West Cork’s Sheep’s Head Way has been shortlisted for ‘Best Responsible Tourism Destination’ at the upcoming Irish Responsible Tourism Awards 2015
The award recognises places that benefit not just visitors, but the communities and environments they travel to, and the Sheep’s Head has been focused on developing this kind of sustainable tourism for many years.
In the late 1990s, local landowners collaborated to create the 88km Sheep’s Head Way walking route, which begins in Bantry and traces the coastline of the Sheep’s Head peninsula, before heading inland to Gougane Barra on a varied 200km network of walking, cycling and heritage trails.
The area was recognised as a European Destination of Excellence for Sustainable Tourism (an EDEN destination) in 2009, and tourism in the area received a new impetus in 2013 when local businesses came together to form the Sheep’s Head & Bantry Tourism Co-operative. Since then, with the support of the West Cork Development Partnership and Cork County Council, the group has been working to build on the range of visitor experiences available in an area that is as renowned for its artisan foods, heritage, and craft production as it is for its unspoilt beauty.
Visitors can now enjoy experiences like cheese-making workshops at Durrus Cheese, and stone-carving weekends with a local sculptor, as well as pilgrim walks, seaweed cooking classes, and jaunts on electric bikes.
Siobhán Burke of the Sheep’s Head and Bantry Tourism Co-op co-ordinates the area’s marketing campaign and believes that a focus on responsible tourism has energised the community all along the Sheep’s Head Way, contributing to the development of original and high-quality tourism experiences:
Responsible tourism makes us focus as a community on where we want to be, and what kinds of tourists we want to attract. We invite people who will enjoy exploring our coastline, and discovering its fantastic stories, and we also want to give them the chance to connect with the community here and the way of life we love. That’s why we ask our visitors to try ‘Living the Sheep’s Head Way’, because we’re focused on sharing with them the places and the experiences, the food and the views, that make us love living here.
The Sheep’s Head Way’s claim to be the nation’s most Responsible Tourism Destination was bolstered by three businesses which made it to the longlist stage of the Irish Responsible Tourism Awards: Carbery Sailing was nominated in the Marine & Coastal Category for its Wild Atlantic Way cruises. The Sheep’s Head Producers’ Market was recognised in the Best Food Initiative category, and Top of the Rock Pod Páirc in Drimoleague was also longlisted for its innovative year-round camping accommodation.
The winners of the Irish Responsible Tourism awards will be announced next week at the second annual Irish Responsible Tourism conference. Siobhán Burke will be speaking about the Sheep’s Head’s work on responsible tourism at the event.
Tickets are available on Eventbrite
Find out more about the Sheep’s Head’s Responsible Tourism initiatives.