Donegal's top tourist attraction is experiencing 'serious issues' with traffic and crowd control

Glenveagh National Park is struggling to cater for numbers during the busy summer season.

By Conor McMahon Deputy editor, Fora

DONEGAL’S MOST POPULAR tourist attraction is experiencing “serious issues” with traffic and people management during the busy summer travel season.

Visitor numbers at Glenveagh National Park and castle have steadily increased in recent years, according to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which oversees the management and maintenance of the park.

More than 211,600 visitors were recorded at the attraction last year, up from 150,600 in 2014. It was recently named by Fáilte Ireland as one of the top-20 most popular fee-charging visitor attractions in the country.

However a recent tender said the park – which opens year-round – is experiencing “serious issues with traffic management in the peak season”.

The castle and surrounding grounds “are also heavily congested in the summer months, with catering facilities at times unable to cater for the large volume of visitors”, it added.

In an effort to counter the congestion problem, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht issued the tender for an “architect-led team” to develop and manage a long-term visitor experience plan for Glenveagh National Park.

shutterstock_315358169 Glenveagh Castle
Source: Shutterstock

The contract is estimated to be worth €200,000. The successful bidder will be required to delivery a “world-class experience” at the site, “manage existing and potential visitor capacity issues”, and “facilitate improved visitor access” to the attraction.

The culture department said that providing tourists with “engaging, imaginative and compelling experiences of Glenveagh National Park will motivate them to come to Donegal and encourage them to spend more time and money in the area.”

“Glenveagh National Park is an iconic attraction which has the potential to play a key role in extending the tourism season in Donegal through motivating visitors to visit during ‘off peak’ times.”

According to Fáilte Ireland data, Donegal is the second least-visited county on the Wild Atlantic Way after Sligo, recording 289,000 overseas tourists in 2015 – the year after the marketing brand was launched.

Public transportation

As explained in the tender document, traffic is currently being pushed onto the nearby R251 main road during the busiest times of the year.

There is currently no public transport to the park – Bus Éireann’s Expressway bus terminates 24km away in Letterkenny – although private bus operators run services during certain parts of the peak travel season.

The park’s 250-car and seven-coach parking facilities are “unable to cater for the volume of traffic” during the summer months, the tender added.

The successful bidder for the visitor experience plan is expected to come up with recommendations for improving the infrastructural and recreational offering at Glenveagh.

“The overall objectives of this project are to address the capacity issues in Glenveagh National Park and develop motivating and compelling visitor experiences,” the culture department said.

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