KING John’s Castle is set to reopen this week, following a major revamp - with visitor numbers set to double to 80,000 over the next five years .
After the €6m redevelopment by Failte Ireland and Shannon Development, those spearheading the project now believe that it’s more than a worthy rival for Bunratty Castle, which has long been the biggest attraction for visitors to the Mid-West.
John Ruddle, chief executive officer of Shannon Heritage, a subsidiary of Shannon Development, said some have commented that the castle’s rebirth as a centre of attraction is as good as the Titanic centre in Belfast.
“This is the new ‘wow’,” says John, as he surveys the 360 degree views from the tallest turret in the tower, set to open to the public for the very first time from this Friday.
The pride in his voice is noticeable as he weaves his way around the entire grounds - now a three hour long tour, with all kinds of interactive features, certain to entertain and educate children and adults alike.
While workers came on site in November last, the project has been four years in the making and John has been one of the central forces in its redevelopment.
An archeological dig in the grounds has been laid bare and connected with an archway into the bowels of the castle to allow the public view the ‘great medieval hall’ which was discovered in the 1990s. Further walkways have also been created under the glass structure of the tourist centre itself.
The once contentious glass structure has remained as the entrance to the castle, though the white shutters which previously obscured the view inside have been stripped back, and all the glass has been replaced. “It wouldn’t have been possible within the budget to remove that. Without a doubt it’s a fantastic attraction. It will improve visitor numbers and the overall experience for visitors,” he said.
Twenty-two people have been recruited to staff the castle, with 18 full-time positions being created - a major boost from the six personnel who previously staffed the 13th century castle.
- The cost of entry for adults is €9, €5.25 for children, €6.25 for a senior citizen, and €20.60 for a family, including two children.