Over €12m grants for tourism projects in Athlone region

The Athlone region is one of the big winners from a €32m grant allocation to projects under Fáilte Ireland’s EU Just Transition Regenerative Tourism and Placemaking Scheme announced this morning.

The biggest single allocation is a €7.8m grant to the Office of Public Works for the redevelopment of the visitor centre at Clonmacnoise, including the refurbishment and extension of buildings to enhance the experience for visitors.

The third largest allocation is also for this area of the country, with over €3.26m earmarked for Westmeath County Council for improved tourist facilities at Athlone Castle. The funding is described as being for the delivery of interpretation, facilities and visitor journey enhancements throughout Athlone Castle

Elsewhere in the Athlone region, there is more than €560,000 for Westmeath County Council for the detailed design and planning of a boardwalk and outdoor urban swimming pool in Athlone Town Centre

Bord na Móna is being allocated €3.6million towards the creation of up to 79km of new walking and cycling trails, across suitable parts of the Bord na Móna landbank. It includes land between Athlone and Ballinahown and around Clonmacnoise, Ballinahown and Lough Boora.

In Mullingar, some €187,500 has been allocated to Westmeath County Council for the development of a visitor experience masterplan for Belvedere House, Gardens and Park.

In West Offaly, two projects around Shannonbridge are being funded. They are Shannonbridge Plaza and Shannon Callows Reserve Walkway.

Offaly County Council has been allocated €218,275 for the detailed design and planning for a central plaza and walkway in the Shannon Callows, while €150,000 is being awarded to Waterways Ireland for the expansion of the capacity of the marina at Shannonbridge.

Overall, 22 projects to receive €27.1million investment grant-aid in first round of investment approval, while 85 tourism businesses will participate in a €5.5million Digital Transformation Programme.

The EU Just Transition Fund Regenerative Tourism and Placemaking Scheme 2023-2026 is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the EU.

The 22 projects approved for €27.1million investment under the scheme include walking and cycling trails on former industrial peatlands, and investment in local authority and State agency tourism and visitor experience projects. Further projects that are still in the evaluation pipeline are expected to be announced in the coming weeks and months. Projects span three development categories, including feasibility and masterplans; product design and planning; and delivery and construction.

Fáilte Ireland is also announcing the inclusion of up to 85 tourism enterprises in its EU Just Transition Digital Transformation Programme which is valued at up to €5.5million. A funding scheme for Private and Community SMEs to provide new and enhanced visitor experiences and low-carbon tourist accommodation remains open for applications until June 30, and announcements will be made on these awards later in the year.

Following the announcement of the first projects, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin, said: “These projects mark the first steps in the regenerative tourism development journey in the Midlands, and we are pleased to work with our colleagues in the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications to deliver on government climate action goals through the EU Just Transition Fund. The projects funded support our move as a nation towards a low-carbon economy, in line with the Programme for Government commitment for the development of a Sustainable Tourism Policy, which will support sustainable economic development and job creation. We’re already seeing a significant impact in the Midlands as all counties within the region have been represented across these approved investments in projects, with more to come.”