Coole Park plan will draw tourists to South Galway

The walled garden and picnic area in Coole Park.

Coole Park, the fulcrum of the Irish Literary Revival, is in line for a revival itself as part of a plan to attract more tourists to South Galway.

Fáilte Ireland, the tourism body, and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), have joined forces to create a “strategic partnership” that aims to enhance and promote the tourism offering at Coole Park Garryland Nature Reserve near Gort.

As part of the masterplan, Coole House will be rebuilt to its former glory as a centre for Irish folklore.

It would operate as, “a new independent cultural space, forging links with international cultural institutions to house internationally renowned cultural exhibits.”

That’s according to briefing documents supplied to Seán Kyne, Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, which has responsibility for NPWS.

The new centre would also act as an interpretive centre for the key themes of the Gaelic Revival including: Ireland’s oral traditional of storytelling; our myth and folklore; the relationship between language, politics and religion; writers writing in Irish; the Anglo-Irish writers; and international writers.

“A sophisticated exhibition space built to international standards would allow, from time to time, a singular focus on an individual author or historical topic of interest to Irish citizens and visitors to the country,” the plans state.

Funding for the project depends on the outcome of an “overall interpretation masterplan” for all five National Parks along the Wild Atlantic Way and Coole Park.

The projects have been identified by the Department as “priorities” and Fáilte Ireland has pledged €500,000 in technical assistance.

“This includes €200,000 which will support the development of an Interpretation Masterplan for Visitor Centres at all National Parks and Coole Park,” the Department said.

The final masterplan may change to the one currently under consideration but a final proposal is due to before October.

Coole Nature Reserve is a rare wetland covering 1,000 acres in the low-lying limestone region west of Gort.

In the early 20th century, it was the centre of the Irish Literary Revival with George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge and Sean O’Casey having all visited.

The plan to revive National Park and Coole Park, is “with a view to growing tourism revenues in the rural areas where the parks are located and increasing Ireland’s appeal as a holiday destination,” the Department said.

It also aims to focus on enhancing the parks along the Wild Atlantic Way; to “leverage the collective value” of the parks; and to conserve and protect the facilities for future use.

The Department has pointed out that protected areas worldwide attracted eight billion visitors last year, bringing $600 billion annually to local economies.

Coole Park and National Parks have the potential to become “must visit” attractions and the plan will look to “combat their low-level awareness” in the international tourism market.

The information was supplied to Minister Kyne, who had requested an update on plans for the development of a tourism interpretative masterplan, which invited tenders last month.

The tenders called for the “development of a tourism interpretative master plan for Ireland’s National Park visitor centres and Coole Park Nature Reserve visitor centre.”

Minister Kyne said the NPWS recently visited Coole Park before providing an update briefing on the plans.