Restored Youghal Clock Gate Tower offers time travel experience

Emphasis on living history hits right note for Bord Fáilte ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’ project

The restoration and opening of Youghal Clock Gate Tower in Co Cork with its emphasis on true personal stories from history epitomises what Fáilte Ireland is seeking to achieve with its promotion of Ireland's Ancient East, according to a senior executive with the tourism promotion body.

Jenny De Saulles, head of Ireland's Ancient East with Fáilte Ireland, said the official opening of Youghal Clock Gate Tower as a tourist attraction promised to transport visitors back in time as they were guided through the site's history via the stories of those who had lived there.

Ms de Saulles said the restored clock tower now included a permanent interpretative exhibition, costumed storytellers presenting and animating 700 years of history, storyboards and screen imagery supporting the story and an audio guide to enhance the experience for non-English speakers.

“Over the four floors of Youghal Clock Gate Tower, the visitor can experience four eras of time through differing historical characters and settings including a medieval merchant’s dwelling, an 18th century gaol, a ‘time keeping floor’ and a former family home,” she said at the official opening.


True stories

“Within the tower, the visitor can now peel back layers of time at their own pace as they hear the historical stories, touch and feel objects from the past and become acquainted with the bustling life of Youghal’s past – this project truly sums up what we are trying to do with Ireland’s Ancient East.”

Built on the site of Trinity Castle, one of five principal fortifications in late 14th century Youghal, the Clock Gate Tower, with its distinctive arch, has had an eventful history. This is reflected in the four floors of the building which trace the history of the town from the 1400s up until the 1900s.

Later renamed Trinity Gate, it was originally equipped with a sundial but was given a clock and bell when rebuilt in the late 18th century to serve as a gaol. Several United Irishmen were hanged there before it was finally closed as a gaol in 1837.

Aileen Murray, manager of Youghal Socio-Economic Development Group, who oversaw the restoration project on behalf of Cork County Council, said the group was looking forward to working closely with Fáilte Ireland to fulfil its remit as a key component in Ireland's Ancient East.

Also speaking at the official opening, chief executive cork County Council Tim Lucey said the potential of Youghal Clock Gate Tower had been identified over a decade ago and now that it was open, it was “a wonderful addition to the tourism offering we have here in Cork County.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times