CELEBRATIONS were widespread in Portmagee this week as the picturesque fishing village was named Ireland's top ' Tourism Town' in the inaugural Fáilte Ireland National Tourism Towns Awards.
Beating off stiff competition from former Tidy Towns winners such as Killarney and Westport, locals were duly delighted as their village had also been the smallest in a final ten shortlist. Also shortlisted, Killarney also received a certificate of merit at the ceremony held in The Gibson Hotel, Dublin.
Travelling to Dublin on Friday for the ceremony, Portmagee Tidy Towns Chairman John Murphy said he was "absolutely shocked" when his hometown was selected.
"It's as good as winning the Tidy Towns itself," he stated afterwards. "We're absolutely thrilled and didn't expect it but we knew we had made a good presentation on the day," he added.
Piloted as part of the National Tidy Towns Competition - towns finishing in the top 100 of the national competition were invited - the award recognises the towns and villages who have worked hardest to enhance their appeal to tourists.
Prior to the announcement, a panel of independent assessors including secret shoppers measured the level of welcome to visitors and when judges arrived to meet locals first hand, Portmagee certainly impressed.
"There were two judges on the day and we gave them a 30minute presentation followed by a half hour of questions and answers. There were a lot of questions but we had all the answers for them," John adds.
Judges also treated to a boat trip by the Skelligs, followed by a performance by the local Sea Shanty group, seafood in The Moorings and a showcase of the village's Irish nights. Afterwards they said they had been impressed by the enthusiasm of the local community spirit driving a wide array of tourism projects.
Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring said Portmagee was a deserving winner.
"The village has made huge strides in terms of tourism in recent years and this award will do much to put Portmagee even more firmly on the map," he stated.
The committee received a €10,000 grant for tourism related promotions and the Tidy Towns Chairman said it would certainly be put to good use.
"We have a number of projects underway including plans for a visitors' pontoon and various walks," John revealed.
Outside of Kerry the other shortlisted towns and villages were Ballyvaughan, Clonakilty, Dundalk, Ennis, Kilkenny, Letterkenny, Trim and Westport.