WHAT’S THE WAY FORWARD? There are conflicting views as to how best harness the potential of Keem Bay in Achill.
A FÁILTE Ireland official has committed to taking into account the local community’s views on the proposed Wild Atlantic Way Signature Discovery Point for Keem Bay.
The development of a discovery point for Keem Bay has been dogged by delays since it was first announced in 2015. However, tenders were advertised in January for engineering-led design consultancy services in respect of a new skywalk and structure on Keem Bay.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the Tourism Strategic Policy Committee (SPC), Fionnán Nestor, Fáilte Ireland Project Officer for the Wild Atlantic Way, said that locals’ views will be listened to.
“Fáilte Ireland is working really closely with Mayo County Council in relation to the development of this project, and there is a shared commitment to take on board local views on how to best to support tourism infrastructure on Achill. This project obviously requires further thought and consideration, and we will be engaging on this,” he told the members of the SPC.
The Keem Bay project is expected to cost between €3 million and €4 million. The initial proposal is to incorporate a structure on the top of Moiteóg Head overlooking Keem Bay, as well as a path to the structure and improved parking and toilet facilities.
There are also plans to develop the old Village Inn site in Keel as part of this project, with an indoor tourism facility proposed for this site.
The Keem project has not been universally welcomed by all on Achill Island, with a number of people voicing their objection on social media and on the national airwaves. In recent weeks, an online petition was launched against the project, and the Mayo Green Party last week described the plans as a ‘disastrous development’.
Keem Bay was last week listed among Lonely Planet’s top 20 Best Beaches in Europe. Describing the beach as ‘gloriously remote’, the leading travel publication writes: “A precipitous coastal drive fires the appetite for proper wilderness – and here you have it.”
Frank Cawley of the Green Party said the proposed development will ruin the very reason for visiting the location.
“A bigger car park with a viewing platform will not improve on this. There are more suitable locations in Achill for a signature tourism discovery spot.
“There is no doubt that these plans will cause damage, both visually and physically, to Keem Bay. The Council needs to engage with residents to hear how funding can be used in a better way,” the Green Party communications officer said.
More projects afoot
Mr Nestor said the Keem Bay project is one of a number of other projects that Fáilte Ireland is currently working on in Co Mayo.
One such project is the development of a Slievemore Heritage Trail on Achill Island, which will be a 2km trail connecting a number of important sites along the base of Slievemore, including the Deserted Village and the Megalithic Tombs.
Other Mayo projects include the development of the Western Way trail, which will be a 56km long off-road trail from Letterkeen near Newport to Ballycastle in north Mayo.
Mr Nestor said Fáilte Ireland is also in discussions with the National Parks and Wildlife Service regarding the development of a planetarium and observatory for the Ballycroy National Park.