Plan to promote the Burren – will it happen?

There was an announcement today by Fáilte Ireland of a ‘new plan that will help drive and sustain tourism in the Burren and Cliffs of Moher’.

Interestingly the ‘Visitor Experience Development Plan for the Burren and Cliffs of Moher’ is actually the same document that was finalised pre-pandemic and made available 21 months ago in January 2020. The website page with supporting documentation has not noticeably changed since early last year. https://www.failteireland.ie/Wild-Atlantic-Way/Wild-Atlantic-Way-experience-development/Burren.aspx

Preparatory work on the document started in 2017, and the first draft was produced in 2018. As with so many of these initiatives, it was consultancy-led.

There is a section on Kilfenora, but readers will be bemused by the inaccuracies and out-of-date entries in the section concerning the village. That text, like much of the plan, has not actually changed in 3 years. However one slightly bizarre suggestion, namely to create a ‘butterfly farm’ in Kilfenora, has been dropped since the 2018 version.

The document states that “the views of local communities and participants in the Burren were of fundamental importance in the development of the Plan.” In fact there was no consultation with the Kilfenora community – a prime reason for the inaccuracies – and a request last year for the community to be able to engage in the (already published) plan’s implementation was refused. Some other communities were also not consulted. The preference was stated to deal with selected contacts in certain businesses rather than engage with communities.

Local readers may be amazed that Burren gateway villages such as Corofin and Kilnaboy have been left out completely. And apart from some text defects, the more eagle-eyed will also observe oddities among the illustrative photos. In the case of the Kilfenora page the newly published version no longer has a picture with any relevance to the village.

Despite such flaws there are many good ideas and observations in the document, and it is to be hoped that it will lead to positive action, and with more alacrity than it has taken to generate the ‘plan’. It is well worth reading thoroughly.

The significant push-back across North Clare about the initial consultancy-led ‘Cliffs of Moher strategy’ and its evident disregard of investment in the Burren as a whole may be starting to get some traction. The press statement accompanying the ‘new’ (if old!) plan makes the right noises about distributing visitors and their spend more evenly across the region – as communities have been demanding for years.

For example, given its unique attractions, the ‘City of the Crosses’ should be a must-visit destination when promoting the Wild Atlantic Way in Clare – rather than a forgotten drive-through in the ‘hinterland’. This requires positive and proactive response to community requests for improved visitor signage and facilities, just to start with. Kilfenora Development Community Group and the Tidy Towns Team have been doing as much as they can this year, but with miniscule resources.

To make meaningful progress the key actors behind this plan will need to demonstrate real commitment to rural regeneration, with serious investment both financially and in engaging with local communities, such has clearly not been happening hitherto. Actions will speak louder than words.

The only sign that tells visitors from the Ennis-Corofin direction that you are approaching Kilfenora – but recently destroyed by joy riders and no replacement being offered

Council’s refusal of 60 ft mast in Kilfenora overturned

An Bord Pleanála has overturned Clare County Council’s refusal of Eircom’s plan to erect a 60 ft telecoms mast just off Kilfenora Square.

Numerous objections from villagers were received by the Council, pointing out that this would be by far the tallest structure in the village, located right by houses fronting on Kilfenora Square (including a childrens’ creche) and on the road to Lickeen Lake, and visible from many parts of the village.  Given Kilfenora’s need to welcome visitors to its historic sites, the erection of an eyesore was seen by concerned locals as close to vandalism.

There IS a need for better cellular coverage in the area. However, there were significant doubts expressed about how much this mast would improve services – to the south, being placed in a dip (which is why it has to be so high), it would probably perform poorly, and in other directions might well only beam signal to outer areas rather than the village itself. The location chosen was clearly determined by the fact that this is a site that already has an Eircom installation, itself something of an eyesore – a matter of cost rather than effectiveness.

In terms of visual appearance, Clare Council rejected Eircom’s description of the mast as being akin to a ‘telegraph pole’. The Council recently and experimentally provided a wi-fi service in the Square; it would take little effort or cost to boost and extend this.

