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the Old Rectory building in Mountshannon which will be redeveloped into the visitor centre for Inis Cealtra.

Holy Island visitor centre to greatly benefit Mountshannon

DEVELOPMENTS to promote Inis Cealtra will include a significant boost for the public realm, as the visitor centre in Mountshannon is on track to open in the third quarter of 2024.

At a briefing for councillors, on foot of the announcement of €3.9m in government funding, Tourism Officer Joan Tarmey described the plan as “probably the most significant tourism project ever undertaken in East Clare”.

She said the Council’s Tourism Department was delighted with funding announcement from the Department of Community and Rural Development.

The allocation followed a successful Council application for funds to repurpose and extend the Old Rectory building in Mountshannon to create what Ms Tarmey described as “an iconic centre”.

“The time has come for East Clare to shine,” she told members of the Killaloe Municipal District.

“This is an historic period house from 1905 on a magnificent elevated site. it has a prominent location within the village and can contribute very much to the village.

“The centre is a catalyst project and a key offering. It will bring a huge amount of footfall,” said Ms Tarmey.

“The project is within Fáilte Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands area, and that is all about slowing down and being active in nature. It’s a very good fit for this project. We are really lucky to have this asset and it will be very attractive to visitors and residents.”

The Tourism Officer’s briefing outlined the Council’s twin aims, since purchasing Inis Cealtra, of conserving the island and its medieval ecclesiastical settlement and expanding it as a tourism destination.

“This will deliver on balancing regional development,” she said. “It is time to rebalance tourism across the county. This is outlined in the Clare County Tourism Strategy, the Lough Derg Visitor Experience Development Plan, the County Development Plan and the Shannon Tourism Masterplan.”

Ms Tarmey noted that the Old Rectory building is a protected structure.

“It was just sitting there vacant, it would degrade over time,” she said. “This will breathe new life back into property.”

Ms Tarmey outlined how exhibition rooms will be developed in the redevelopment of the historic building for the interpretation of Mountshannon, Inis Cealtra and the wider region.

“Visitors are looking for authenticity,” she said. “This will provide it. We are also looking at the optimisation of the island to accommodate development and are working with Irish Water to do that. We will be looking too at enhanced public realm work in Mountshannon.”

Now that funding has been secured, a tender process for works has begun and will be complete in the second quarter of next year. The construction stage will follow. Ms Tarmey said the centre is likely to open its doors in the third quarter of 2024 “for the main tourism season”.

Ms Tarmey noted that plans to develop Inis Cealtra began with a plan produced by Council official Brian McCarthy, who now returns to the Killaloe Municipal District team.

She also commended “the tireless of work of the community over many years, including Mountshannon Community Council”.

“They have done tremendous work and I applaud them,” she said. She thanked the wide range of partners with whom the Council is collaborating on the Inis Cealtra project, as well as district staff and elected members.

“We would not be going forward without you,” she said. “We have a high calibre team who are doing a great job. Our detailed design stage is nearly complete. We have been doing countless surveys and there is a huge amount work being done in the background.”

Having taken 41 acres on Inis Cealtra into public ownership in 2015, the council earmarked the The Old Rectory for redevelopment given that the site overlooks Mountshannon Harbour and Lough Derg.

The building will serve as a mainland visitor centre, which will interpret the seventh century monastic site of Inis Cealtra and its surrounds.

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