Loop Head Heritage Trail Wins Global Sustainable Tourism Award

Loop Head Heritage Trail Wins Global Sustainable Tourism Award

A pioneering heritage trail in the Loop Head Peninsula in County Clare has been named winner of the ‘Culture and Heritage’ category of one of the world’s foremost tourism and travel award schemes.

The Loop Head Heritage Trail received its award today (Wednesday, 4 November 2015) at the 12th annual World Responsible Tourism Awards ceremony hosted by World Travel Market, at the ExCeL London Exhibition and Convention Centre.

The 60km Loop Head Heritage Trail takes in 14 local attractions including Loop Head Lighthouse, the West Clare Railway, the Church of the Little Ark, Kilkee Victorian Town, and the Bridges of Ross.

The Trail was launched in November 2014 by Clare County Council, in partnership with Loop Head Tourism, Clare Local Development Company, The Heritage Council, Fáilte Ireland, ActiveMe and BIM.

Cllr. James Breen, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council has congratulated Loop Head on its success adding that the Trail has “strengthened the overall heritage tourism product on offer in County Clare”.

“The naming of the Trail as one of the principal winners in this international award scheme demonstrates how a simple concept that harnesses existing infrastructure and attractions to promote a local area can and does pay dividends from a tourism and heritage perspective. Thanks to the work of the local community, Loop Head Tourism, Clare County Council and other tourism development agencies, tourists visiting this Signature Discovery Point on the Wild Atlantic Way are able to enjoy a truly organic and authentic holiday and are not going away disappointed,” added Councillor Breen.

“We are over the moon to have won and are absolutely delighted for the team of people who worked with us. We feel it is a just reward for all the people on the Peninsula who have an interest in protecting our, now, world class heritage,” commented Cillian Murphy, Chair of Loop Head Tourism.

“Integral to this journey was our attendance at the official Irish Responsible Tourism awards earlier this year where we presented the heritage trail as a best practice,” he said.

Mr. Murphy continued: “Fundamental to responsible tourism is the ethos of ‘a better place to live in is a better place to visit’ and we have totally enjoyed the journey that has developed the Loop Head Heritage Trail. What began as a learning experience for local people has turned into an important piece of tourism infrastructure that provides an insight for visitors about what it is that makes us who we are.”

“We have a better understanding of our heritage and it enhances our enjoyment of where we live and this in turn enhances the enjoyment of our visitors,” added Mr Murphy. “It is this enjoyment that brings our heritage to life, protects it and ensures it will not fade away. We have had lots of very positive feedback from visitors who have used the trail as a way of finding their way around the hidden spots on Loop Head, whether by bike, on foot or by car.”

“We would like to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Clare Local Development Company, Clare County Council, Failte Ireland, The Heritage Council of Ireland and BIM for their commitment to this project and to Active Me for their brilliant handling of the community input into the Loop Head Heritage Trail,” concluded Mr. Murphy.

The Loop Head Heritage Trail features Carrigaholt Castle and Bay, Bridges of Ross, Kilkee Cliffs and Pollock Holes (WAW Discovery Points), Church of the Little Ark (Signature Discovery Point), Bishops Island, Dunlicka Castle, Loop Head Pilots Memorial and Kilbaha Bay, Grave of the Yellow Men, Rinevella Bay and Submerged Forest, Kilcredaun Churches and Holy Well, Querrin Pier and the West Clare Railway

Clare County Council Heritage Officer Congella McGuire noted the community’s development and promotion of the Trail as key to its success in being named a winner in the awards scheme.

Ms. McGuire said that a systematic methodology was used in the development of the Trail. The Loop Head Tourism under took Reading the Landscape training, then completed a field by field audit of the Heritage sites on the peninsula prior to an assessment of access, historical interest and site suitable to form the Heritage Trail.

“Potential heritage sites were identified by locals and project leaders, and then assessed for suitability,” she said.  “In-depth research was then conducted into the sites under categories such as maritime history, folklore and traditions, flora and fauna, and built, military, and religious heritage. The result has been the delivery of a trail that promotes the heritage of the area in a sustainable way that is delivering significant economic benefits for the wider community.”

The World Responsible Tourism Awards win is the latest in a series of achievements for tourism interests in the Peninsula in recent years.

Loop Head was named as the Best Place to Holiday in Ireland by the Irish Times in 2013 and was named winner of the European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) Award in 2010. The Peninsula was named the winner of “best destination’ in this year’s Irish Responsible Tourism awards and was also shortlisted in the ‘Best Destination for Responsible Tourism’ category of the 2013 World Responsible Tourism Awards.

Loop Head Peninsula is also the only Irish destination to be named in the inaugural Sustainable Destinations Global Top 100, which was announced in late 2014. Nominated by Ecotourism Ireland, Loop Head joins a host of well known global destinations in the Top 100 List, including the New Forest and Lake District National Parks (United Kingdom), Rapa Nui – Easter Island (Chile), Vancouver (Canada), La Palma (The Canaries, Spain), Etosha National Park (Namibia), Svalbard (Norway) and Wild Coast (South Africa).

For more visit www.loophead.ie.

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