Road trip app brings new twist to Wild Atlantic Way

New Innovator: Co Clare start-up’s guides provide tourists with ‘deep cultural heritage context’ unlike other apps

Cultural Roadmapp is an Irish road trip app with a difference. Its focus is the Wild Atlantic Way and its creator, Deborah Schull, says it brings curious tourists to places, both literally and imaginatively, that other travel apps don’t reach.

“When the Wild Atlantic Way was launched in 2014, it struck me that a GPS-enabled, hands-free audio guide could turn this classic road trip into a thrilling cultural adventure by liberating motorists from the visual distractions of standard travel apps and creating an immersive experience of local culture and heritage in real time, not just when one reached a destination point,” Schull says.

Having spent much of her career scripting audio guides and apps for libraries and museums in the United States, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Schull knows a thing or two about writing engaging commentaries for places of interest. She also has a deep connection to Ireland having gone to school here as a teenager.

For many years she has wanted to create a travel guide that would do justice to the depth and breadth of Irish culture and music, and in 2017 she established Cultural Roadmapp to bring her idea to life with business partner and traditional musician, ethnomusicologist and ethnographer, Leah Bernini Cronin. The first of the company’s four-part guide to the Wild Atlantic Way (featuring Co Clare) has already been launched and guides for Cork/Kerry, Galway/Mayo and Sligo/Donegal are on the way once funding to finish them off has been secured.


“We’re taking old traditions, creating something new out of them and making it available on a mass scale,” Schull says. “Just by listening the user is helping to preserve stories and traditions that might otherwise disappear. We see ourselves at the intersection of digital, culture, heritage, innovation and tourism and unlocking what each region has to offer. No other app comes even close to what we do.”

The company’s guides are aimed at tourists who want more than a superficial experience of Ireland. “Tourists who crave an authentic connection with local people and immersion in local culture are the fastest growing group within the tourism sector and our apps are focused on providing them with the deep cultural heritage context they’re looking for,” Schull says.

This has meant covering a lot more ground than traditional audio travel guides so the tours include references to literature, farming, dance history, folklore, geography, conservation, scientific invention, botany, archaeology and poetry as well as recommendations on what to do, where to eat, sleep, shop, listen to music and explore.

“Most audio guides feature a single voice telling listeners to look left or right while offering dry facts about history and geography. We tell stories. Each of our tours is like a mini audio documentary,” Schull says.

“We employ a unique hybrid methodology combining ethnographic fieldwork [the academic method of capturing oral histories] with high entertainment and production values including music and sound effects,” she adds. “We use award-winning professionals to write the narration and internationally recognised native performers to read it.”

Cultural Roadmapp is based in Clare, and Schull has recently joined the RDI (research, development and innovation) coworking hub in Killorglin, Co Kerry. The app is free to download on Apple and Android, and ultimately the company will generate revenue from a mix of commissions and collaborations with regional tourism groups and companies in the tourism sector.

Investment to date has been about €100,000 mainly funded by Schull with help from friends and family and some financial support from Shannon Heritage. Fáilte Ireland and Clare County Library and Museum have also supported the venture in kind. The company is open to offers from other Irish regions to develop similar guides for them, but the concept will also travel and in time Schull hopes to expand into other markets.