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Mayor of Clare, Councillor Mary Howard and Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council look towards the site of the old Vandeleur House with the backdrop of the soon-to-be-renovated stable block. Also pictured are Dermot Custy, Custy Construction Ltd; Richard Robinson, P Coleman and Associates; Deirdre O’Shea, Acting Head of Tourism, Clare County Council; Noel Kilkenny, Chairperson of Kilrush Amenity Trust; Leonard Cleary, Director of Services, Rural Development, Clare County Council; and Ruth Hurley, Project Manager and Senior Executive Architect, Clare County Council.

Vandaleur Gardens works get underway

HIGHLY-anticipated restoration works are set to get underway shortly at the Vandeleur Walled Garden, where a new interpretative museum is among the developments planned.

Located in Kilrush, the gardens are among the jewels in the crown of tourism in West Clare and were visited recently by Clare County Council officials and project stakeholders. The socially-distanced site visit was in advance of the enabling works getting underway for the restoration and renovation of the old stable block.

The tendering process is complete and Custy Construction Ltd, a Clare-based construction firm, has been appointed to this project. The restoration works are funded by the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, under the Department of Rural and Community Development. Additional match funding has come from the council.

The main works, due to begin early this year, will include an interpretative museum and new gardeners’ building, along with the development of a new visitor experience design and approach for the complex.

“I very much welcome these enabling works for the restoration and renovation of the old stable block,” said Mayor Howard. “This addition of an interpretative museum, along with the new visitor experience, will enhance this wonderful location. The completed project will be a great asset to the local community and tourism in the area.”

Pat Dowling noted that  investment is part of an overall visitor development strategy. He said it “could not have come at a more pertinent time given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our tourism sector”. “The investment will not only contribute to recovery in the tourism sector and assist with rural regeneration in the town of Kilrush, but it is also anticipated that it will create opportunities for economic growth and employment in the region,” he said.

Leonard Cleary, Director of Services, Rural Development added: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vandeleur Walled Garden and the Woodland Bistro has proven its popularity and adaptability, providing an important amenity for the town and supporting local employment. This adaptability highlights the importance of local amenity and recreation to the people of Kilrush and only serves to reinforce further the merit and relevance of ongoing investment in Vandeleur Walled Garden.”

A number of improvements have been taking place in recent months in the Coillte-owned Vandeleur Estate in conjunction with the West Clare Municipal District, and these works all align with the overall strategy to improve use of the woods and the Vandeleur Centre as part of the ongoing development of the visitor attraction.

Deirdre O’Shea, Head of Tourism (Acting), Clare County Council, added that Vandeleur Walled Garden is a strong product for tourism in Clare and, in line with both the recently adopted Clare Tourism Strategy 2030 as well as the West Clare/North Kerry Visitor Experience Development Plan being led by Fáilte Ireland, this development will further strengthen this product and provide a very tangible saleable experience for West Clare.

“The enabling works signal the start of significant investment in the visitor attraction and we would not be here without the input and commitment of all the stakeholders and the design team who have supported this project development from a concept idea to securing investment,” said Ruth Hurley, Senior Executive Architect and Project Manager. “In particular, I would like acknowledge the ongoing support from Coillte, the Kilrush Amenity Trust, the Department of Rural and Community Development and the staff and management of the Vandeleur Centre.”

The design for the scheme, brought to planning stage by Clare County Council Architectural Services, is being developed for construction led by P Coleman and Associates along with Moloney Fox, consulting engineers, and Rogerson Reddan, quantity surveyors.

John Ruddle Consulting completed a comprehensive visitor experience strategy for the site earlier this year and specialist interpretative designers will be appointed to develop wayfinding and the content of the museum interpretative centre.

About Fiona McGarry

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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