Category Nine: Community Tourism Initiative
Winner: Castlecomer Discovery Park, Co Kilkenny
For hundreds of years Castlecomer was defined by the coalmining industry, which informed the fabric of its economic, social and cultural identity. So, when the mines closed in 1969, it was a huge blow. Recognising that traditional manufacturing would not be coming back, a group of locals came together with the idea of setting up a tourism enterprise that would pay tribute to the coalmining heritage of the town including the geological richness of the area. Castlecomer Discovery Park was born from this “people power” initiative and opened to the public in 2007. It comprises some 80 acres of woodland, including two man-made lakes, and originally formed part of the Castlecomer House Demesne (the Wandesforde Estate). The Park offers a variety of outdoor activities to visitors, including boating and canoeing, orienteering, archery, a tree-top walk, a high-ropes Octagon course, Ireland’s longest zip-line and a junior play area and visitor numbers have grown substantially in recent years.
Group Contact: Ronan Ryan, [email protected]
The winning entry is a tourism enterprise par excellence. It was set up to bring renewed economic activity to a town and create much needed jobs. This has been achieved conclusively and the enterprise has proven a major catalyst for other spin-off projects in the town. There are exciting developments planned for the future.