Some of the most remote parts of West Cork are part of a new campaign being launched by Fáilte Ireland to bring more tourists to discover many of our most unspoiled locations.
A MULTI-million euro plan to develop West Cork’s remote peninsulas as undiscovered, world-class tourist destinations will launch in the coming months.
Spearheaded by Fáilte Ireland, it covers Mizen Head, Sheep’s Head and the Beara Peninsulas, Dursey, Bere, Garinish and Whiddy islands and, the stretch of N71 from Kenmare to Bantry, through Bonane and Glengarriff to Ballydehob.
Called The Three Peninsulas – West Cork and Kerry it’s targeting the ‘culturally curious’, the ‘great escapers’ and the ‘social energisers’ (millennials seeking quirky and authentic attractions) from Ireland’s core overseas markets.
Its ultimate ambition is to extend the season, increase overnight stays and spend – but crucially without compromising the local environment. In other words, it doesn’t envisage busloads of tourists descending on these unspoilt beauty spots.
It also wants to improve the overall economy of communities through strengthening individual businesses, increasing job creation, and increasing the attractiveness of the area for other forms of economic growth.
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.
She stresses it’s very much a collaborative project with Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, the OPW, Cork and Kerry county councils, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, local businesses, and tourism groups, all working on the ambitious plan for months.
Key ‘catalyst’ projects have been identified (see panel below), along with countless other original ideas up for consideration.
Among them is a plan to develop escape treasure hunts and fantasy island adventures for Garinish Island, aimed at millennials.
Another is to set up a Bere Island Military Festival. The proposal says: ‘Include a dance lesson component and opportunity to wear costume to increase the level of engagement. This event is likely to attract the island’s diaspora.’
There’s a suggestion to promote an attraction called ‘Be a Farmer on the Edge of Europe’ which could be paired with homestay accommodation.
Other projects include encouraging photographers to visit to experience the area’s unique colours, flora and fauna.
There’s also a plan to build a series of short two to four-hour itineraries for cruise ship visitors who wish to explore the peninsulas.
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.
Worth noting is that inclusion in the plan will be 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 a major new marina, but now included in this plan, is hoping it will be ‘third time lucky’ for the project.
O’Driscoll says she’d love to see the region emerging as a world-class destination for walking, cycling and outdoor activities.
Originally from Drimoleague, where she spent Lockdown, the Fáilte Ireland manager said she discovered parts of West Cork she never knew existed.
‘I’d love to see visitors come for water and land-based activities and for them to have an experience they’d never forget.’
Naturally some challenges exist, including the limited bed base currently 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.
A copy of the draft plan is available for inspection until September 24th.
You can read it at www.failteireland.ie