Eircom has provided no information on the precise performance of the mast. Indeed, strikingly this ‘communications company’ did not communicate with the residents of Kilfenora at any stage to explain their intentions and the potential benefits. Unsurprisingly, words such as ‘arrogant’ and ‘incompetent’ were among the politer comments to be heard about Eircom in local discussions.

This also seems to fit a pattern of initiatives by various public bodies that seem reluctant to engage with local communities in any meaningful way.

The same unfortunately applies to An Bord Pleanála. The Assessment by Inspector Adrian Ormsby, in rejecting the objections raised and the decision of Clare Council, was also not communicated to or discussed with the Kilfenora community, many of whom might find his various statements of ‘opinion’ to be quite debateable, for example that the mast will not be on a ‘scenic route’. The report indicates that he has not actually visited Kilfenora, and relied on some grainy photos (as below) and drawings.

An Bord Pleanála states that its decision can only be challenged by a ‘judicial review’, which of course would be hugely expensive.

So the situation seems to be that Kilfenora residents are left in the dark about when this installation will be erected, as well as whether it will actually be of any benefit in terms of connectivity.

Note that a previous attempt to erect a mast near Kilfenora some 15 years ago, in a forested area west of Noughaval (in reality less obtrusive than Eircom’s mast), was defeated after extensive public protests. In the course of that battle, a number of untruthful statements by telecoms company O2 were revealed.

The documentation on this case can be seen here.

A brief write-up on this decision was reported on the Clare Champion on 16.8.21, and can be seen here.

R476 road closures Kilfenora to Lisdoonvarna

Contractors working for Clare County Council will be carrying out road works in July on the approach to Kilfenora from Lisdoonvarna direction (R476).

From 12th July 2021 to 16th July 2021 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m, re-surfacing  work will start near the junction with the L5290 at Ballykeel North progressing down part of the hill descending towards Kilfenora – see the red section on the map below.

Probably on Wednesday, re-surfacing will also commence on the section of the R476 exiting from Kilfenora (shown in orange on the map), with the intention of concluding by Friday evening.

The Council state that local access will be maintained for residents within the site at all times.

The recommended diversion route for general traffic is to use the N67 (Lisdoonvarna to Ennistymon) and then the R481 towards Kilfenora.

Further details can be found here.

Later still (no date set as yet), 2 kilometres of improvement work is due to be carried out on the L1120 from the turning out of Kilfenora off the R476 (by Fair Green) towards Noughaval.

Grant to enable re-opening of Kilfenora Cathedral

A grant of €29,950 has been made by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage for a conservation study of Kilfenora Cathedral. The purpose is to define necessary restoration works, and also to identify ways to develop and widen public access to the Cathedral for heritage, cultural and community use.

This is one of 139 grants totalling €4m announced by Minister Malcolm Noonan, TD on 16 June.

The grant application was made by Rev Kevin O’Brien, with the help of Kilfenora Development and Clare Co Council. The work will be carried out by specialist conservation architects Paul Arnold and Associates.

Kilfenora Cathedral, est 1189

Kilfenora Cathedral has been closed for use for several years, and has suffered some deterioration internally and externally. It is sad that the fine interior of this important national monument, a community resource for over 830 years, has been shut to visitors and the community. However that should change.

It was recommended to Kilfenora Development and the Church of Ireland that a professional study is a necessary precursor to getting a further grant for the restoration work.

Some of the eroded plasterwork can be seen on the left

In addition the study will examine ways for the Cathedral to be used by the village of Kilfenora, and how enough income can be generated to pay for its upkeep. The intention is to maintain the building as a place of worship, but also to improve its usability for various community and tourism purposes.

Rev Kevin O’Brien is keen for example that It can be used again as a concert venue – as it has been during the Kilfenora Trad Fest – and as a showcase for local talent and young musicians. “In the absence of a local CoI congregation, it is really for the Kilfenora community to embrace this unique building and make best use of it.”

