Gaeltacht Mhúscraí has been included in a multi-national EU network of cultural locations which it is hoped will benefit from a multi-million Euro investment to identify and promote authentic cultural experiences for tourists.
The Atlantic Culturescape project links the Múscraí Gaeltacht with the Slieve Gullion region in Northern Ireland; the Brecon Beacons National Parks in Wales; Vigo and Cantabria in Spain; and the Rio Maior region in Portugal.
The project is being spearheaded in County Cork by the Cork Institute of Technology, and the overall lead partner is Newry and Mourne District Council in Northern Ireland, and it also involves local authorities in Spain and Portugal.
Funded to the tune of €2m over three years by the EU Interreg scheme, the Atlantic Culturescape has been running for nine months already, and the emphasis is on mapping where the intangible cultural heritage is and what's happening at present.
At present Dr Cliodhna Sargent of CIT is carrying out a survey of the Múscraí Gaeltacht to uncover its intangible cultural heritage, with a view to discovering what is possible to do to enhance the tourist enjoyment of what's happening in the area.
"For instance a tourism experience could be for a local linchpin to arrange a day-long experience, which would include a visit to the Buffalo Farm (at Toons Bridge, near Macroom), then go for an Irish class followed by a ceilí dancing session, before enjoying a meal in a local restaurant, followed by a traditional music session in a local pub," said Cliodhna, adding that visitors could stay overnight in accommodation such as the Gougane Barra Hotel.
As the cultural mapping is ongoing and is likely to be continued until next summer, Cliodhna is hoping that cultural groups in the Múscraí Gaeltacht hoping to be involved will come forward to speak with her with a view to be included in the project.
She is also aware of the need for caution as cultural events and heritage sites should be promoted and packaged so that tourists get an enhanced experience, but they also need to be protected from over-visiting and exploitation.
"The project is a European Union Interreg Atlantic Area funded project called Atlantic CultureScape, that has the aim of creating sellable, intangible cultural experiences for tourists and use this to help keep the culture of a region alive," she said.
"The Múscraí Gaeltacht is rich in culture and has a vibrant landscape, so the experiences would be aimed at tourists looking to be immersed in authentic Irish culture."
The steering committee for the Atlantic Culturescape Project is due to visit Múscraí next May. At that stage the group will tour Múscraí and experience a sample of what the area has to offer in terms of cultural enjoyment.
Following the mapping phase, the aim is to develop promotional material in print and online, which will be used to attract tourists to visit the area and encourage them to stay longer when they do arrive.