Westport and Kinsale have been unveiled as Ireland's top tourism towns at the 2014 Fáilte Ireland Tourism Awards.
Kinsale was crowned the 2014 National Large Tourism Town at this afternoon's awards, with Westport taking the National Small Tourism Town title.
The Mayo and Cork towns were chosen from a shortlist of 10 top tourism towns announced last September.
The shortlisted towns were:
The remaining towns have received certificates of merit to acknowledge their performance "in reaching out to visitors and creating the best possible tourism experiences," according to Fáilte Ireland.
"These awards are all about honouring the towns that put tourism at the centre of what they do," said Minister of State for Tourism & Sport, Michael Ring.
"This is particularly evident with our winners," he added.
The Tourism Towns Award was designed by Fáilte Ireland to promote Irish towns and villages working hardest to enhance their appeal to tourists.
A panel of independent assessors and ‘secret shoppers’ visited each of the shortlisted towns to measure performance in key areas such as 'sense of place', local involvement and tourism promotion.
What the judges said about Westport:
"First impressions are that this town is something special. One can see at the onset that this is a very well organised/maintained and compact town with lots to offer.
"There is a great sense of energy and pride in the town, and it is obvious from the locals that they are well used to dealing with tourists.
"They say variety is the spice of life, and Westport is not short of either.
"The locals were very friendly and approachable. There is no doubt that tourism is the mainstay of the town."
What the judges said about Kinsale:
"Arriving into Kinsale on a beautiful summer's evening, the first thing to come into view are the masts of the yachts in the Harbour - a beautiful sight to see. There is a great feeling of “having arrived” and a desire to get out and start exploring.
"There is a great cosmopolitan feeling in Kinsale, coupled with beautiful scenery and narrow streets bursting with history. It would appear that Kinsale has something to offer all demographics and its visitors will leave with lasting impressions and memories.
"A visit to one of many restaurants is a gourmet delight."
Paul Keeley from Fáilte Ireland added:
“If The Gathering taught us one thing, it was that those towns and parishes with the greatest grass roots engagement with tourism thrive the most.
"A true 'Tourism Town' isn’t necessarily a town that gains the most from tourism but rather a town that gives the most. In that respect, Kinsale and Westport are worthy winners.”
Both will now receive grants of €5,000 towards tourism development.