Chapter 11: Tourism and Recreation

Dúnta27 Aib, 2022, 9:00am - 25 Bea, 2022, 5:00pm

The following material alterations are proposed to Chapter 11 – Tourism and Recreation.  The proposed alterations should be read in conjunction with the original draft chapter which can be viewed here.


Section 11.0     Introduction

Tourism and recreation make a positive contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of County Wicklow. In 2017, 275,000 overseas tourists visited the County generating revenue of €73m with a further 319,000 352,000 domestic visitors generating an estimated €49m €53m in revenue. The tourism sector took a significant hit as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.   



Section 11.1.3  Fáilte Ireland Strategies

In March 2015, the Government published the Tourism Policy Statement People, Place and Policy – Tourism to 2025 which sets out clear and ambitious targets for the development of Irish tourism. The ambition of this policy statement is to have a vibrant, attractive tourism sector that makes a significant contribution to employment across the country; is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable; helps promote a positive image of Ireland overseas, and is a sector in which people want to work.

Fáilte Ireland’s Tourism Development & Innovation A Strategy for Investment 2016 – 2022 is a broad strategy for investment in the tourism sector and seeks to identify the areas of investment that need focus on what will deliver sustainable growth in the Irish tourism sector resulting in higher revenue and more jobs.

The tourism sector’s best prospects for growth lie in generating increased levels of overseas revenue. The focus of the Government’s 2025 Tourism Policy is to increase the economic contribution of tourism to the Irish economy, by increasing the value of tourism service exports.

Fáilte Ireland, the national tourism development authority, aims to develop, guide and promote tourism as a leading indigenous component of the Irish economy. Its current strategy for Wicklow is encompassed in the ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’ programme.  

Fáilte Ireland is in the process of preparing Regional Tourism Plans for each of the four Regional   Experience Brands (Dublin, Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands). The purpose of the Regional Tourism Plans is to identify the sustainable tourism development priorities that will help to unlock the commercial potential of the region bringing benefits to all stakeholders and industry. Each plan will be prepared based on the VICE model which is a methodology for working towards sustainable tourism that seeks to strike an appropriate balance between the needs of the Visitor, the Industry and Community and the Environment. The plans will be for the period to 2025 and will be grounded in Fáilte Ireland’s new Corporate Strategy. There will be a strong spatial element to the plans which will seek to identify where development should take place in order to unlock the tourism potential of the region.

The Regional Tourism Plans will also provide a strategic framework for a suite of Destination and Experience Development Plans (DEDPs) which will sit underneath them. They will set out the overall goals of each of the proposed DEDPs as well as the timing and sequence for the preparation of these plans.

Ireland’s Ancient East

Ireland’s Ancient East (IAE) has been developed by Fáilte Ireland as a branded visitor experience encompassing the rich heritage and cultural assets that Ireland has to offer in the midlands/eastern half of the country. The initiative is designed to allow visitors peel back the layers of time and to go off the beaten track to experience thousands of years of history. Covering the South and East and part of the Midlands, it focuses on the wealth of cultural and heritage attractions in the area. The new destination brand has been designed to appeal to the key customer segments – namely the Culturally Curious and the Great Escapers, and to present this large geographic area in a cohesive and unified manner. Fáilte Ireland has established a strategic partnership with the OPW which will enable key heritage assets to be opened and made accessible through a sensitive, sustainable tourism approach.

The key strategic objectives of the Ireland’s Ancient East initiative are:

  • To drive growth in international visitor numbers, tourism revenue and associated tourism employment in the regions which currently underperform in these areas.
  • To move Ireland’s east and south from a transit and day tripping zone to a destination which attracts international overnight visitors.
  • To develop a world class visitor experience, which delivers fully on the brand promise.
  • To differentiate the Ireland’s East and South destination, within the international tourism marketplace, on the basis of the quality of its heritage experiences and a clear and memorable narrative, which links all experiences within it.
  • To disperse visitor traffic across the geography by encouraging the exploration of both the well-known attractions (in some cases congested) and lesser known sites and experiences (hidden gems).
  • To ensure Ireland’s Ancient East Regional Experience Brand is delivered in accordance with the principles of sustainable tourism, ensuring that economic, social and environmental benefits are delivered in a balanced way.

