Posts Tagged ‘Cork County Council’

Dursey West Cork, Do We Really Need Beauty Interpreted for Us?

Saturday, January 29th, 2022

Cork County Council and Failte Ireland in October 2020 published a “Draft Dursey Island Visitor Management Plan”, within which is iterated very clearly on page three of the document; “Cork County Council is currently proposing to re-develop the Dursey Island Cable Car as a tourism destination“. To that end a Visitor Management Plan is to be developed and established so as to “control visitor numbers to an acceptable level given the sensitivity of the island“.

I am a tour coach driver guide since January 2016 and have been visiting the Beara peninsula, West Cork to fish since the early 2000′s. The beauty of Beara is its, ruggedness, its wildness and within the context of our modern world a relative lack of development, that is not to say that modernity has not reached Beara, it has just been limited. This mix of modern and old should be retained and strengthened to preserve what is a unique heritage and way of life, not in a time capsule way but sensitive to what is a special environment.

As a coach driver guide I love transporting people from all walks of life and diverse nationalities around Ireland, I feel privileged to do this job. However, although Ireland clearly has a successful tourism modal unfortunately it is based on a mass market “bums on seats” approach. The powers that be may deny that statement however a visit to the cattle market which is the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre, Co. Clare or wading through the hoards of people at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, or trying to enter into Killarney mid to late afternoon on any given day during the summer months while negotiating fierce volumes of traffic will attest to Ireland’s international tourism marketing strategy, we target volume and in the process we sell a high quality product in a yellow pack fashion.

The Beara is special because it is underdeveloped within the context of what is recognised as a “modern” tourism destination, in short infrastructure is limited a key feature of which are the narrow roads and they are its saving grace, limiting traffic and access. I do the “Ring of Kerry” regularly and Beara does not need that particular business modal because it will kill its unique selling point of wildness that envelopes you, a wildness and inaccessibility that actually protects a unique landscape, home to rich marine and land based biodiversity.

The draft visitor management plan alludes to mitigating physical damage to landscape, biodiversity, littering and traffic the result of increased visitor numbers upon completion of the project. The key to mitigation is not to build at all. The Dursey cable car originally was put in place for practical purposes to facilitate local access to and from Dursey Island. Upgraded on a couple of occasions since its installation in 1969, the last time in 2004, the Dursey cable car in its current format does have a tourist appeal just by being there, its old school look lends to the excitement of the journey. The latch on the door and the feeling that one could fall into Dursey sound at any moment as one flies across give the experience an edge in a Father Ted sort of way which is “real Ireland”.

I have used the cable car to access fishing on Dursey Island and as the report states one might get stuck if the mainland electricity fails which happened to my friends and I one November evening just as it was getting dark, however Paddy the then cable car operator, lord rest him, got us back later that evening around when the lights came back on. We flew across in a gale, the cable car rocking and the waters in the sound a green/white glowing maelstrom of phosphorescence below, an experience we will never forget and still get great enjoyment out of narrating in full the tale as it transpired. We survived and so did the cable car.

The cable car/interpretive centre proposal for Dursey is a vanity project for Cork County Council and Failte Ireland which in essence will turn a practical piece of infrastructure into a fairground ride and through road widening and signage will signal the beginning of the end of what makes Beara attractive as a visitor destination, its ruggedness and inaccessibility. Present day visitors to Beara have to make an effort, this is the type of mitigation that works, why open up a place to the masses when it is already open albeit in a particular way.

Ironically by leaving well alone the right people will be attracted to Dursey, people who appreciate it because they made the effort to get there, to bird watch, fish, walk, whale watch or just take in the views. People who have just stumbled across the place by accident like I did back in the early 2000′s and have come back year after year because of its unspoiled beauty and solitude. That is the unique selling point of the place and that is how it should remain, if tourists want a fairground attraction they should visit Tayto Park, Co Meath. To pursue and build this project is folly, the product of misled egos who will spend €10 million of tax payers money under the pretext that it will benefit the country. The real benefits into the future both local, national and international for Dursey Island will be derived by leaving well alone…………………

Ashley Hayden, who wrote this piece has extensive business development experience within the Irish food service and tourism sectors going back to 1985, holds a BA in Geography and Economics and an MSc in Business, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship where he researched into the provision of Green Tourism Infrastructure with specific reference to angling. Currently he works as a tour coach driver guide and has done so since January 2016.