Both to oversee the project and manage the Cathedral in future, a steering group – and eventually perhaps a board of trustees – will need to be formed by the various stakeholders, including our community of course, within the next few months.

In the meantime, the Burren Centre plans to start guided tours of the village for visitors – with the Cathedral, celtic crosses and Holy Well as core attractions – offering a rewarding and relaxed experience for those escaping from the overcrowding at the coast and the Cliffs.

In due course, once repair works have eventually been done, it is hoped that it will be possible to re-open the Cathedral interior on a regular basis.

A concert from the 2015 Kilfenora Trad Music Festival, featuring Tara Howley

Please adopt a flower bed, and make Kilfenora tidy!

For the first time in many years, a concerted effort is being made to improve our village’s appearance, and to enter the Tidy Towns competition – for which we need to be ready by 2 July.

The Kilfenora Tidy Towns team is calling on members of the community to help, and is launching an ‘Adopt a Flower Bed’ initiative. 🌷🌼

Councillor Joe Garrihy is kindly sponsoring the purchase of plants – thanks Joe! 🙏 – but community help is needed to weed and prepare 7 flower beds, 4 on the approach road from Ennis/Corofin and three on the Lisdoonvarna Road.

One household has already adopted beds 1 and 2 – see pictures below – but please bid to help with the rest! Call Dena on 087 761 8318 to choose your bed(s) and for any more information.

What’s needed is just weeding and preparing the bed for planting any time before Thursday 24 June (after which the Team will organise planting).  Please take a before-and-after picture of the flower bed you adopted and post that on the Kilfenora Online or Tidy Towns facebook page, or email it to .

Just so you know, apart from rescuing these flower beds, the intention is to install planters in Kilfenora Square and at Inchovea Church, and put plants in the bed on the Ennistymon approach road. Flower beds are already in place at the West entrance to the Cathedral.

Keep up to date with work being done by Kilfenora Development and the tidy towns team by visiting this website, and on facebook and Instagram (@likfenora_tidy_towns).

@KilfenoraTidytown @TheBurrenCentre @anTaisce @theNationalTrustforIreland @GreenerClare

From Ennis/Corofin – beds 1-4
Lisdoonvarna direction approach road – beds 5-7

Choose a new village entrance sign for Kilfenora

A new identification signing system for the Burren villages is proposed by Clare County Council. Kilfenora residents are being invited to choose one of 3 options, and express their views.

Why new signs?

As part of efforts to retain the prized ‘Geopark’ status for the Burren, the Council is responding to UNESCO’s request for improvements to be made to signage.

It is proposed that the same style of signage would be placed on the entry roads to all the Burren villages – Kilfenora, Ballyvaughan, Boston, Carron, Corofin, Doolin, Fanore, Lisdoonvarna, New Quay, Ruan and Tubber

At present we have this sign on three of our entrance roads (from Ennis, Noughaval and Ennistymon).

Existing ‘Welcome’ sign

The re-designed nameboards

The Council is asking us to choose one of 3 alternative re-designs. The new designs would only allow one description of the village on it, eg ‘Home of céilí music’ OR ‘City of the Crosses’ in the case of Kilfenora. The indication of what services are available in the village would use symbols. The new nameboards are 2.3×1.0 m and made of metal.

Options 1,2,3

One of the issues is visibility of the information. Depending on where the signs are placed, if drivers pass them at speed they are unlikely to take in much information.

The choices

1              Which of the three alternatives would you choose?

2              What description would you suggest we choose for Kilfenora?

(a)          “City of the Crosses”

(b)          “Home of céilí music”

(c)           Something else?

Note: ‘Gateway to the Burren’ (or similar) will not be allowed as several villages could claim this.

3              This sign is intended to replace the existing sign.

(a)          Do we want to keep the existing signs and ask for the new signs to be placed nearer the village?

(b)          Or are you happy that the new signs will replace the old?

