PLANS to open up a new tourist entrance to the Desmond Castle in Newcastle West are expected to be completed by the end of June, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has said.
A proposal to open a bricked-up section of the castle’s rear wall, which faces on to the River Arra and South Quay, received final approval earlier this month, and work is now expected to commence in the coming weeks.
The local committee tasked with making the medieval castle a tourism hub hope that a new entrance will entice passing traffic en route to Kerry to stop and visit the castle, which dates back to the Norman settlement of Ireland in the 13th century.
Peter Byrne, a member of the castle committee, said that it will be important that the new entrance is in place during the castle’s summer opening season, which begins on June 1.
“Hopefully we’ll have something soon. It’s all been approved, but it has to go through a certain procedure. I’d really be hoping to make a big thing of it, and tie it in with the opening [of the tourist season]”.
The plans will involve the re-opening of an old doorway to the castle’s courtyard, and the installation of a new oak door which will be in keeping with the architecture and design of the castle. Limerick County Council will also lay a new section of footpath which will connect the new entrance with a nearby footpath on the riverbank.
A spokesperson for the OPW said that while the plans had received tentative approval following site meetings and other discussions, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht had to provide formal sanctions before the work could begin. These sanctions were approved last week.
“If it all goes according to plan, and dependent on resources, it is anticipated that works would be completed by the end of June” the OPW spokesperson said, adding that the bill for the works is expected to reach €1,500.
In recent months, local businesspeople have been working to stimulate interest and awareness of the castle. Through new signs and various events, from fashion shows to food markets, the local committee are hoping to use the castle to cement Newcastle West as a tourist destination in itself. The castle passed into the ownership of the State in 1989, and has undergone a multi-million restoration.