshore public areas which are connected by the canoe trail – Church Bay, Luska, Shehanagh, Youghal harbour, Williamstown, Mota Bay – could benefit from further investment in environmentally sensitive light touch looped walks incorporating heritage features along the way, and improving walking connectivity to long distance trails.
Identifying Holy Island and connected villages and Killaloe Ballina as one of the four key destination hubs, the plan outlines a vision to develop a seamless slow travel network to enjoy boating, cycling and walking around the lake.
The plan stated there is potential for Killaloe to be a hub for cruise hire, subject to a feasibility study. It noted the existing walking and canoe trails could be better linked including the enabling of new businesses to provide visitor services to facilitate exciting, safe and seamless adventures.
It stressed the importance of ensuring walking trails linked to the town are continuously safe, interesting and enjoyable. An off-road walking link between Killaloe and Limerick would connect to a key source of visitors to Lough Derg and connect Killaloe/Ballina to Ardnacrusha.
Officially launched by Minister of State, Anne Rabbitte, the new plan was developed in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland and Waterways Ireland, Tipperary, Clare and Galway Councils, Inland Fisheries, the Leader Programme and Coillte.