Finally if you have any other views on the design, please let Kilfenora Development know.

PLEASE REPLY TO KILFENORA DEVELOPMENT by email at or submit a written reply addressed to Kilfenora Development to O’Gormans shop in Kilfenora by Friday 11 June. You can download and use the reply form indicated below if you wish.

Kilfenora Square parking – your views invited

As part of regular discussions between Kilfenora Development and Clare County Council, the Council suggested marking out parking bays in Kilfenora Square. The Council Engineers have made some initial suggestions that pose a few practical issues – see their draft plan below – and so Kilfenora Development is asking for community views about what would be sensible.

Elements to be considered include

  • creating marked car parking bays along on the north side of the Square (Lisdoonvarna side) – would these help parking, make the Square look ‘organised’?
  • creating marked out spaces for the habitual parking areas of Bus Eireann on each side of the Square AND, longer term, considering the possible installation of bus stop signs and bus shelters
  • creating marked spaces for up to 2 buses or delivery trucks (middle square area, away from parking adjacent to pavements)
  • when buses stop for the Burren Centre, they typically park by the weighstation; is that OK, and should there be marked bus bays?
  • what other considerations should be allowed for?

If you have views on these choices, or feel that the current ‘free-for-all’ unregulated parking should continue, please send an email expressing your views to or drop a note into O’Gormans shop marked for the attention of Kilfenora Development. The closing date for submission of views is Friday 4 June.

You can print off a blank map to draw your suggestions on if you wish. Use the link below to download a document and return it via O’Gormans or online to

Kilfenora Development – a lot’s happening!

Kilfenora Development – a lot’s happening!

In December 2020 the creation of a community group ‘Kilfenora Development’ was announced, identifying a number of volunteers who had formed a steering group, representing various aspects of the Kilfenora community.

Since then, due to Covid pandemic restrictions and very slender resources, it has been difficult to undertake any wide involvement and communication, although there have been some targeted consultations in the village on particular topics.

However, on behalf of the village, members of the Steering Group have engaged with Clare County Council (CCC) on topics known to be of concern to the community, and also where possible making grant applications. Here’s just some of what’s been happening.

1              Tidy Towns team – this has been re-started and began work with a very successful clean-up on roads surrounding the village, addressing the excessive littering by antisocial motorists and rubbish dumper. A second clean-up took place this Saturday inside the village, eg weeding in the Square and restoring the cathedral entrance flower bed.  More activities are being considered, eg to enhance the Holy Well area, and you will hear more from the team shortly.

The re-planted flower bed

2              Kilfenora Square – ways to improve the appearance and amenities in the Square have been much discussed. For example in January a Council grant was sought to upgrade flower beds and install flower planters. (Unfortunately an answer is only going to be given in mid-June). An attempt is being made to get the bicycle racks moved to a better location and a request has been made for an E-car charging point. A community consultation on car parking issues will shortly be announced.

3              Hall upgrading – the Hall Committee is shortly starting Phase 1 of an improvement process, including painting and insulation work. A grant for Phase 2 is being sought, to include improvements to the backstage stairs and creating a better meeting room space upstairs for community use.

4              Kilfenora Cathedral – in collaboration with the Church of Ireland and CCC, a grant application has been submitted for a professional study to define necessary repairs and also to identify uses and thence sources of revenue, so that the Cathedral can be both maintained and used by the community long-term. The newish rector in Ennis (Rev Kevin O’Brien) is keen to see Clare’s CoI churches used more, including for concerts and working with music teachers. (Note – repair work by the Council to the graveyard wall is also being sought.)

5              Village signage – various improvements are under discussion. A consultation on a new style of Burren village signs will shortly be launched.

6              Road improvements – repairs to the Lisdoonvarna road (approx 400 metres) and Noughaval road (2km) are due to take place, probably in July. Kilfenora Development has lobbyied to make the 3 L-road village entrances (from Doolin, Lickeen and Noughaval) safer for walkers and cyclists, particularly by moving 80kph speed limit signs to beyond housing. While that has been denied, CCC has ordered more warning signs to denote local walkers, and these are due to be installed soon.

