One of the Wild Atlantic Way’s top visitor attractions, the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in Co. Clare, is to get a €1 million euro facelift, Shannon Group has confirmed.
Second only to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience in terms of popularity of fee-paying visitor attractions in western seaboard counties, the 15th Century Castle and Folk Park is to undergo a major upgrade, with an extended retail store to accommodate the growing visitor numbers, a new café, extended entrance and refurbished admissions building.
The upgraded facility is also set to house an Irish design gallery to assist and promote emerging talented Irish designers.
The Castle is managed by Shannon Heritage, which is Ireland’s largest operator of tourist attractions and includes King John’s Castle in Limerick, Malahaide Castle & Gardens in Dublin and Dunguaire Castle, Co. Galway among its portfolio of seven day and four evening attractions. The latest addition to the Shannon Heritage portfolio is the new €10m GPO Witness History visitor attraction in O’Connell St Dublin, which the company won the contract to operate and which is due to open to the public in time for the 1916 centenary commemorations at Easter.
Shannon Heritage is one of four business units of Shannon Group, along with Shannon Airport, Shannon Commercial Properties Ltd (former property portfolio of Shannon Development) and International Aviation Services Centre (IASC).
The construction project is being managed by Shannon Commercial Properties and is already under way, with 25 workers of Barefield, Co. Clare based company Martin’s Construction – the successful contractor – on site. The architects appointed on the project were Galway based O’Neill-O’Malley Ltd, while TOBIN Consulting, also of Galway, were appointed consulting engineers.
Chief Commercial Officer of the Shannon Group, Andrew Murphy said: “The build will enclose and cover the existing courtyard area at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and create a state of the art retail store, café along with a new entrance and admissions hall.
“The store will offer a high end giftware range of contemporary Irish products. The café will of course be open to the public and you don’t have to pay an admission fee to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park-it’s open to local traffic.
“We hope it will create an additional lunchtime dining option in Bunratty and enhance the visitor experience to the area.”
The Shannon Group, which also recently completed another extensive retail refurbishment, of the Shannon Duty Free shop – the historic first duty free shop in the world – at Shannon Airport, and Group Head of Retail Darren Smyth said the new Bunratty development would provide an exciting opportunity for upcoming young Irish designers to showcase their brands to an international audience at the new state of the art retail store.
“We will be incorporating an Irish design gallery to help promote up-and-coming talented Irish craftspeople. In addition to stocking their brand, we will incorporate an information panel on the craftsperson beside their products.”
One of the key objectives behind the investment and design is that the new store would showcase the best of contemporary Irish products, including the work of talented local artisan crafts people in addition to the very best Irish products sourced from all over Ireland, Mr Smyth added.
Among the new elements will be a state of the art jewellery store, the rolling out of the recently launched Mr O’Regan’s food emporium at Shannon Airport, and a range of Irish clothing, including such well-known brands as Carraig Donn and Avoca.
Shannon Heritage recently just announced an increase of over 8% in visitor numbers for 2015. Overall, Shannon Heritage’s attractions across Clare, Dublin, Galway and Limerick drew 692,000 visitors in 2015, with day visitor attractions up over 11%.