Today, Fáilte Ireland have announced four new "world class Irish tourist attractions" which are to receive over €70 million in funding of which €44.3 million will be directly invested by Fáilte Ireland, with a further €29m coming from various public-private partnerships. From over 200 initial applications, Fort Dunree have been announced as one of the four successful projects securing an investment of €12.5 million.
Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media has announced funding of €9.3 million from her Department and Fáilte Ireland, with a further 25% co-funding from Donegal County Council.
Dunree Fort is a place of significant historical importance to the County, built in 1798 and played a role in two world wars before opening its doors to the general public as a Military museum in 1986. Since then, approximately 100,000 visitors come to Fort Dunree each year to experience the museum, but also the spectacular beauty of the region where it is located.
The Fort is located within the Inishowen Peninsula, alongside the Lough Swilly. It is an area of outstanding beauty and has the potential to become one of the County's most important tourist destinations.
Director of Community Development and Planning Services for Donegal County Counil, Liam ward welcomed the announcement stating “The development of Fort Dunree and Head using this Fáilte Ireland funding will be transformational for the tourism offering in Donegal and the surrounding areas".
“We look forward to commencing the project, which will encourage more visitors, domestic and international, to explore and spend time in this uniquely beautiful part of Ireland. This exciting project has been developed in partnership with the Fort Dunree Military Museum Group, Commission of Irish Lights and other stakeholders and we acknowledge their contribution to this positive development today.”
Minister Charlie McConalogue, TD also welcomed the funding announcement "This is a tremendous jewel in the crown of Donegal and it will be even more so an iconic place that will be a must-visit for Inishowen and for Donegal in the future. I very much look forward to seeing this work commenced and delivered. This funding will have a transformative impact on the site with amendments and improvements to many aspects of the site to enrich its offering for the local community and for tourists".
"I thank my cabinet colleague Minister Martin who made the Platform's for Growth announcement this morning, Fáilte Ireland and in particular Joan Crawford, the Fort Dunree Directors led by John McCarter and local councillors including Cathaoirleach Rena Donaghey and Nicolas Crossan".
The vision for the investment at Fort Dunree is to develop its potential as a visitor attraction and create a compelling visitor experience showcasing not just its military but also its considerable maritime, social, and political history. Considerable improvements will be made to the site including new walkways and pathways, additional car parking facilities, and restoration of the buildings and the museum.
A funicular railway is to be developed which will connect the experience from sea-level to the top of the complex in a "thrilling ascent". It will be the only one in Ireland and allow for breathtaking views of Lough Swilly and its surroundings. Glass walkway viewing points will also connect the visitor with the natural environment.
The aim of this investment and development plans is to draw more tourism and visitors to the region, increase local economy and employment opportunities, and ground the position of Fort Dunree as one of the major tourism attractions not only in Donegal, but along the top of the Wild Atlantic Way.