Wednesday 26 June 2019

€8 million reboot of Parnell's home to create 'world-class' attraction

Avondale House will be reborn as a 'state-of-the-art' visitor attraction by 2021, Pól Ó Conghaile reports

Avondale House. Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Avondale House. Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

An €8m revamp of Charles Stewart Parnell's former home will create a "world-class" visitor attraction for Wicklow.

That's according to Fáilte Ireland and Coillte, who today launched their redevelopment plans for the 500-acre Avondale House and Forest Park in Rathdrum.

The new attraction will include a "state of the art visitor centre" and café, along with a tree canopy experience (below) described as "a breathtaking 460m lattice walkway providing 360-degree views of the canopy and Avonmore River valley”.

Installations will include ‘At Home with the Parnell’s’, celebrating the life and times of Charles Stewart Parnell, who was born and lived at Avondale, and ‘The Evolution of Forestry’ - a look through the history of the forest park from the 1700s, as well as the science and technologies used in the forestry industry today. 

Artist's impression of the 460m 'lattice walkway' planned for the tree canopy at Avondale, Co Wicklow
Artist's impression of the 460m 'lattice walkway' planned for the tree canopy at Avondale, Co Wicklow

Wicklow County Council is also supporting Avondale's development as 'A Place for Visionaries', which is hoped to be completed by 2021.

Avondale estate was originally built for barrister and MP Samuel Hayes in the 1700s - his introduction of exotic trees led to its reputation as the cradle of Irish Forestry.

Parnell was born at the house in 1846, and owned it until his death in 1891. The estate was acquired by the State in 1904, and is today owned by Coillte.

In tourism terms, the project sits under 'Ireland's Ancient East', and Fáilte Ireland believes it will attract a "sizeable number" of overseas and domestic tourists.

Avondale will be a "world class visitor experience" that provides "a major opportunity" for local tourism businesses, said Paul Kelly, Fáílte Ireland's Chief Executive.

The redeveloped estate will provide a resource "to socialise, enjoy and learn", as described by Fergal Leamy, Chief Executive of Coillte.

Design stages of the project will begin shortly, and the public can continue using the estate's walking, cycling, orienteering and recreation facilities throughout.

Avondale currently attracts around 30,000 visitors a year.

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