Destination Experience Development Plans

The role of Fáilte Ireland’s Destination Experience Development Plans (DEDP’s) for Wicklow County is to support the development of world-class experiences focused on the region’s rich ancient heritage while adding to the overall destination proposition. Wicklow has benefited previously through the Tales of Two Worlds plan which had a particular focus on the Great Houses and Gardens of the region. While that plan is now complete, Fáilte Ireland aims to continue to develop DEDP’s to address experience development gaps across the region. These plans will provide the context for tourism operators and stakeholders to work in partnership, create new and improved existing visitor experiences, and communicate coherent and unified stories to the visitor.



Section 11.2     Strategy for Tourism & Recreation

Outdoor Recreation

Wicklow has excellent outdoor recreation assets including the Wicklow mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and beaches. It has the capacity to become a year round international outdoor activity destination.

Wicklow Mountains National Park covers 20,000 hectares making it the largest national park in Ireland. The Park is an invaluable recreational space for locals and tourists. The most visited area is Glendalough, which attracted 732,824 732,362 visitors in 2019 and was third fourth on Ireland’s top ten ‘free to enter’ attractions for 2019. Powerscourt House Gardens and Waterfall were ninth eight on the top ten fee-charging attractions during 2019 with 472,523 487,876 visitors.

The popularity of Glendalough as a tourism destination has created a number of challenges particularly in terms of access and visitor management. The County Council in partnership with Failte Ireland, NPWS and the OPW are in the process of creating a Visitor Experience and Management Masterplan for Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains National Park. In terms of sustainable tourism development it is important to manage access to the landscape at key points and to distribute visitors in a more sustainable manner.

There is potential to expand the network of walking routes connecting with the Wicklow Way and create a world-class network of trails. There is also potential to develop Wicklow as a destination for cycling and e-biking.

Tourist Hubs and Destination Towns

In conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, the Planning Authority will support the development of Bray, Wicklow-Rathnew, Arklow, Greystones, Blessington, Baltinglass, Enniskerry and Rathdrum as significant tourism hubs. Many other settlements also act as tourism hubs but on a smaller scale. Many of the settlements surrounding the Wicklow Mountains act as tourist hubs including Laragh, Roundwood and Rathdrum. In addition, the Planning Authority will support the development of the south-west of the county, particularly for development related to rural, archaeological, heritage and outdoor recreational tourism and the urgent need for increased accommodation.

In particular, Wicklow-Rathnew has been identified by Fáilte Ireland and the Eastern and Midlands Regional Assembly as a tourist destination town.  The Planning Authority will support and facilitate the continued development of Wicklow-Rathnew as a tourist destination town.

Fáilte Ireland is actively developing visitor experience development plans such as the Vikings Visitor Experience Development Plan. This sets out to strengthen the county’s offering as a Viking destination. Another bespoke programme is the ‘Great houses and Gardens Experience’. The Council will support such programmes that help deliver sustainable tourism within the county.

Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority and Coillte, Ireland’s largest commercial forestry company have announced plans to re-develop Avondale House and Forest Park into a state of-the-art visitor attraction. A total of €8 million will be invested in the re-development of Avondale House and Forest Park with Fáilte Ireland contributing more than €6.1million to the project. The redevelopment of Avondale House and Forest Park is hugely significant from a tourism and economic perspective for Ireland’s Ancient East and for Wicklow. The development of this new world class visitor experience provides a major opportunity for tourism businesses across Wicklow to leverage this significant investment.

Coillte in partnership with Fáilte Ireland are redeveloping Avondale House and Forest Park into a state-of-the-art visitor destination. The redevelopment is hugely significant from a tourism and economic perspective for the County and the region and has the potential to leverage further tourism development and investment.

The development of the Avonmore Way link bridge will facilitate an important link between Rathdrum and Laragh. This will be a significant addition to the County’s tourism and recreation infrastructure. 

The Planning Authority will support the development of a heritage and Famine remembrance walking trail linking the villages of Carnew and Shillelagh to allow the village of Carnew to be connected to the Arklow-Shillelagh greenway and thus benefit the regions tourism and recreation infrastructure.



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives


CPO 11.17        To facilitate the development of hostels and alternative accommodation offerings along established walking / hiking routes and adjacent to existing tourism / recreation facilities.



