New Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains Masterplan is launched

Glendalough

A major new plan to develop the tourism potential of the Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains region, Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains National Park Visitor Experience and Management Masterplan, has been launched today.

The plan has been launched by Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan T.D, with Councillor Aoife Flynn Kennedy, Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, Emer O’Gorman, Chief Executive Wicklow County Council, Catriona Ryan, Head of National Parks and Nature Reserves, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Rosemary Collier, Head of Heritage & Capital Works Delivery, Office of Public Works, Eamon Kenny, Director of Forest Operations, Coillte and Orla Carroll, Director of Product Development at Fáilte Ireland.  

The Visitor Experience and Management Masterplan (VEMMP) is a seven-to-ten-year plan designed to provide a phased roadmap to protect and enhance the setting of Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains National Park, and to establish key sustainability objectives against which future projects will be assessed and realised. 

Developed collaboratively in partnership with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage including its National Monuments and National Parks and Wildlife Services, Coillte, OPW, Wicklow County Council and representatives from the local community, the Masterplan seeks to enhance the natural built and cultural heritage, disperse the benefits and impacts of tourism and improve the overall visitor experience. With over 1 million visitors to the region per annum, the partnership collectively recognised the need to provide a greater regional and seasonal spread of visitors and to improve the visitor experience. 

This new partnership for Glendalough is an evolution from a high-level steering group which was established to oversee the development of the Masterplan. The projects outlined in the Masterplan will be implemented collaboratively through the various state bodies, Wicklow County Council, and the local community. 

Speaking at the launch, Wicklow County Council Cathaoirleach, Councillor Aoife Flynn Kennedy said:  “I am delighted to be present here today at the launch of this very important plan.   Glendalough is one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland with a rich and fascinating history that attracts many tourists and recreational visitors. I want to pay tribute to all of the agencies involved in the development of this Masterplan as well as local community interest groups for their contribution to the Plan which will provide guidance for future development within Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains National Park ensuring sustainable tourism within the Park and wider area.” 

Minister for Housing, Local Government & Heritage, Darragh O’Brien T.D said: When it comes to our special places of natural and built heritage, we always have to maintain a fine balancing act between preservation and celebration. Glendalough is many things, a place of pilgrimage, peace, biodiversity, archaeology, heritage and natural beauty. I am particularly pleased to see that this detailed and ambitious Masterplan will address the key steps needed to provide a world class visitor experience whilst safeguarding the sensitive built and natural heritage that makes Glendalough so special.” 

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin T.D said: The Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains National Park Visitor Experience and Management Masterplan provides a significant and extensive framework to grow tourism in the region. I welcome the publication of this plan today as its successful delivery will offer a world class visitor experience in the beautiful natural surrounds of Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains. This Masterplan, developed by Fáilte Ireland, OPW, the NPWS, NMS, Coillte and Wicklow County Council will encourage the spread of tourism across the region and invite visitors to explore its rich local heritage, which will benefit local businesses and communities in the region.” 

Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan T.D said:  “The Office of Public Works is delighted to see the progress made to date and the publication of this Masterplan for Glendalough, which has a special place in Irish history and is one of the iconic landmarks of our national portfolio. This plan will safeguard the heritage value of Glendalough within the Office of Public Works and providing a path for the future management and maintenance of the Visitor Centre, but also an idea about how we imagine people will experience the site in generations to come.” 

Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan T.D said: “Wicklow Mountains National Park is our largest National Park and, given its proximity to Dublin City, one of our most popular and accessible. It is rich in cultural and social history and home to a range of protected habitats and species, including internationally important blanket bog at Liffey Head and Old Oak Woodlands, otters, bats and birds such as the peregrine falcon. Maximising visitor experience and minimising visitor impact on our National Parks is a challenging balance to strike. Vitally, this plan acknowledges the important role that our National Parks have in protecting nature and biodiversity.” 

Director of Product Development at Fáilte Ireland, Orla Carroll said: “The Masterplan provides a clear roadmap for future tourism investment within Glendalough & Wicklow Mountains that will transform the region to deliver a better spread of tourism and visitor activity. Glendalough is already a well-established tourist hub and major cultural attraction in the National Park and has the potential to build its appeal as a site of national and international significance due to its monastic city and natural heritage. It is vitally important that this beautiful site is preserved for future generations, and a key focus of this Masterplan was to get the right balance in improving the visitor flow, parking facilities and accessible trails to enhance the overall experience of Glendalough and balancing the conservation and heritage of this amazing place for visitors and locals alike. Through our partnership with OPW, the NPWS, NMS, Coillte and Wicklow County Council, Failte Ireland is committed to the sustainable development of Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains region, which will continue to serve an important economic driver and source of employment for County Wicklow.” 

Rosemary Collier, Head of Heritage & Capital Works Delivery, Office of Public Works said: The development of this masterplan has been an important process, bringing together all the key stakeholders in Glendalough to set out an exciting vision for how visitors will experience and enjoy the important built, archaeological and natural heritage of this most wonderful part of Wicklow, into the future. The expert team in the OPW looks forward to working with our partners to continue to conserve this important site and to deliver a sustainable tourism offering for the area.” 

Niall Ó Donnchú, Director General, National Parks and Wildlife Services said: “This Masterplan sets out how we balance our nature conservation and heritage values with growing visitor demand at Wicklow Mountains National Park. Sustainability is fundamental in implementing the plan, and can only be achieved if all stakeholders across nature, heritage and tourism work together towards this shared goal.” 

Coillte’s Director of Forest Operations, Eamonn Kenny said: “We are delighted to support the development of the Glendalough & Wicklow Mountains National Park Masterplan which is designed to enhance the overall visitor experience supporting increased tourism and economic activity in this area. This aligns with Coillte’s strategic vision which is focused on balancing and delivering the multiple benefits of our forests for climate, nature wood and people.” 

The VEMMP sets out a strategy for achieving the over-arching objective for Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains National Park, which is to create a sustainable balance between enhancing the area as a visitor destination based on outdoor recreation, trail networks, and direct experiences with nature, and conserving its natural, built and cultural heritage. It also proposes a co-ordinated approach to visitor orientation and signage, improvements to car parks and facilities, and designation of sustainable ‘discovery walks’ to accommodate large numbers of visitors who wish to explore the outdoor environment. The Plan sets out an iterative process which will continually adapt to the needs of all users of the National Park and will balance the core conservation and heritage values with visitor demand  sustainability. 

It is also a key aspiration of the Masterplan to ensure that visitors are spread geographically throughout the wider Wicklow region and throughout the year to minimise peaks.  This will help protect ecological and heritage sensitive areas, and improve the visitor experience bringing significant benefits to the local economy and local community.  

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