Hidden Ireland: Where the heart is
The new ‘Hidden Heartlands’ region contains noteworthy attractions but a development plan is needed to provide necessary focus
The announcement of a new tourist area – entitled Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands – running from Sligo to Limerick and taking in both banks of the Shannon, would be more convincing if it included details of a development plan. Five people will be recruited to promote the brand and a ‘master plan’ based on the river Shannon and the Beara Breifne walkway linking Kerry to Cavan is envisaged. The initiative represents delivery of a political promise.
At the formal launch, Fáilte Ireland’s chief executive Paul Kelly acknowledged the Midlands had been a marketing black hole because it lay in the shade of three major tourist offerings involving Dublin, the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East. But Government funding of €2m will now be provided and Minister for Transport and Tourism Shane Ross expected many hidden treasures in the region would be developed. Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, who entered Government on the basis of a commitment to promote the region under the brand of “Ireland’s Lakelands”, agreed.
The revised title is a clear improvement in marketing terms. The designated region enjoys some outstanding water-based facilities and historic attractions along the Shannon while the inclusion of the established Beara Breifne walkway was a masterstroke. The trail follows the winter march by O’Sullivan Bere from Kerry to Cavan, following defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1603.
Cultural and heritage tourism offers significant opportunities. The Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East are playing their part in encouraging growth outside of the dominant Dublin area. At present, Dublin, Kerry and Cork attract the majority of tourists and there is a need to spread the benefits, as well as the impact of a growing number of visitors. Cultural experiences are no longer confined to museums, art galleries and theatres. Soaking up the atmosphere in small towns and villages, sampling food and participating in local heritage events can be equally enriching. The new region contains noteworthy attractions but a development plan is needed to provide necessary focus.