A MULTI-million euro, five-year plan to develop West Cork’s remote peninsulas as world-class tourist destinations will launch in the coming months.
Covering Mizen Head, Sheep’s Head and the Beara peninsulas, Dursey, Bere, Garinish and Whiddy islands, and the N71 stretches from Kenmare to Bantry and Glengarriff to Ballydehob, it’s being spearheaded by Fáilte Ireland.
Called ‘The Three Peninsulas – West Cork and Kerry’ the campaign’s aim is to extend the tourist season, increase overnight stays and spend – but crucially without compromising the local environment.
The plan is currently at draft stage, but Josephine O’Driscoll of Fáilte Ireland is confident it will get the government green light by the end of this year, or early next year.
Very much a collaborative project, Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, the OPW, Cork and Kerry county councils, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, local businesses, and tourism groups, have all been working on the ambitious plan for months.
Among the key ‘catalyst’ projects up for consideration is the restoration of Lonehort Battery to position Bere Island as a key destination for military heritage and enhance the site as a significant visitor attraction; to create a marine activities centre in Bantry, develop a new pier in Castletownbere, and introduce a series of short two to four-hour itineraries for cruise ship visitors who wish to explore the peninsulas.
Worth noting is that inclusion in the plan is regarded favourably for those applying for rural regeneration funding. This could bode well for the Schull Harbour Development Company which has twice failed to secure funds for their major new marina, but now included in this plan, is hoping it will be ‘third time lucky’ for the project.
While it is being dubbed a ‘five-year plan’, Ms O’Driscoll says the stakeholders won’t be walking away after that timeframe, with funds coming from themselves, European, national and local authority streams, among other sources. Naturally some challenges exist, including the limited bed base currently available outside Bantry and Kenmare, together with Castletownbere and Glengarriff, and the need to secure new routes into Cork and Kerry airports.
Josephine and her team are also working on a similar visitor experience plan for the stretch from Kinsale to Ballydehob, which excitingly, will give a full destination plan for all of West Cork.