A new visitor reception centre was officially opened during a special event today at Fanad Lighthouse in Donegal.
Overlooking Malin Head, Fanad Lighthouse offers visitors breath-taking views and a truly memorable experience. Identified as a Signature Discovery Point along the Wild Atlantic Way, the refurbished lighthouse opened to the public in April 2016.
Donegal TD, Government Chief Whip and Minister for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands Joe McHugh and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin officially opened the centre today. The new reception venue is also home to a permanent exhibition to highlight the stories of Fanad Head.
Speaking at the official opening Donegal TD Joe McHugh, TD said: “Fanad lighthouse is a special place – it really has to be seen to be believed. In the Donegal Gaeltacht, it is also a beacon for the Irish language, playing a key role in promoting the language not least by hiring Irish speaking students to work there during the busy summer months.
“It is a unique place to visit and stay and tourism investment such as this, along the Wild Atlantic Way and at the Gateway to the Gaeltacht, is exactly the type of initiative that will encourage more and more people to come to Gaeltacht areas and to come to see the hidden gems of Donegal.”
Minister McHugh continued: “For years the lighthouse was shining a light on the sea and now it is shining that light on the land as a beacon for tourism, the Irish language and sustaining the Gaeltacht and rural communities.
“The management of Fanad Lighthouse deserve credit for their efforts to promote the Irish language and in doing so they provide work for Irish speaking students during the busy summer months. It is a shining example of keeping the language alive.”
Alongside funding from the Special EU Programmes Body, Irish Lights, Donegal County Council and €60,000 over two years from Údarás na Gaeltachta, Fáilte Ireland invested €400k in the development of a new visitor centre and car park.
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin said: “Donegal has already benefitted enormously from the Government’s and Fáilte Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way initiative but we need to continue to deepen the experience and focus on growing that success year on year. The lighthouse embodies the maritime and seafaring history of Ireland and, since it opened to the public, has become an important tourist attraction along the route.
“The new visitor reception centre provides visitors with excellent facilities which will only add to the overall experience. The Government is fully committed to continued investment in fantastic experiences such as this along the Wild Atlantic Way.”
Commenting on the opening, Fáilte Ireland’s Head of the Wild Atlantic Way, Paul Kelly CEO, Failte Ireland said:
“We are delighted to invest in the development of a visitor reception centre at Fanad Lighthouse. The funding is part of Fáilte Ireland’s strategy to improve the visitor experience at Signature Discovery Points along the Wild Atlantic Way in a bid to spread tourism across the region and grow tourism in the ‘shoulder seasons’ each side of summer. Local input is essential in developing visitor experiences and the local community and all parties involved have really come together to make this project a success. One of three Wild Atlantic Way Signature Discovery Points in the Northern Headlands, the new facilities at the lighthouse will enhance the visitor experience greatly, increasing dwell time and spend in the local area.”
Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive of Irish Lights said: “Our partnership with the Fanad community and Fáilte Ireland is a fantastic example of reaching out and working with others to create a vibrant and exciting tourism experience at one of our most beautiful lighthouses, while protecting and sharing our heritage and history for the benefit of tourism communities around our coast.
“Since the opening of the lighthouse, Fanad Lighthouse has attracted over 50,000 visitors – this new facility will help attract even more of the ever growing community of lighthouse enthusiasts that visit or stay at the Great Lighthouses of Ireland around our coast.”
The opening ties in with Fáilte Ireland’s ongoing plans to develop tourism in Donegal, complementing recent investment in visitor facilities at Malin Head and a proposed Visitor Experience Development Plan for the Inishowen area.