#loophead – The 2013 tourist season at Loop Head Lighthouse in County Clare commences this weekend as the West Clare landmark opens to the public for the first time this year.
The 19th century lighthouse will be opened for its third successive season on Saturday and will remain open each weekend, including Easter Weekend and Bank Holidays, up to and including September. Clare County Council says 12 full-time and part-time jobs will be created when the Lighthouse reopens.
Loop Head Lighthouse, located at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary, is steeped in history and rich in maritime heritage with its origins dating back to the 1670s. The existing tower style lighthouse was constructed in 1854 and was operated and maintained by a keeper who lived within the lighthouse compound. In January 1991, the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation, and today is in the care of an attendant and is also monitored by the CIL. In July 2011, Clare County Council, with the support and cooperation of CIL, Shannon Development and Loop Head Tourism, opened the Lighthouse as a visitor attraction on a trial basis.
The Lighthouse made national headlines last year when Taoiseach Enda Kenny, whose own grandfather was a Lightkeeper at Loop Head during the 1930s, and his family visited the historic maritime building. Dr. Aleida Guevara March, the eldest daughter of revolutionary figure Ernesto "Che" Guevara, also visited in late September, while the Lighthouse was one of 400 lighthouses and lightships in 50 countries to participate in the 15th International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend.
17,423 people (13,441 adults, 3,982 children) visited the lighthouse during the May to September opening period in 2012. 71% of the total visitor figure was represented by domestic visitors, of which approximately 50% were holidaymakers and 35% were day-trippers, with local visitors accounting for the remainder. Overseas visitors accounted for 29% of the total figure. It is estimated that the 18-week opening period was worth approximately €650,000 to the local economy.
Speaking ahead of the weekend opening, Gerard Dollard, Director of Services with Clare County Council said: "Clare tourism, particularly the sector in the Loop Head Peninsula, has benefited greatly from this visitor project and we look forward to welcoming thousands of people to the Lighthouse again this year. This is a very special year being the year of the Gathering and also the year in which Kilrush will host a 10 day programme for the National Famine Commemoration in May. The opening of the lighthouse complements the existing, quality tourism product on offer in the Loop Head Peninsula and wider West Clare area."