Transforming the Visitor Experience at Slieve Gullion Forest Park
Visitors to Slieve Gullion Forest Park will now be treated to an enhanced visitor experience thanks to the completion of a joint project funded by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
The project aims to increase tourism in the area and enhance the visitor experience through a new outdoor performance space and immersive storytelling using a combination or new technology alongside traditional interpretation methods, placed throughout the unique natural setting of Slieve Gullion Forest Park.
The £890,000 visitor experience at Slieve Gullion Forest Park was jointly funded by the Council and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), which contributed £500,000 as part of its Rural Development Programme.
Slieve Gullion is one of four forest/country parks within the Council’s product portfolio and is part of the Mourne, Gullion, Strangford Aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark. The park is home to the summit of Slieve Gullion - believed to the highest surviving passage tomb in Ireland. It comprises of 2,500 acres and is predominantly conifer woodland, with one of the largest heath lands in Northern Ireland. It is associated with various legends including Cú Chulainn, Fionn MacCumhaill and the Cailleach Beara and is a unique and special place thanks to its geological, archaeological, natural and cultural heritage.
Since 2014 the Council has attracted £3.8 million of investment for the park to create visitor facilities and services. Now visitors can enjoy multiple ways to discover, explore and cherish the park and its heritage.
This new investment has provided the district with its first outdoor Interpretative Centre for the Mourne, Gullion Strangford Aspiring UNESCO Global Park. This is an important addition to the Aspiring Geopark delivering information on the district’s unique geological heritage.
The park’s Story Trail has also been enhanced and the area’s local myths and legends of Fionn MacCumhaill, Cú Chulainn and the Cailleach Beara are now interpreted through a combination of written text, imagery, listening posts, physical interactives and an exciting new app, altogether creating a touch of magic that offers a unique and personal experience for visitors.
The Walled Garden is now home to a new outdoor performance space, which will provide a spectacular location to showcase home grown talent and enable a wide variety of events, performances and storytelling to take place in a unique walled enclosure with stepped seating.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Vice Chairperson, Councillor Aoife Finnegan said, “Slieve Gullion Forest Park is a key visitor attraction within our district and its strategic location, coupled with a wide range of things to do, makes it a must-see visitor location for visitors across Ireland and beyond. This is an important project that has delivered on the Council’s vision of transforming the Park’s visitor experience by celebrating and interpreting the natural, cultural and built heritage of the Ring of Gullion and wider Council area.
“This continued investment in the Park both by Council and DAERA will ensure it continues to provide an important reason to visit, particularly for out of state visitors, whilst preserving the natural assets of the rural community”.
Welcoming the completion of the project, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots commented “I am delighted that my Department was able to provide grant funding of £500,000 through its Rural Tourism Funding to this project. Our contribution to this project aims to enhance the local area and attract visitors and tourists.
“The improvements made to Slieve Gullion Forest Park are a great example of the collaborative working between my Department and the local Council. The outdoor theatre space is in keeping with the natural environment and the new technologies for enhancing the storytelling, will transform the visitor experience. I trust that everyone who visits will be delighted with the improvements made and it will be a popular attraction.”