First Look: Inside Ireland's new high-spec horse country museum
Ireland's Ancient East
The going is good in Tipperary, with a new, €1.6 million Fethard Horse Country Experience now open to punters.
The "high-spec museum" (see gallery above), set in the town's 400-year-old tholsel, has been designed by Event Communications, the company responsible for Titanic Belfast, EPIC in Dublin's CHQ building and The Guinness Storehouse.
It was officially opened this week by Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, who owns Watership Down stud at nearby Kiltinan Castle, and whose Foundation funded the museum curator.
Fethard is known for its thoroughbred links ("This is horse country," its website says), with Coolmore Stud producing some of the finest horses on the planet.
Central to the museum's exhibits are an interactive display bringing to life the local history and evolution of Ireland’s world-class bloodstock industry. It also boasts the skeleton of legendary Coolmore sire Sadler’s Wells (above, top), a stallion that ranked as Great Britain and Ireland’s leading sire a record 14 times.
The Experience is open Wednesday to Sunday inclusive, with a special introductory price of €5pp until August 31. It costs €7.50pp thereafter.
The museum comes as Tipperary orchestrates something of a tourism reboot, having recently launched a new website (tipperary.com) and brand ('Tipperary: Time to take it all in') to tempt visitors into longer stays.
The Horse Country Experience aims to position the medieval town as a key destination in Ireland's Ancient East, and has been supported by a €198,000 grant from Fáilte Ireland's ‘New Ideas in Ancient Spaces’ Capital Grants Scheme.
"The success of Ireland’s Ancient East depends on the experiences on the ground," said Jenny De Saulles, Fáilte Ireland head of the initiative.
The Fethard development follows similar new openings, including Kilkenny's Medieval Mile Museum and the restoration of Youghal's historic clock tower.
The community-driven project also received funding from Tipperary County Council, Leader Programme, the Magnier family and private donors.
"Fethard is the most important medieval small walled town in Ireland and this state-of-the-art visitor attraction enhances its wonderful tapestry, making it an unmissable stop on Ireland’s Ancient East,” said Jimmy O’Sullivan, Chairman of the Fethard Business and Tourism Group, who led the project.
"We hope that the museum will play a key role in attracting more people to this beautiful and historically-rich part of Ireland,” added Lord Lloyd Webber.
See fhcexperience.ie for more info.