Marketing the jewel in Inishowen’s crown

Banba's Crown, Malin Head.
Banba's Crown, Malin Head.

For decades, the people of Malin Head have been shouting from the rooftops about the beauty and uniqueness of the area.

While Mizen Head and other destinations have enjoyed bumper tourism funding and an increased profile on both the local and national stage, Malin Head - with its wildlife, scenery, history and heritage - had seemingly been ignored.

Malin Head

Malin Head

But, the tide has been turning and in recent times, Malin Head and in turn Inishowen as a whole, is becoming increasingly recognised as a top destination which has something spectacular to offer.

In recent weeks, negotiations have got underway between Failte Ireland, Donegal County Council and other interested parties about the possibility of setting up an iconic visitor’s centre at Inishowen’s most northerly point.

While funding in the region of 3.8 million euro is yet to be confirmed, the signs are looking increasingly positive.

It is envisaged that the development at Banba’s Crown will be undertaken in three phases.

The first part of phase one, the resurfacing of the roadway and pathway has already been completed. The second stage, which incorporates the installation of extra viewing facilities and seating along the pathway, is intended to be finished by September.

Phase two is scheduled to be completed by March, 2015. This will bring public toilets and extra car parking and bus lanes to the site near Banba’s Crown. There have long been concerns that not enough tourism facilities were available at the location.

This work will then lead on to phase three, the construction of the visitor’s centre.

This centre, which is aimed at promoting and enhancing not just Malin Head, but all of Inishowen, has been driven forward in recent months by the Council, local politicians and an active social media campaign titled ‘Malin Head - Inishowen needs a top quality tourism facility.”

One of the main driving forces behind this campaign is Malin Head man Ali Farren.

He told the Journal any visitor’s centre needed to be more than a “one stop shop.” He added its aim would be to promote how Malin Head and Inishowen has it all, while also creating jobs and enhancing businesses and attractions across the peninsula.

While the area’s “unique selling point” is its location as the country’s most northerly point, Ali points out how it is much more than that.

Malin Head is known worldwide for its weather and the weather station, which is distinguished by its wind speed. Station records go back to 1885.

Banba’s Crown itself, built by the British as a Napoleonic lookout tower, was also once used to contact ships offshore, especially during the World Wars.

In April, Carndonagh Radio Club set up transmission from the tower and broadcast to 155 countries.

It is hoped the new centre would incorporate a working radio, where enthusiasts could broadcast to the world from Inishowen.

There are aims to include a play park for children, as well as a coffee shop, where visitors can relax and enjoy a snack, while also checking out the wildlife.

Along with the area’s famous dolphins and basking sharks, Malin Head and Inishowen is celebrated for its abundance of birdlife.

Ronan McLaughlin, a local bird and wildlife enthusiast, told the Journal how the area is home to such breeds as chuffs, corncrakes and peregrine falcons, as well as the red-listed twites and whinchats.

Ali told how the centre could also possibly focus on the many liners and u-boats, which lie in the waters off Malin Head.

“We would like to see these brought to the surface digitally,” he said.

Then there’s the Northern Lights, Inishowen’s history as a film shooting destination, the stunning Northern Lights and the Wild Atlantic Way.

It has been reported that the Wild Atlantic Way has already increased visitor numbers to the West, many of whom are coming from Britain.

Ali said the general consensus among those pushing for the centre is that it has to be about more than Malin Head and focus on creating Inishowen as a tourism product, which will not only bring visitors here, but also ensure they stay.

“This is a national asset; this is our Cliffs of Moher,” he said.

“There is no better time than now to show the world what we have. We’ve done the talking, now’s the time for action.”

For more on Malin Head’s bird and wildlife population, see Tuesday’s Journal.