Dunree Fort a tourist attraction fit for a king
It was immediately clear from the enthusiasm in his voice, John McCarter, Chairperson of Dunree Military Fort and Museum, was delighted by Thursday's funding announcement.
The iconic Inishowen Treaty Port had received a funding package totalling €12.5 million, €9.3 million from Fáilte Ireland's Platform for Growth Programme 2021 and the remaining €3.2m from Donegal County Council.
Speaking to Donegal Live, John said the whole Dunree Military Fort and Museum community was “absolutely delighted”.
“When the project is complete, Dunree Military Fort and Museum will have the 'WOW factor' on an inclusive site, designed with full access for all,” said John.
“It has been quite a long road, to say the least,” he added. “I have to acknowledge the support and commitment of Donegal County Council, along with Failte Ireland, for enabling this to happen. Without their support, we would never have been able to reach the criteria necessary to get this level of investment. To get it over the line now is just absolutely amazing and fantastic.
“For the board, staff and management here at Fort Dunree, this is really a lifetime's ambition and aspiration, something we have been working on for more than 30 years. We have long felt that Fort Dunree is a national monument in itself and part of our national history and a huge visitor attraction in Inishowen, Donegal and the whole of Ireland.
“The role our manager, David Magee has played in this project has been crucial. One of the big steps forward we were able to take about 20 years ago was to take advantage of what is now called the Community Services Programme. This gave us a full time manager and staff.
“That manager, from day one, has been David and he and his team have been crucial. Up until then, it was just the voluntary board and myself. David has been totally committed to this project and I would like to acknowledge that,” said John McCarter.
According to John McCarter, the ethos of the Platform for Growth Programme is to create immersive experiences for visitors and to give them a wonderful experience of wherever they are visiting.
“Dunree Military Fort and Museum has a fantastic history and a very colourful history, the whole history of our Irish and British descent over the years,” added John. “It encapsulates why we are here and the maritime history of Lough Swilly, the telling of which we are going to upgrade and retell, in a way that really attracts the visitors.
“We are going to connect the sea level, where we have our pier and harbour, the ground level where the Main Fort is and the High Fort. This is a great opportunity to open up the High Fort, which we have never been able to do before. In connecting all those three, we are going to produce an iconic access route, which will be serviced by a funicular railway. There is no other funicular railway in Ireland, so this will be a first for Ireland, Donegal and Inishowen.
“The railway will go from the ground level, where we normally would be at Fort Dunree, and will climb up the hill to the very Top Fort. There will be a station there to let visitors off. The Top Fort will be reopened and reimagined and remodelled to take advantage of the huge panoramic view you can pick up from up there. We will also put in interpretative and display signage, coffee docks and places for people to enjoy and take advantage of the spectacular location,” said John.
John added: “It will enable people to visit a lot more of the site. There are approximately 70 acres in Dunree Military Fort, so there is a lot of development to take place. This will be a major chunk, however, it still leaves the avenue open for more.
“The other major feature we are going to have is projecting glass walkways. These will go out over the water at sea level and up in the lighthouse, out over the cliff.
“Visitors will be able to walk out on a glass surface, into nothing, and have the instagram moment, in safety. It's all about giving people a great experience, one they can't get anywhere else,” said John McCarter.
John hoped the project would be completed it two years. “The hard work starts now,” he laughed.
Welcoming the Dunree Military Fort and Museum project, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD congratulated the community workers and businesses at the site.
He added: “It is Fantastic news that more than €12 million of investment has been confirmed for this beautiful tourism location, leading to new and exciting visitor experiences including what will be the only Funicular in Ireland and a glass walkway.
Cllr Jack Murray added: “Massive congratulations to all involved at Fort Dunree, as more than €12 million is announced to develop the tourism offering there.
“It is a spectacular location, which is as yet undiscovered by too many visitors. No doubt this will draw more people to visit Inishowen.”
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