Adare Heritage Centre Celebrates 21st Birthday

Pictured left to right are, Maeve Martin-Kelly, Kathleen Crowley, Vera Speiran, John Blackwell, Patricia Houlihan and Sandra O'Loughlan. Picture: Alan

Pictured left to right are, Maeve Martin-Kelly, Kathleen Crowley, Vera Speiran, John Blackwell, Patricia Houlihan and Sandra O’Loughlan. Picture: Alan

More than 100 people gathered at Adare Heritage Centre last Sunday night to celebrate its 21st birthday, including many who were also present at its opening in 1994. 

The brainchild of what was then Limerick County Council, Adare Heritage Centre was constructed over a two year period by local builder Dick Collins at a total cost of IR£2 million.  Since it opened its doors 21 years ago, it has welcomed more than five million visitors, up to half of whom had travelled from overseas. 

Adare Heritage Centre manager Maeve Martin-Kelly, who has been at the helm since day one, said that the Centre’s offering has evolved hugely over the years seeing it transform from an information and retail based centre to one that is now a full-service visitor attraction that also offers guided tours of the village and the spectacular Desmond Castle. 

“The last 21 years have been so rewarding not just for the Centre, but also for the village.  We have seen visitor numbers grow year on year and 2015 is set to be our best year ever with USA and UK visitor numbers increasing dramatically. 

“Local visitors are also hugely important to the Centre and it is largely down to their loyalty that we are able to open all year round, unlike many other heritage centres across the country.  We have long been a popular pit-stop for people living in Dublin travelling to and from Co. Kerry and really enjoy welcoming our ‘friends’ back year after year. 

“When we opened we employed 19 people and supported an additional 16 jobs in the shops.  Today, we employ 45 people and support an additional 25 jobs.  This is solely down to the work all stakeholders have invested in growing the Centre’s offering and domestic and international reach.”

As with the opening ceremony 21 years ago, proceedings began with an ecumenical celebration which was led by Church of Ireland rector Canon Liz Beasley, parish priest Fr Joe Noonan, Fr Chris O’Donnell (a former Adare Heritage Centre tour guide) and Methodist minister Rev. Bill Olmsted.  Lady Geraldine Dunraven, whose family has played an important part in the development of Adare village for many generations, hosted the evening and was given the honour of cutting the replica iconic thatched cottage birthday cake.

Adare Heritage Centre comprises the popular Dovecote Restaurant which has served millions of cups of tea and coffee, lunches and sweet treats and also serves as a gallery for talented local artists; a tourist information service; shops operated by tenants Adare Woolen Mills, Black Abbey Crafts and Curran’s Heraldry; and the popular ice-cream cart run by local company Adare Farm Foods. 

Looking to the future, Maeve Martin-Kelly said that she was looking forward to the implementation of the Adare Destination Plan which would see Adare further develop as a destination in its own right and, importantly, as a hub for tourism in the wider west Limerick area.