VISITOR numbers for King John’s Castle have hit the 100,000 mark before the end of 2015, the Limerick Leader can reveal.
The visitor numbers, up from 85,000 in 2014, were confirmed to this newspaper by Shannon Group CEO Neil Pakey, who oversees Shannon Heritage, which in turn operates tourist attractions in the region, including the Castle.
He pointed out that the 100,000 visitor mark would push the facility into the upper echelons of tourist attractions in the country.
The news comes on foot of Mr Pakey and Shannon Heritage CEO John Ruddle confirming that talks were under way with a view to staging “significant music event” at King John’s Castle in 2016.
“We are in discussions with concert promoters to explore the potential of holding a significant music event at King John’s Castle. We think it would be a wonderful location for concerts and we are actively pursuing this,” said Mr Ruddle.
Speaking at the launch of the Shannon backed Limerick Christmas Racing festival in the Castle last week, Mr Pakey said the venue had “great potential”.
“What we want to do with King John’s is give it events all the time,” he said. “I am talking to various people about big music events next year, maybe with 2,000 people coming along to it.
“It is really about bringing the Castle to life, bringing it into Limerick, maybe that will stimulate more activity along Nicholas Street here. I can see a time, in a few years from now, hopefully, when Nicholas Street will be more buzzing and the Castle thriving. Maybe it could be marked, like when you go to other places on holiday, like ancient Malaga, you can see it on a map as a place to go as well as the city centre.”
Mr Pakey said that he would like to see visitor numbers continue to grow at the Castle. Shannon Heritage has hosted a number of increasingly higher profile events in it since it was given a €6m revamp in 2013, with visitor numbers doubling in its first full operating season as a result.
A recent Halloween event in the Castle attracted large numbers, as did the Oktoberfest Beag event, while 10,000 places have been sold for Enchanted, which is currently taking place.
A major gig with top Irish band The Frames was held in 2004 on the grounds of the Castle, but no similar large scale event has taken place since.
The major redevelopment of the Castle was funded by Failte Ireland and Shannon Development, as it was at the time, with the Castle given a facelift and an interpretive exhibition added. It has won rave reviews from visitors.
Prior to redevelopment, tourist numbers had fallen to 40,000. It comfortably doubled that number in 2014 and has increased again in 2015. Tony Brazil, a director of Shannon Heritage, predicted in November 2013 that it was “easily attainable to get 200,000 people there on an annual basis”.
Minister Michael Noonan, who performed the official reopening in 2013, said at the time that the redeveloped castle, which was built in 1210, was now the “jewel in the crown” of Limerick’s portfolio of visitor attractions.