An artist's impression of the walkway at Cavan Burren Park.

Pot of gold for west Cavan tourism project

A €6.4M tourism development at the Shannon Pot and Cavan Burren Park in Blacklion has been given the green light this morning.

Fáilte Ireland selected the project - one of just four nationwide to get funding approval - as part of a €44.3M allocation from the national tourism body. A total of €73M, including funding contributions from the relevant local authorities, is to be invested in the four major projects.

The announcements were made in the last half hour by the Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin and Fáilte Ireland at a special event at the visitors' centre in the Cavan Burren Park near Blacklion.

In addition to the successful Cavan project, Fáilte Ireland is allocating €9.3M to Fort Dunree & Head, Buncrana, Co Donegal; €10M to 'This is Ireland’ North City Centre, Dublin 1 and a whopping €20.2M to Westport House Estate & Gardens, Westport, Co Mayo.

Fáilte Ireland is allocating €4.8M to the Cavan project, with Cavan County Council putting up €1.6M bringing the total investment to €6.4M.

Cavan County Council successfully applied for the funding in partnership with Coillte.

As first reported by The Anglo-Celt in November last year, Cavan County Council was exploring the means to deliver the hugely ambitious multi-million proposal. Over 200 applications were made to the scheme.

The Shannon Pot Discovery Centre and Cavan Burren Park will deliver a world class visitor experience in the northern region of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands (IHH). This visitor experience is two-fold consisting of a brand-new flagship tourism attraction located at the source of the River Shannon, The Shannon Pot, and the enhancement of the existing Cavan Burren Park.

This flagship attraction in the northern region of Ireland's Hidden Heartlands will allow visitors to begin their journey of the River Shannon at its source, learning about its rich heritage, culture, its influence on Irish life, people, society and landscape from the earliest settlers to modern day. It is the starting point to engage visitors for other experiences across the region. Located under the shadow of Cuilcagh Mountain, Cavan Burren Park is widely recognised as one of the finest prehistoric relict landscapes in Ireland. The enhancement at this site will include the installation of the elevated viewing platform.

An side view artist's impression of the walkway at Cavan Burren Park.

Augmented reality

Director of Services at Cavan County Council, Brendan Jennings, previously told this newspaper that the idea would be to incorporate a range of elements such as augmented reality in order to embrace fully the history and heritage of the site including lore tracing back to the legendary Finn MacCool and na Fianna.

Mr Jennings forecast that such a centre could attract upwards of 100,000 visitors per year even by year three.

“It would be huge investment for Cavan, and in particular the rural west of the county. We believe we have made a very strong case, we put together a very comprehensive application, and it would be a major addition to the Ireland Hidden Heartlands project. The Shannon Pot is unique in itself,” he said.

Making the announcements this morning, Minister Martin described the initiative as “the most significant investment in visitor attractions ever undertaken by Fáilte Ireland that will have far-reaching national and regional economic benefits".

Up to 8,000 direct and indirect jobs are set to be created and sustained across the regional economy over the next 10 years as a result of this investment and it’s estimated over €290M will be generated from domestic and international visitors. Fáilte Ireland’s economic analysis states every €1M spent by tourists helps to supports 27 jobs in the Irish tourism sector.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of a highly competitive application process, which began in 2019, under Fáilte Ireland’s Platforms for Growth Investment Grants Scheme for Immersive Heritage and Cultural Attractions.

It's hoped the four new and strategically important large-scale visitor attractions will unlock regional dispersal of visitors and extend the tourism season in these regions beyond the traditional summer months.

Announcing the four successful projects at the site of the Shannon Pot & Cavan Burren Park Minister Catherine Martin said:

“Today’s significant funding announcement will ensure world-class visitor attractions are created that will attract domestic and international tourists to the four locations, which will not just benefit the counties where they’re located but will motivate people to stay longer and explore more widely across the region.

"This investment in creative and impactful large-scale visitor experiences is critical to strengthening Ireland’s reputation internationally as a must-visit holiday destination and provides a catalyst for further innovation in the tourism sector,” said the Minister.

Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland added: “Driving regional tourism growth has always been a key priority for Fáilte Ireland but it is now more important than ever as we rebuild the sector and recover from the devastation of COVID-19."

Mr Kelly remarked that the standard of applications was "incredibly high".

"We are encouraged by the level of innovation and creativity demonstrated. The four awarded projects are truly best-in-class. They are diverse, engaging and unique and will help visitors connect with Ireland and bring the country’s vibrant culture, heritage and people to life,” said Mr Kelly.

Platforms for Growth (PFG) is funded under the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 strategy.

Last month, in Dáil Éireann, Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith asked that Minister Martin's department to look favourably on Cavan's application, which at that point had been whittled down to the last 20.

“This project, when delivered, will be a key tourism attraction for the Upper Shannon region. I am very anxious for this project to be advanced without delay as it will add considerably to the tourism product in the Upper Shannon region,” said Deputy Smith. “This is right in the heart of the UNESCO-recognised Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark and in the Cavan Burren area.”

He added: “The source of the River Shannon, a river that is central to so much of our national tourism industry, needs this amenity. I sincerely hope the Martin will be able to speak to the officials in Fáilte Ireland, who are assessing the application, about its merits and the need for such investment in this part of the Hidden Heartlands of Ireland.”

Party colleague Deputy Niamh Smyth also welcomed the funding, which she said will ensure that a world-class visitor attraction is created in Blackloin that will benefit County Cavan and the wider region.

“Driving regional tourism growth has always been a key priority for my colleagues and I in Fianna Fáil but, it is now more important than ever as we rebuild the sector and recover from Covid19.

"The aim of this scheme is to grow Ireland’s stock of large-scale visitor attractions to appeal to both domestic and international visitors.

"I understand the standard of applications received for this scheme was incredibly high and I’m delighted to hear that Shannon Pot & Cavan Burren Park has been successful. It will provide a welcomed boost to the local economy,’’ concluded Deputy Smyth.

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