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives


CPO 11.XX       To resist consent for change of use of purpose built holiday homes to permanent residential use unless it can be demonstrated that the development would comply with relevant design standards for permanent occupation, as well as the development objectives including occupancy controls where applicable for that location, whether town, village or rural area.



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives

Other Visitor Facilities

CPO 11.25        To cooperate with Wicklow County Tourism, Bord Fáilte Ireland and other appropriate bodies in facilitating the development and erection of standardised and branded signage for tourism facilities and tourist attractions.



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives

Tourism & Recreation Infrastructure

CPO 11.28        To support tourist/visitor park and ride facilities at appropriate locations that will facilitate access to upland amenity areas, as may be identified in the Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains National Park Masterplan, or by strategies / plans of the Wicklow Outdoor Recreation Committee, Wicklow Tourism or other tourism agencies.



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives

Tourism and Recreation Themes & Products

CPO 11.29       In conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, to support the development of Bray, Wicklow-Rathnew, Arklow, Greystones - Delgany, Blessington, Baltinglass, Enniskerry, Kilcoole, Newtownmountkennedy, Rathdrum and Tinahely/ Shillelagh/Carnew (South West Wicklow) as tourism hubs.



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives

Tourism and Recreation Themes & Products

CPO 11.31        To develop Wicklow-Rathnew as a recreation and tourism hub and its designation by Fáilte Ireland as a Destination Town due to its attractive coastal location, heritage assets and its proximity to key destinations such as the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough and Brittas Bay and the key attractions within the town including the Wicklow Gaol, the Murrough, coastal walks, beaches, architectural heritage, sports facilities and as a terminus of the planned Greystones – Wicklow Coastal Route.



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives

Tourism and Recreation Themes & Products

CPO 11.XX       Support the preparation, delivery and implementation of a Visitor Experience Masterplan for Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains National Park and Visitor Orientation Plan for County Wicklow in partnership with Fáilte Ireland, NPWS and the OPW.



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives

Tourism and Recreation Themes & Products

CPO 11.XX       Support the development of Avondale House and Forest Park into a state of-the-art visitor attraction, including (but limited to) visitor information and orientation services, and outdoor recreational attractions and facilities, with strong linkages to Rathdrum and surrounding amenities and villages.



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives

Tourism and Recreation Themes & Products

CPO 11.34       To support the development of a strategic national network of walking, cycling, horse riding and water-based trails.



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives

Tourism and Recreation Themes & Products

CPO 11.37        To protect and enhance existing and support the development of new, walking, cycling and horse riding routes / trails, including facilities ancillary to trails (such as sign posting and car parks) and the development of linkages between trails in Wicklow and adjoining counties. In particular, to encourage and facilitate:

  • on-road cycling routes across the Wicklow Mountains (in particular across the Sally Gap) and along coastal routes;
  • the development of a new walking route  trail from Bray Head, via the Sugarloaf Mountains, joining up with The Wicklow Way;
  • hill walking trails in West Wicklow;  the development of a lakeshore walk trail around the Vartry reservoir; the development of a walking route trail along the disused Great Southern and Western Railway line (Naas to Tullow branch) through      Dunlavin and Baltinglass subject to consultation and agreement with landowners;
  • the development of a coastal route from Bray to Arklow as well as links between this potential route and the coast road;
  • The Wicklow Way and St. Kevin's Way (as permissive waymarked routes).
  • The Wicklow to Glendalough “pilgrim walk” incorporating ancient wells.
  • ‘Mountains to the Sea’ amenity route incorporating Glendalough, Laragh, Annamoe, Roundwood, Newtownmountkennedy and Kilcoole-Newcastle.
  • The development of an amenity and active travel walking and cycling route between the Bray Harbour area northwards to the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown administrative area to provide for future connection to the proposed Woodbrook DART station. 



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives

Environmental Protection

CPO 11.47        Where relevant, the Council and those receiving permission for development under the plan, shall seek to manage any increase in visitor numbers and/or any change in visitor behaviour in order to avoid significant environmental effects, including loss of habitat and disturbance. Management measures may include ensuring that new projects and activities are a suitable distance from ecological sensitivities; visitor/habitat management plans will be required for proposed projects as relevant and appropriate.



Section 11.3     Tourism & Recreation Objectives

Tourism Zoning

CPO 11.XX       To provide for tourism development at Jack Whites, as shown on             Map 11.05

Add new Map 11.05