What lies beneath our feet? What’s that in your line of sight? What’s happening in our villages? To find out, take a trip – real or virtual – through these fascinating yet lesser known parts of north Connemara and south west Mayo. Here, ancient history and modern living combine, with exquisite insights into how this savage beauty was carved out, how modern life evolved.
The Geopark Project will start you on a journey, unlocking the past, overlaying it on the present and revealing its secrets. Initially a two-year project (2020-2021), its key aim is to put in place the resources and structures to achieve UNESCO Global Geopark status. Geoparks are places of internationally significant geology, managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and economic development. They open a window on heritage and culture – ancient and current and everything in between – for locals and visitors alike.
Thanks to funding, primarily by the Rural Regeneration and Development Fundin the Department of Rural & Community Development (part of Project Ireland 2040), also from a multi-agency partnership, and 10 years of committed volunteer work, the Joyce Country and Western Lakes aspiring geopark project got underway in January 2020. The €1.19 million project, led by Geological Survey Ireland, recently employed 3 full-time staff. Michael Hegarty (Geopark Manager), Dr Benjamin Thébaudeau (Geopark Geologist) and Dominic O’Móráin (Tourism Officer, funded by Údarás na Gealtachta) are based in Tourmakeady County Mayo. The Project Manager Dr Siobhán Power and Amrine Dubois Gafar (Project Geologist) are based in Geological Survey Ireland in Dublin.
There are currently three UNESCO Global Geoparks on the island of Ireland: Copper Coast in County Waterford; Burren & Cliffs of Moher, County Clare; and Marble Arch Caves in County Fermanagh and County Cavan. We are optimistic Joyce County & Western Lakes aspiring geopark can achieve UNESCO status in the next few years if the work progresses as anticipated.
Throughout the project there will be events and activities run by or in conjunction with the aspiring geopark – details will be posted on the Joyce Country & Western Lakes geopark website for those who want to be a part of this process. Information, signage and panels at sites of interest, and training in business and networks development are being provided. An education programme for all levels is also being developed.