The Sheep’s Head & Bantry Tourism Co-operative has been shortlisted in Ireland’s first ever national Tourism Industry Awards in the best Leisure Tourism Innovation category.
It’s another boost for the small co-op which won silver at the recent Irish Responsible Tourism Awards for its commitment to developing tourism that supports sustainable communities.
The co-op is in illustrious company on the national awards shortlist, with the likes of Guinness Storehouse and Glasnevin Cemetery and Museum also recognised in its category.
“It really is a great achievement for our 100 members, and a tribute to the success of our ‘Living the Sheep’s Head Way’ marketing campaign,” says John Tobin, chair of the group which was established in 2013 to help the area capitalise on the potential of the Wild Atlantic Way.
“It shows what can be achieved when we work together to champion our stunning destination.”
Siobhán Burke, who has led the marketing campaign for the co-op, says that the co-op has built on over 20 years of collaborative effort, which began when local landowners came together to create the Sheep’s Head Way back in the late 1990s. The Sheep’s Head Way is now recognised as one of the premiere walking routes in Europe, and, in 2009, the Sheep’s Head peninsula was designated as a European Destination of Excellence for Sustainable Tourism.
“The community spirit and pride people showed in establishing the walking route continues to inspire everything we’re doing today,” says Siobhán. “All of the business people along the Sheep’s Head Way who have joined with us to help promote the area deserve great credit for their forward-thinking approach, and their willingness to collaborate to achieve great things.”
Among the co-op’s memberss are fellow awards finalists David and Elizabeth Ross who developed Drimoleague’s Top of the Rock Pod Páirc and Walking Centre in an effort to increase the area’s provision for visiting walkers. Their unusual wooden glamping pods offer visitors the year-round opportunity to enjoy modern camping experiences in the setting of a traditional family farm. The Pod Páirc, which is located on the eastern flank of the Sheep’s Head Way is shortlisted -alongside the Cliffs of Moher – in the ‘Best Environmental Tourism Innovation’ category.
“We’re all delighted to reach the finals of these national industry awards,” says Siobhán, “and we’re also proud to be showing that responsible tourism isn’t a worthy but dull thing to be involved in.”
“A responsible approach is, at its best, a spur to create genuinely excellent tourism that is rewarding for everyone and every place involved in it. That’s certainly what we’re trying to achieve here on our small stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way.”
Over the last two years, the tourism co-op (whose members populate this website!) has benefitted from the support of both the West Cork Development Partnership – also supporter of the Pod Páirc – and Cork County Council. It also draws on member subscriptions to fund its ongoing work.
To join the Sheep’s Head & Bantry Tourism Co-operative, contact Siobhán on 086 303 0991 or email [email protected]