A new state-of-the-art visitor centre at the Céide Fields, which will drive tourism recovery in Mayo and along the Wild Atlantic Way, has been officially opened by Minister of State with responsibility for Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan and welcomed by Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin TD, and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan.
Fáilte Ireland, the Office of Public Works and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage together have invested over €2.6 million in the new immersive experience at the visitor centre, which will position the Céide Fields and north Mayo as a must visit destination along the Wild Atlantic Way route. The centre is expected to attract 38,000 visitors and support 152 additional jobs in the region by Year 5 of opening, generating almost €1 million in additional tourism revenue for the local economy.
The Céide Fields are a unique and extensive Neolithic archaeological site, celebrated for the complex and extensive remains of ancient field systems and habitations. The enhanced experience at the centre includes improved interpretation that tells the archaeological story of the site and its discovery. A new state-of-the-art audio-visual exhibition will draw domestic and international tourists to the site, encouraging them to learn more about the rich heritage of the region, and to explore north Mayo and its surrounds.
Commenting on the launch, Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said, “the Céide Fields is an extremely significant historical site, in Ireland and across the world. The new visitor experience will enable visitors from home and abroad to immerse themselves in the fascinating heritage of the Céide Fields and encourage more people to visit beautiful north Mayo, generating significant economic impact for the area.”
Patrick O’Donovan, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, added, “there is undoubtedly a certain magic to Céide Fields and it humbles the mind to enter what local archaeologists uncovered is the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world. Our knowledge of this site has been so enriched since this award-winning Visitor Centre first opened in 1993 and the new exhibition together with the guided tour will allow us to share this new research with visitors so they can engage more deeply with our heritage, understand it better and cherish it more.”
Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State For Heritage and Electoral Reform said, “this exciting, modern, updated exhibition will bring visitors back in time to see one of Ireland’s oldest monuments in a fresh new light. The prehistoric fields, houses and tombs are a silent witness to the Neolithic farmers who first brought agriculture to Ireland. Lying hidden for thousands of years beneath the bog, the story of the men and women who affected the Irish landscape and built our earliest monuments is now imaginatively brought to life and up to date in terms of archaeological research. This uniquely Irish landscape is truly of international significance and I commend all those involved for developing this fitting tribute to one of our most important National Monuments in State care.”
Paul Kelly CEO Fáilte Ireland added, “I am really pleased to be here in Mayo today for the official opening of the new Céide Fields Visitor Centre. Investing in standout attractions that tell the rich story of Irish heritage creates new and unique reasons for visitors to choose Ireland while creating employment in rural Ireland and its urban centres. Mayo has a wealth of natural and heritage attractions and Fáilte Ireland has been collaborating with industry and stakeholders on a number of key projects which will boost the appeal of this region to domestic and international visitors alike.”
“These include the Wild Atlantic Way Signature Discovery Point at Downpatrick Head (Dún Briste), significant developments to the wonderful Wild Nephin National Park Ballycroy, Destination Town investment in Belmullet, and now this new educational and immersive experience at the Céide Fields. Working under our strategic partnership with the OPW and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, this project has been executed in a sustainable way to ensure this historically important site is preserved for generations to come and adds another exciting focal point for people to come and discover along the Wild Atlantic Way.”
Hidden beneath the blanket of bog, the Céide Fields is the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world. It is a “landscape fossilised”, as poet Seamus Heaney described it in “Belderg”, of stone-walled fields, dwelling houses and megalithic monuments. There is nowhere else in the world with such evidence of how the first farmers farmed the land; only at the Céide Fields can visitors get a unique insight into the sophistication of the land management of our Neolithic farming ancestors almost 6,000 years ago.