Clonakilty District (Ireland)
Situated in South West Ireland, on the coast, Clonakilty District stretches from Rosscarbery in the West of the District to Courtmacsherry in the East and includes Timoleague, Butlerstown, Barryroe, Lislevane, Ballinascarthy, Ardfield, Rathbarry, Rossmore and the hub, Clonakilty Town. The District has about 3,500 inhabitants and over 4,000 approved holiday beds (in 1996 there were only 400) spread across the entire range of accommodation.
There are a full range of visitor services available in Clonakilty District from banks, churches, medical, shopping, taxis, car and boat hire, to guides, health spa, cinema and a theatre. These are in addition to an abundance of activities on land and sea, music sessions and fresh local produce and include 20 Heritage Sites; 10 Galleries / Craft Workshops; 50 Pubs & Bars; 10 Walking Routes; 10 Fishing Points; 2 Golf Courses; 2 Equestrian Centres; 50 Restaurants; War Games; Laser Shooting; Surfing Schools; Sea Angling; Dolphin & Whale Watching; Gardens and Boating. The website www.clonakilty.ie presents all these services.
There are many amenities of natural beauty which are easily accessed. The Seven Heads and Clonakilty Walks are just two of these. Cycling in the district is available with bicycles to rent on a daily basis. Golf is well catered for with unique courses and the area is also an angler's paradise with lake, river, shore and sea fishing in abundance. The Chamber's helpful booklet for visitors entitled ‘50 Ways To Enjoy Clonakilty’ directs the visitor to many local products.
Arts festivals are regular features in Clonakilty District. Spiller's Lane is an area in the heart of Clonakilty Town that has become home to many arts and crafts outlets and is a very popular attraction. There are a number of art galleries and craft shops in the district. The Farmers Market in McCurtain Hill is also an extremely popular attraction with locals and visitors alike. It sells an array of products from fresh local fish, breads and cheese to local arts and crafts. Throughout the shops and bars in Clonakilty District it is possible to converse in the Irish language. There is also traditional Irish dancing and singing available and often you will find a ‘Seannchai’ – a traditional Irish story teller who will regale tourists with myths and legends from long ago.
The very successful Tidy Towns Committee in Clonakilty has made huge improvements over the years with landscape conservation/improvements. Clonakilty and Rathbarry have won many gold medals in recent years and Clonakilty won the overall award in 1999. This is testament to the work put in by this community group who were also instrumental in achieving international awards such as Entente Florale, Nations in Bloom (China), Communities in Bloom (Canada), LivCom (Liveable Communities and Pride of Place). There is also a very active Carbon Reduction Group (Sustainable Clonakilty) at work in the community. Clonakilty Town’s selection as the very first Fair Trade Town in the country was achieved solely by the efforts of the Fair Trade Committee.
In terms of developing culture and heritage products, the West Cork Museum, the Michael Collins Centre (an Irish patriot and revolutionary and a leader in Ireland’s War of Independence) and The West Cork Model Railway Village are first class examples. The life size sculpture of Michael Collins in Emmet Square (where he once lived) unveiled by actor Liam Neeson has proved to be a major tourist attraction. A full sized stainless steel recreation of the original Model T Ford Car is on view in Ballinascarthy as a tribute to Henry Ford who was born there. The Clonakilty Library won the Europa Nostra award. A civic centre and theatre is planned. The lives of numerous historical figures associated with the area are recounted by the local historical societies. Clonakilty District Chamber of Tourism is a good example of the networking of providers of tourism products. The Chamber has representatives from all sectors of the community and not just those who have a direct tourism interest. This allows all members to submit ideas and input to projects so that the wider community can take ownership of the developing tourism product. In particular there is a sector representative on the Chamber who looks after the interests of those providers outside the town's boundaries. More package tours/holidays will be arranged to promote these interests in the future.
The development of the Seven Heads and Clonakilty Walks are examples of ways in which the rural, natural and cultural heritage of areas can be highlighted as an asset and thus preserved. The preservation of the local marshland as a wildlife refuge gained after local opposition to development plans, is another example of the awareness of the community to these values.
In terms of sustainable tourism development initiatives the Model Railway Village is a prime example. It was developed on a site reclaimed from the sea and that had been used as a refuse tip. Increasing visitor numbers every year is a testament to the foresight of all involved in its construction as a world class attraction. In fact due to its success a spin-off project - the ‘Choo Choo Train’ runs from the Model Railway Village into the town of Clonakilty and outlying areas, (all the locals give a friendly wave when they see visitors on board). The Michael Collins Centre/Arigideen Heritage Park and the reconstruction of Lios Na gCon, a 10th century ring fort, are other examples. The ring fort is the only one of its kind in Ireland reconstructed on the original site. The River Walk and The Wild Flower Garden are other examples.
Clonakilty District have targeted the month of October for special events such as the Over 50s Festival. The West Cork Rally in mid March starts Clonakilty District’s efforts to extend the season.
Furthermore, two of Clonakilty District’s Bed & Breakfast members, Norma Walsh and Phil Beechinor, won the prestigious Fáilte Ireland Welcome Award in 2004 and 2005 respectively.