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An Interior view of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, which is opened 15 years this week. Photograph by John Kelly.

VIDEO: See how the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre came about

Champion Chatter Podcast

THIS TUESDAY, February 8, is the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre.

Built over two years at a cost of €32 million, the award-winning design nestles into the surrounding countryside for minimal visual disruption.

Our picture slideshow tells the story of the massive undertaking it required first to make space for the centre and then to restore the landscape to its former pristine state.

And also how it was necessary to cater for the ever increasing visitor numbers in a responsible and environmentally sensitive way

In 1978, the regional tourist board, Shannonside Tourism, constructed a stone building housing gift shop, tea rooms and toilets on the sire of the old stables build by Cornelius O’Brien.

By 1978, 100,000 visitors were coming to the Cliffs of Moher each year. Over the next ten years this number will increase to 250,000 and the volumes continued to rise through the 1990s.

The Cliffs of Moher are a world-renowned tourist attraction and are recognised internationally as an icon of Irish Tourism and as a special site it required care and attention.

When Clare County Council embarked on this project in the early 1990s, it did so on foot of what it saw as clear deficiencies in terms of overall facilities, site and visitor management.

In 1992, Under the Auspices of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) a national architectural contest is staged by the local authority, Clare County Council, to find a design for a new visitor centre at the Cliffs of Moher.

The contest is won by Cork firm Reddy O’Riordan Staehli Architects (RORSA) with an innovative design that sees the visitor centre hidden beneath the hillside to reduce any visual impact on the visitors view of the Cliffs.

In June 2005 many years of project development by Clare County Council results in the start of construction of the new visitor centre and cliff side infrastructure at the Cliffs of Moher.

The updated design of the sunken building takes 20 months to build and on February 8 2007 the new Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience is officially opened by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD.

A new Visitor Management and Education Plan accompanies the new facilities. The cost of the project was €32 Million. Failte Ireland Invested €10 Million which was matched by Clare County Council and the final €12 Million was funded through a loan.

The Burren and Cliffs of Moher are awarded UNESCO recognised Global Geopark status in 2011. Geoparks are special regions with outstanding geology and local culture, regions that support sustainable development, research, education and cultural heritage by working closely with local communities, agencies and businesses.

The work of the Geopark together with local tourism businesses committed to making the area a premier worldwide destination of responsible tourism continues today.

That was the last 15 years, the next 15 years will be important for the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark.

Clare County Council supported by Fáilte Ireland is working, with a consultancy team led by Haley Sharpe Design, to prepare a new Cliffs of Moher Strategy 2040.

The strategy will be focused on creating world class experiences, enhancing the special qualities of the site and growing the Cliffs of Moher’s contribution to the county in a sustainable way over the next 20 years.

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