Burren Lowlands group based in Gort County Galway is moving into the next phase of economic, tourism and cultural support for a region that is on the rise.

Seven years ago the visits of Queen Elizabeth II and President Barack Obama to Ireland generated almost 300 million euro worth of publicity to help the Irish tourism industry according to Failte Ireland. This was during a time when thousands were emigrating and unemployment rocketing. In recent days the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is keeping Ireland on the map for UK visitors but also reminding travelers that Ireland has a lot to offer for everyone from couch
surfers to family excursions and adventure break enthusiasts.

With overseas
tourism in the first quarter of 2018 up by more than 15% in comparison to last
year per the CSO, the prospects look strong for an industry that is a cornerstone
of the Irish economy. To get a better understanding of why more jobs are being
created we need to look at the organizations that are quietly working behind the
scenes to boost smaller regions and their infrastructure.

The Burren Lowlands is one such group based in Gort County Galway, just off the
Wild Atlantic Way on the edges of Galway and Clare. It’s project manager Teresa
Butler and her team are determined to keep supporting and sharing their home
and region with the world in a sustainable and supportive manner.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Teresa Butler and run a local rural development project in the West of
Ireland called Burren Lowlands. This is a voluntary based, not-for-profit
organisation working to make the region of south Galway and north Clare a
better place to live, work and visit.

I joined as a volunteer myself four years ago when a group of local people
came together as a result of the economic downturn to improve the area and
future proof it against the type of losses it was experiencing at the time.
It has been a very exciting project to work with, challenging at times but well
worth the effort when you see a community coming together to maximise the
potential that this region holds. Having a background in community
development and just finishing my degree in sociology, I set up my own
business as a social entrepreneur so that I could carry out this work because it
held so much meaning for me. I later went on to study business as well as a
result.

What role does your organisation play in the community?

It creates structure for development of the region, which takes in Gort town
and its hinterland including Kinvara, in three main areas; community,
enterprise and tourism. It provides a framework for a bottom-up approach to
rural development whereby people at grassroots take the initiative to develop
projects with the support of Burren Lowlands CLG. The project in turn is
supported by the local authorities and relevant support agencies. It is a
support to economic and social development in the region, stimulating
community spirit and innovation. It works under the ethos of developing the
potential of the region using the strengths of its people and place.
We work across the board to partner with a large variety of organizations that
promote the wellbeing, prosperity and sustainability of our region.

Why is this more important than ever?

This forms the basis of sustainable development. For example, the region has
since been designated as a Rural Economic Development Zone which creates
leverage in terms of funding opportunities and statutory focus. The regions’
cross county and cross provincial location has had a negative impact in terms
of development over the years therefore this shift has been important. The
concept of developing the hinterland of the town of Gort and Kinvara as a
region is essential as towns and villages thrive better when their hinterland in
included as a whole. There are about fourteen communities interdependent
with Gort and Kinvara.

The successes of Burren lowlands CLG so far, have been in attracting a Loop
from the WAW through the region which is expected to be launched in the
near future. This shows the importance of highlighting the potential of the
natural landscape, heritage and culture that is within the region. A tourist
office has been running on a voluntary basis for the last four years as well,
there now also a food and heritage programme running called The Flight of the
Dishes. Burren Lowlands has also set up a regional business network called
Burren Biz which is part of the enterprise focus as well as plans for an
enterprise centre in Gort. There is a Town Renewal scheme in place which
utilises the positive impact of the recently opened motorway that runs just
minutes from the town. There are exciting plans in place for Galway 2020
celebrations which will celebrate Gort town and the regions heritage, culture
and sense of belonging. The people of the place are our biggest asset.

What advice do you have for tourists coming into this region?

Firstly, take your time get to know the attractions are in the region,
Kilmacduagh Monastery, Coole Park, Thoor Ballylee and the Kiltartan Gregory
Museum. We have a history of literature that dates back over 1400 years. The
Irish literary revival grew out of the Burren Lowlands region. The Abbey
theatre was first conceived here so come and visit the places that inspired
great poets and play writers. It’s an ideal destination for the culturally curious.
Come and see the beautiful coastline of South Galway and North Clare, as well
as the ancient tower houses and rolling landscapes. There is a genuine
welcome for everybody.

Final Comments

We as a group are moving into a phase of furthering the sustainability of the
Burren Lowlands project and would welcome contributions of advice, time,
finance, skills or otherwise to this hugely important and exciting venture. It will
not only have an impact on current, but to future generations of this
wonderful region.

For more information visit www.burrenlowlands.org.

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Burren hillwalkers enjoying the west coast of Ireland.Burren Beo