Beara Peninsula Goes Back to the Future in Tourism Drive

 

Plans are being drawn up to install interactive touchscreen technology in old telephone boxes to aid tourism businesses on the Beara peninsula.

It’s expected that the first of these will become operational by next summer in Castletownbere and that the touchscreen service will be then rolled out to other tourist destinations on the peninsula.

Castletownbere Development Association (CDA) has received planning permission to erect an old-style P&T phone box in the town’s Main St which will house the interactive technology.

CDA chairman Cian Murphy said that using technology is a move “into the future”.

“We’re a young committee and forward-thinking. We’ve got a tourist office but it’s hard to keep it open all the time.

“We thought this was the type of new approach which was needed,” said Mr Murphy.

Eir recently decommissioned six phone boxes in the town and the development association purchased two of them primarily to buy the space that was needed to put in an older type phone box which will have the technology installed in it.

“Eir gave us the two phone boxes for €25 each, which was very decent of them,” he said.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do with them at present. We just wanted the space which is outside St Peter’s Church.”

CDA has been in touch with a company in Dublin which manufactures replicas of the older style phone boxes.

“We’re hoping it will be operational for the start of the tourism season next summer,” said Mr Murphy.

He added that CDA is working with the city and county councils on the interactive technology.

“We want to develop it to serve tourism on the entire Beara peninsula.

“We also plan to have a free telephone service with it which will enable tourists to contact hotels and B&Bs to book rooms and for those seeking to book restaurants.”

“It will basically be a one-stop-shop for tourists.”

Mr Murphy said it is hoped to expand the interactive touchscreen service into other villages on the peninsula and have them all hooked up to each other.

“This is the future. We’re trying to be unique,” he said.

Meanwhile, the development association is waiting on an architect/conservationist report on the former St Peter’s Church, which it purchased last Christmas.

CDA approached the Church of Ireland authorities to buy the building and the adjoining half acre of land and was offered the property for €40,000.

“An anonymous donor paid the full €40,000 into our account, which was great,” said Mr Murphy.

CDA plans to turn the building into a community centre.

“We’re one of the few towns in Ireland which doesn’t have a community centre and got Leader funding for a report which will tell us what we will be able do with it,” said Mr Murphy.

He pointed out that the church building wasn’t used for more than 10 years and because of this and its age it was important to get expert guidance on how structurally sound it is and what can be done in terms of conserving and developing it.

“The development of the community centre will be a longer-term project for us,” said Mr Murphy.

He added that he expects the expert report to be delivered to CDA members shortly.

Published: Irish Examiner, 22 August 2018