Loughill - A community built on the banks of the Shannon Estuary
Located just off the Wild Atlantic Way, the Shannon Estuary Way is a new tourist route developed by Fáilte Ireland, together with Clare and Limerick City & County Councils, and is set to become a key tourist attraction for the Mid-West Region.
The park, which incorporates a facility for all ages, was built with both the local Community and Tourists in mind. The Park received a national award in 2020, when it was voted first in the Community Enhancement Category at the ALCI (Annual Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland) awards ceremony, undoubtedly a very proud day for this small West Limerick village.
The drive showcases the spectacular stretch of water, where Ireland’s longest river, the Shannon, meets the mighty Atlantic Ocean and offers a beautiful drive along the scenic and unspoilt coastlines of Limerick and Clare, taking visitors through the picturesque towns and villages, heritage sites and many visitor attractions featured within the route.
One such village is Loughill in Co. Limerick. Local man, Declan Hallett has lived there all of his life. He helped set up the Abha Bhán Parish Park Committee in 2015 and has been Chairperson since. “Our park is built on the Banks of the Shannon Estuary and has brought approx. 40,000 visitors to our village per year since it opened in 2019” Declan says.
Declan is very positive about the potential of the Shannon Estuary Way: “Having a platform like this can only be positive as it gives people and communities the opportunity to interact and generate interest, not only locally but also internationally.
Although only a short stretch of water lies between these communities, the amenity to interact or a reason to interact with each other has never been explored fully especially in recent times. The Shannon Estuary Way will now be a platform to do so.”
There is a rich heritage and tradition of cross-Estuary relationships that, in earlier times, closely connected the communities of Clare and Limerick. Declan recalls how his grandparents shared stories with him of how, before phones were widely available, they used to interact with their neighbours in Clare by lighting a fire on the shore.
The sight of the fire meant that they wished to travel over for a visit via rowing boat or during the Summer it meant they requested help with bringing home hay. A reply would be sent in the form of another fire being lit at the opposite side of the shore which would then instigate a trip across the Estuary. “In today’s times, with all our technology at hand, it seems that our grandparents had a better relationship with our dear neighbours than we do. I think that is something that can be revived and hopefully the Shannon Estuary Way is the tool to make that happen.”
Communities and businesses right around the Shannon Estuary Way have been taking part in a Destination Development programme, led by West Limerick Resources and Clare Local Development Company and co-ordinated by Clare-based tourism consultants, The Tourism Space.
Tina O’Dwyer of The Tourism Space commented “We are thrilled with the enthusiastic response from communities along the route, who are excited to re-connect with each other. We’re looking forward to all that is yet to emerge as the communities of the Shannon Estuary take the lead in shaping the story of their destination and coming together to share it with visitors.”
When asked which parts of his place he likes to share with visitors, Declan Hallet is a little biased, placing the Abha Bhán Park right at the top of the list. “However, Kilteery Pier with the neighbouring Rocklodge Lighthouse is a hidden gem on the Shannon Estuary that is enjoyed by locals for its swimming and fishing facilities. This is a place that has so much potential and is a place that would most definitely be on the list of places to visit by tourists if promoted appropriately by a forum such as the Shannon Estuary Way.”
On a personal level, it’s the community spirit that exists in the place and the strong neighbour culture that Declan loves the most. That and the scenery right outside his window. “The Estuary has engrained in me a love of photography, with its never-ending supply of photographic opportunities on a daily basis”, he concludes.
This article was written as part of the Limerick Leader series ‘Stories from the Shannon Estuary Way’ https://www.limerickleader.ie/news/home/661649/focus-on-the-shannon-estuary-way.html