Last week Fáilte Ireland announced the projects they would be supporting under the Programme for Growth of tourism. The project that will receiving the bulk of the €44.3 million funding is Westport House and Estate with a grant of €20.2 million.
This will go towards the master plan by the Hughes Family, owners of Westport House and outdoor clothing company Portwest, to invest €75 million in developing the largest tourism attraction in the north-west of Ireland.
The Hughes family purchased the ancestral home of the Browne family in 2017. It was the home of the Marquesses of Sligo, the Lords Altamont for over 300 years.
Three major attractions
The Fáilte Ireland grant will be used toward three major paid for attractions on the 433-acre site. They are:
Westport House – the restoration of the stately Palladian mansion that is currently undergoing renovation with the help of conservation architects. It will tell the story of the Browne family and the history of this area of Ireland.
Wildheart – will be the Grace O’Malley immersive experience. The pirate queen of Connacht’s original home was here in Westport. She will be returning in spirit to be part of a fascinating visitor attraction.
Wild Realms – is a vision by RHS Chelsea Flower Show award-winning garden designer, Mary Reynolds and will be based on the Tree of Life. It will be a magical experience into the past, present and future, connecting earth with Irish heritage. Mary Reynolds will also be involved in creating a uniquely Irish re-wilded landscape on the estate.
During the three to four-year construction period, it is expected that 350–450 jobs will be created. When open, the new attractions will employ up to 245 people. Visitor numbers are projected to be 300,000 per year with the hopes that many will be overseas tourists.
There are plans for future developments to add a farmyard and campgrounds to Westport House.
Barry O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer of Westport House, with a career in hospitality in the United States, Europe and Ireland said, “the funding along with investment from the Hughes family will enable us to take our offering to the next level and transform Westport Estate into a world-class tourism destination.”
Fáilte Ireland estimate that the economic contribution to the north west with €33m future tourism spend will result in direct and indirect employment of up to 1,000 jobs.
Renovation of Hotel Westport
Hotel Westport, is also in ownership of the Hughes family has recently received planning permission for a complete renovation. It will begin later this year and the popular 130-bed hotel will get a complete makeover.
When asked about business to the hotel, Mr. O’Connor said, “business is better this summer and we will be expecting 75% occupancy in June, and 90% in both July and August.