7              Cliffs of Moher 2040 and Council’s tourism strategy – the Kilfenora Development steering group is considering major proposals for investment that, if we do not make representations and articulate what we want, will yield little benefit for Kilfenora. It is intended to conduct a consultation in the community on the Cliffs strategy in particular in coming weeks, as the outcome of that project will have an effect that will last for years.  At the same time Cllr Joe Garrihy has formed a North Clare strategy group local community interests including KIlfenora Development to collaborate on these kind of issues.

8              Burren Discovery Trail – by chance it was discovered that Failte Ireland is planning to install large ‘Caher doorway’ sculptures and display panels at 12 locations in Clare and Galway counties. An initial consultation in 2019 just about creating a ‘trail’ had a mixed reception, and there had been no discussion or information since. The intention is good – to try to attract visitors away from the Wild Atlantic Way to villages and attractions inland. However a rapid consultation with 20 Kilfenora community members involved in tourism identified major flaws with what was proposed, and some of these were corrected by Failte Ireland. There is no communication as yet when the installations will be made, but the Kilfenora one is due to be placed adjacent to the Burren Centre.

The planned ‘Caher doorway’

9              Cycleways and walkways – some initial work has been undertaken to map out a range of walking and cycling routes around Kilfenora, building on some preliminary work undertaken with the Burren Geopark some years ago. This is intended to aid wellbeing in the community, as well as providing some additional reason for visitors to stay and sped in the area.

10          Improving Kilfenora’s website – a small grant has been obtained from Clare County Council to improve this website. This will contribute to the future promotion of Kilfenora and increasing the village’s ‘digital presence’ – hopefully thereby helping to bring income into the community. (The website and Kilfenora Online facebook page are maintained by voluntary efforts.)

Despite Covid conditions, plenty of efforts are being made to enhance what Kilfenora has to offer. To mention two other points, the Council’s installation of a Digital Hub and a wi-fi service in the Square is very welcome, as is the grant for modernisation of the Burren Centre (a tender for contactors will shortly be issued).

Kilfenora Development is constantly scanning and checking opportunities for grants and support for village enhancement. It is often not easy to meet the particular requirements of the various schemes announced by central and local government and other funding bodies, eg Failte Ireland.

However, thanks is due to certain Clare County Council officials who are now engaging regularly with Kilfenora’s community group – this has never happened before. In addition there has been active support and interest shown in Kilfenora’s development by Councillors Joe Garrihy and Joe Killeen in particular.

If you want to get in touch, please email or talk to any of the Steering Group members.

Kilfenora Digi Hub opens 8 March

A digital working hub is open in Kilfenora from Monday 8 March 2021 (9am-6pm weekdays), located in the Burren Centre – use the main door in Kilfenora Square.

Enter from Kilfenora Square

It offers access to high-speed broadband, and contains 4 ‘hot-desks’ that can be booked online from Monday at https://www.digiclare.ie/  

The Hub has a photocopier (bring your own copy paper), and a tea-station including coffee-making facilities. (WCs are also available). Given the Covid context, sanitisation is available on entry, and users should wear facemasks or shields.

The charge for working there is just €10 per day (or €40 for an entire week).

4 workstations are available, plus a photocopier

This is one of a dozen or so digihubs now in operation around Clare, in a programme managed by Clare Council’s Head of IT, Urban McMahon (from Kilfenora).

COMMUNITY ACTION FOR KILFENORA

Good news, a community action group has been formed to develop and promote Kilfenora!

Most people in the Kilfenora community would agree that there is a clear need for re-generation, especially since the removal of our post office.

Yet for some time, Kilfenora and its associated townlands have been missing out on opportunities for grant-aided development schemes from Clare County Council and other funders. In addition, there has been no mechanism for promoting the village’s interests, nor any effective means of consulting the community that achieves participation.

