Loop Head Lighthouse Shines A Light On A New Experience
Loop Head Lighthouse Visitor Experience swung open its doors to visitors today for the first time since 2019 and following a significant upgrade of the historic and popular West Clare visitor attraction.
Located at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary with its origins dating back to the 1670s, the lighthouse was first opened to visitors in 2011 and has since become one of West Clare’s most popular attractions. The lighthouse also is one of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland and is one of two Signature Discovery Points in County Clare along the route of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Among those invited to today’s official opening was Kitty Garvey, whose late husband Brendan was the Loop Head’s final lightkeeper before the lighthouse was automated by the Commissioner of Irish Lights (CIL) in 1991.
A series of upgrade and renovation works have been completed at the Loop Head Visitor Experience as a result of funding received from the Department of Rural and Community Development through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) with match funding from Clare County Council.
Minister for Rural and Community Development and Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD, stated: “I am delighted that Loop Head Lighthouse is once again open to visitors, restoring an iconic stopping point on the Wild Atlantic Way, steeped in local and maritime history. Loop Head, like all of the stunning lighthouses around our coast, remains a source of eternal fascination to us as a people and to the visitors to our island.”
“The funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, which has made the ongoing upgrades to Loop Head possible, continues to be an engine of economic and social progress for rural communities around the country,” Minister Humphreys added. “Over the months we will see the completion of many more of the projects supported by the Fund and can look forward to the significant long-term benefits that they will bring to towns, villages and communities.”
“Projects like this are real life examples of Our Rural Future in action. I wish to congratulate the staff of Loop Head Lighthouse, Clare County Council and the people of West Clare on the reinstatement of this wonderful visitor resource and look forward to the completion of further improvements at the lighthouse in the near future,” the Minister concluded.
Speaking today, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Councillor Tony O’Brien, said: “The investment by the local authority, local elected members, the Department of Rural and Community Development, the local community, Loop Head Tourism, the Commissioner of Irish Lights and Fáilte Ireland in developing and promoting this visitor attraction will undoubtedly bear fruit for the surrounding communities of the peninsula in terms of profile and the local economy.”
Recognising the importance of the local community, the Cathaoirleach noted that the content of the new interpretative panels within the visitor centre have been captured from local experts within the area, providing information on the history of this lighthouse, the people who worked there, local traditions and the abundance of wildlife that surrounds the site and the wider Loop Head Peninsula.
Clare County Council, which manages the facility, also recently submitted a planning application to An Bord Pleanála to further develop an environmental sustainability plan which will enhance the visitor management facilities on the headland. The designed investment at the site will include the provision of a Loop Head looped trail, waste-water treatment upgrade and new parking facilities.
The Cathaoirleach added: “I particularly welcome the plans that are in place to further enhance this visitor attraction. The focus on building a visitor attraction that is both sustainable and in keeping with the ethos of slow tourism is key. I am happy to see that sustainability is at the heart of the future plans for the site.”
Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council, particularly acknowledged the €868,000 from the Department of Rural and Community Development in 2019 and thanked the Department for the additional funding of €115,800 in May of this year. This additional funding was received in recognition of the complexities associated with this project being in both a Special Area of Conservation and Special Area of Protection. With the addition of the match funding from Clare County Council, this €1.2 million investment to the Loop Head Lighthouse Visitor Experience will provide structural security to the building fabric for many years to come, with infrastructural investment in the provision of tapped water to the site for the first time in its history. He noted that the refurbishment within the visitor centre is a very welcome addition to this signature attraction whilst also providing for another self-catering accommodation for next year’s season.
Leonard Cleary, Director of Rural Development with Clare County Council, welcomed the re-opening of this visitor attraction, which will benefit the local economy in the provision of nearly 10 seasonal jobs in the location. In terms of the future, he noted that the local authority is developing a new visitor management approach for the Loop Head Lighthouse Visitor Experience that will establish the attraction as an “exemplar project for sustainable tourism development”.
He added: “Clare County Council’s future plans for the site are already in motion. The visitor management approach centres around managing visitor numbers, guiding interaction and interpreting, and creating an architecture that responds to the very sensitive context of Loop Head.”
Deirdre O’Shea, Head of Tourism, Clare County Council, explained: “The application submitted to An Bord Pleanála proposes the development of new visitor experience facilities. They include a looped walking trail network to guide visitors around the headland, offering a range of managed walking trails of varied distances ranging from approximately 0.9km to 4.5km.
“The future plan also features the construction of a single storey building extension, providing additional and enhanced new visitor facilities such as a reception, café and seating area, toilets, and a covered walkway leading to the walking trail network. Meanwhile, the plans propose the construction of a new visitors’ carpark along the R487 Regional Road, with access control kiosk building featuring a reception, toilet facilities, visitor information signage and orientation, 45 bicycle parking spaces and 74 car parking spaces.”
Admission to the Loop Head Lighthouse Visitor Experience, which includes the exhibition and guided tours of the Crow’s Nest in the Lightkeeper’s Cottage and the Lighthouse Tower, is via online booking. Please note, children are very welcome, for safety reasons there is a 1.2m height restriction to access the Crow’s Nest and the Lighthouse Tower. The fee is €7 for adults, €5 for children (above 1.2m height) and free access to children below this height. Tours will take place daily from 9:00am to 6:00pm. Pre-booking is essential as capacity is limited. Visit www.loopheadlighthouse.ie for more information.
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