Longford's winning streak continues with new €3.8m heritage park

Ireland’s first Center Parcs, a Love Island superstar in Maura Higgins, and now the confirmation of a €3.8m heritage park…. Longford is on a roll.

The 15-acre Norman Heritage Park, described as “Ireland’s only authentically recreated Norman village” will open around the Norman Motte in Granard in 2021.

Fáilte Ireland announced an investment of €640,000 today, together with designs including a replica ship, banqueting hall, family homes and ‘treasure tunnel’.

The funding will combine with an earlier investment of almost €3 million by the Department of Rural and Community Development, and additional funding from Longford County Council, to create a visitor attraction worth almost €4 million.

The state-of-the-art heritage park will be a “huge asset for Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands”, said Longford TD and Minister of State for the OPW and Flood Relief, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, who announced the added investment today.

So what will the new village entail?

Visitors can expect “an immersive experience” transporting them back 800 years to learn “how the people of that era lived, worked and played – all delivered through live acting, innovative displays and activities, as well as augmented and virtual reality”.

The existing motte, dating from 1199, and Granard’s new Knights and Conquests Centre will also form part of the wider attraction.

The news comes as Center Parcs Longford Forest, a €233m holiday resort near Ballymahon, prepares to open to the public at the end of this month.

Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visited the resort, which will provide some 1,000 permanent jobs for the county, for its topping out ceremony.

Meanwhile, on ITV2’s Love Island, Longford model Maura Higgins continues to hoover up the ratings – with Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham among celebrity fans.

In 2017, Longford was Ireland’s least-visited county, with just 154,000 domestic and overseas tourists, according to CSO and Fáilte Ireland data.

Those figures will be turned on their head in the near future, with Center Parcs alone capable of hosting up to 2,500 guests at any one time, and the Heritage Park aiming to attract at least 45,000 holidaymakers a year by 2030.

“The Norman Heritage Park is an example of a unique attraction that has the capacity to be a game-changer for Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and which will stand out in the international marketplace,” said Mary Stack, Fáilte Ireland’s Head of Attractions.

Fáilte Ireland’s investment of €640,000 falls under its Grants Scheme for Large Tourism Projects 2016-2020, while the Department of Department of Rural and Community Development’s funds come from its Rural Regneration Scheme.

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The project has been driven by Granard Motte Community Enterprise CLG (GMCE) and Longford County Council, with support from the Office of Public Works (OPW).

“This idea, from conception to securing funding, has been a great example of the public sector and communities coming together to create a brilliant attraction for visitors and locals alike,” Minister Moran said.

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