Shannon Group’s tourist experiences and attractions company, Shannon Heritage, has lodged a planning application with Clare County Council that will see it undertake the single largest investment at the recently announced Irish tourist attraction of the year since it first opened its doors in 1963.
The multi-million euro investment to rejuvenate the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park visitor experience, subject to planning approval and funding from Fáilte Ireland, is one of the largest projects of its nature planned in Ireland.
Niall O’Callaghan, Managing Director, Shannon Heritage, said: “Over the past year we have set out an ambitious growth strategy that has already begun to succeed with the addition of new attractions to the portfolio. Today’s milestone at our flagship is a further step towards our goal to significantly increase visitors to our region and Ireland. It is a hugely exciting transformational project that will significantly enhance the storytelling, visitor interpretation, and overall immersive experience of 800 years of history. Our staff and visitor feedback have been central to the vision of the ‘new’ Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and this, we believe, will create a major attraction of scale on the Wild Atlantic Way.”
The most ground-breaking aspect of the project is that that it will deliver Ireland’s first ever 4-D 270-degree visitor experience. A new building constructed for this purpose will awaken the senses and transport visitors through the ages in a sensory, immersive and historically accurate experience, a real ‘wow factor’ before they enter a rejuvenated Bunratty Folk Park.
All 25 houses in the 19th century Folk Park and the 15th century Castle at the site will get an uplift in interpretation, as well as improved landscaping and new creative play elements and navigation. All aspects of the project are being held to the highest principle of integrity of the existing Folk Park – both historically and aesthetically. Historical content is being sourced from the National Folklore Archive in UCD and the Glucksman Library at the University of Limerick.
Additionally, in order to support the dispersion of visitors around the Folk Park and increase dwell times for tourists in Co Clare, Ireland’s largest Butterfly House is planned for the Regency Walled Garden at the opposite end of the Park to the Castle. Prepare for your heart to flutter in the domain of the most colourful creatures on earth, a unique immersive experience for all the family.
Niall O’Callaghan added: “With just under 400,000 visitors a year, we are building on this success with the support of our sister company, Shannon Commercial Properties, with an ambition to reaffirm Bunratty Castle and Folk Park status as a ‘must visit’ destination. As early innovators with the launch of the world-famous medieval banquet at Bunratty in 1963, this project will again position Shannon Heritage as true innovators in Irish tourism. The investment will result in a significant increase in visitors and the various elements of the project will appeal to a mass audience from the culturally curious to great escapers with authenticity at its core.”
Subject to planning approval and funding approval from Fáilte Ireland, it is anticipated work will commence in early 2020 with a view to completion in early 2021.
Mary Considine, Deputy Chief Executive, Shannon Group, said: “Since 2014 Shannon Group has been on a journey, one that has seen us invest almost €85 million across our Group companies at Shannon Airport, Shannon Commercial Properties, and Shannon Heritage. We are committed to further investment and as our Shannon Heritage portfolio grows we want to ensure that we continue to offer customers the best experience possible. The implementation of our masterplan for Bunratty Castle and Folk Park will ensure that we give tourists even more reasons to visit our region and fly Shannon.”