ISLAND life on Whiddy is set to get a whole lot better in 2019 with the completion of a new visitor centre and hostel.
Tim O’Leary of the Bank House Restaurant confirmed to The Southern Star that work is progressing on the new centre and hostel, which will be located in the old schoolhouse.
An investment of €300,000 will create a new base of operations for tourists, who not only wish to visit the island, but stay there too.
‘At the moment, there is no accommodation and that’s a shame because we have so many people visiting the island, particularly walkers, who would like to extend their stay,’ said Tim O’Leary, who also operates the ferry and the restaurant with his partner, Kathleen Swanton.
When the hostel opens in March 2019, Tim said: ‘We will be able to accommodate groups of up to 30 people in six-bed dormitories and that should have long-term economic and social benefits for the island.’
Tim said there is a pressing need for a visitor centre as a repository for all of the historical information and artefacts relating to the island.
‘It will give people a taste of island life, and its history, including the links Whiddy has to Bere Island, and the three-gun batteries that were built here in 1803.’
When it is built, Tim said it is their intention to run both businesses to ‘maximise Whiddy’s huge tourism potential and hopefully increase our visitor numbers and visitor spend – all of which helps to create and sustain jobs on the island.’
Tim confirmed that the project to restore the old school has received assistance from the Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG). The school dates back to 1887, and at its busiest in the 1930s had about 80 pupils in attendance, but closed in the early 1990s.
Tim, a former past pupil, said he is delighted that the school will have a new lease of life, and that the project will lead to the creation of two more jobs on an island that has a population of twenty-six.