AN ACTION-packed calendar of garden and walking festivals, a golf classic and country fairs have earned Carlow Tourism a prestigious national award.
Carlow Tourism recently received the overall award for excellence in festivals and events from the Public Sector Magazine Awards.
Public Sector magazine is Ireland’s leading source of news, products and services for middle- and upper-level management in public and civil service. This national award was judged by an independent panel of tourism professionals and recognises the range and quality of the annual festival programmes implemented by Carlow Tourism.
With funding provided by Carlow County Council, Carlow Tourism engaged festival and event co-ordinator Alison Fitzharris in 2017. The focus on festival and event development initially stemmed from an absence of festivals within Carlow at the time and the understanding and belief in festivals and events as key drivers of tourism growth and repeat visitors to an area.
The comprehensive festival programme implemented by Carlow Tourism in 2018 featured the Carlow Garden Festival, Carlow Autumn Walking Festival, County Carlow Golf Classic, and A Day with the Duckett’s, replicating life in this historic property as it was in the early years of the 20th century, and a series of country fairs at Duckett’s Grove historic house and walled gardens.
“We were delighted to be recognised for the quality of our work in festival event and development by the Public Sector magazine,” said cllr John Murphy, chairman of Carlow Tourism.
“We are committed to progressing a vibrant festival event programme for the 2019 season and are hoping to attract a number of high-profile UK gardening personalities to the Carlow Garden Festival again, which has really strengthened its profile in recent years,” said Ms Fitzharris.
Monty Don of the BBC is confirmed to speak at Arboretum Home and Garden Centre on Saturday 3 August, while a response is awaited from Prince Charles, himself a very keen gardener, as to his possible attendance at Duckett’s Grove.
Acclaimed UK gardeners Dan Pearson and Troy Scott Smith will appear in a double bill in Altamont Plant Sales in Altamont Gardens on Friday 2 August.
Ms Fitzharris noted that other initiatives in the festival and event area include the piloting of a new festival for the county based around the big houses and gardens story for the month of October.
“We are busy preparing for a new Big Houses festival featuring Altamont House, Borris House, Duckett’s Grove, Huntington Castle and Lisnavagh House,” she explained.
“There are clear advantages to the county in pursuing this strategy – legitimately, Carlow can claim the title of the most gentrified county in Ireland, where, until the early years of the 20th century, as many as 60 estate houses dominated its architectural landscape and social and cultural life,” explained Ms Fitzharris.
“The festival aims to present the key stories around Carlow’s big houses, which would be achieved through a mix of guided tours of the houses and gardens, talks and the opportunity to enjoy unique activities, including afternoon tea, dining or walks through the estates,” she added.
Figures clearly indicate that tourism is significant as an agent for rural development in the county.
“Overseas visitors numbered 79,000 in 2017 and accounted for €45 million of revenue and 1,215 jobs,” said cllr Murphy. “These figures do not take the domestic market into consideration, which is even more sizeable due to the county’s close proximity to Dublin and major centres of population in the east and south. Kildare and Carlow combined welcomed 286,000 visitors in 2017 with revenue of €36 million.”