(Note: the Kilfenora strategic planning exercise in 2018 unfortunately was not converted into action, in contrast with what happened in some other villages.)

Working with Clare County Council

Recently some concerned villagers met in a teleconference with the Council (Clare CoCo). A number of departments were involved, plus two Councillors – Joe Garrihy and Joe Killeen.

  • A wide-ranging set of ideas (plus photographs and video) were submitted to the Council about ways to build on our heritage, and to foster economic, social and cultural development – boosting attractiveness as a place to live, to work in, or visit as a tourist.
  • This included a vision of Kilfenora recovering its position as a vibrant centre of activity in the area of North Clare inside the Wild Atlantic Way.

The outcome was a promise to support Kilfenora, provided the village formed a representative group capable of managing projects, and applying for and managing grant money.

Kilfenora Development action group

Accordingly an action group and consultative panel have been formed reflecting virtually all of the interest groups in Kilfenora – farming, retail, employment, tourism, sport, culture, music, accommodation, different age groups and the Noughaval and Inchovea areas – including specific entities such as the Burren Centre, Deanery, GAA, IFA, Comhaltas, Kilfenora Céilí Band, Kilfenora Timeline, Community Hall and School.

The action group will operate under the name Kilfenora Development, and a not-for-profit company (limited by guarantee) has been formed that allows us to handle grant money.

As recommended by the Council, we will adopt this operating structure, much of which is already in place following consultative efforts in recent weeks.

  • A core action group to co-ordinate action and act as a focal point to promote Kilfenora’s interests (and its members already represent most aspects of the community)
  • A fixed ‘involvement’ panel – to include any interest group that is not already represented in the steering group, plus anyone else serving as an activity project leader; for example, the Kilfenora Heritage Association, Fr Ned Crosby and Rev Kevin O’Brien (CoI), the School Principal and a number of volunteers for project work
  • Contact mailing lists (primarily email, Whatsapp) for anyone in the community who wishes to be consulted and contribute ideas; for example we intend to include various Whatsapp groups representing youth, young mothers etc.

We expect fluidity over time, as volunteers get involved and fresh blood joins the steering group and involvement panel. A website will be created (www.kilfenoradev.ie) to serve as a platform for information-sharing, involvement and promotion. This will work collaboratively with the village website (www.kilfenoraclare.com) and Kilfenora Online facebook page, as well as other websites and facebook pages maintained by village entities, and with the Burren Ecotourism Network.

Members (volunteers) of the initial steering group are Michael Collins, John O’Gorman, John Morgan, Stephen Hegarty, Mary Pegg, Andy Lambert, Frances Nagle, Paul Carkill and Edel Barry.

Building on previous work, embracing ideas

Kilfenora Development will build on the efforts of the Kilfenora Planning Group and the consultation it conducted in 2018, but also other regeneration ideas that have emerged since – in the village, in the Council and in the Burren Ecotourism network.

  • Clare CoCo have committed to work with Kilfenora Development on a strategic plan for the village and improvements in signage, facilities and village appearance. Our intention is also to influence emerging Fáilte Ireland plans for promoting and enhancing tourism in the Burren area.
  • The action group has started working on grants being offered by Clare CoCo under the Community Support Scheme 2021, such as for improving public amenities and village appearance, community wifi, community development and physical activities.
  • We have also reached agreement with the Church of Ireland that the Cathedral will be re-opened for community use, visitors, the Timeline exhibition and activities such as concerts. We are facilitating a grant application by the CoI for some repair work to ensure it is fit for visitors. The Burren Centre plans to offer village tours in the tourist season, as part of publicising Kilfenora’s historic features, especially the Cathedral, Crosses and Holy Well.

We will communicate and consult on this work as it progresses, especially as clear project proposals get developed, in which we intend to involve community members directly. (Note our email address – )

In the meantime, if you have any queries, do talk to any member of the action group.

Up Kilfenora!

St Fachnan’s Cathedral, Kilfenora