DAERA Celebrates Projects Completed and Funded by the Rural Tourism Scheme

Within DAERA’s Rural Affairs Division there is a small team delivering vital work in the field of rural tourism. Northern Ireland relies heavily on the tourism industry, employing approximately 65,000 people, accounting for one in every 12 jobs across Northern Ireland. DAERA’s Rural Tourism Scheme, part of the Department’s Rural Development Programme, was delivered in partnership with local councils and had a focus on creating unique and innovative visitor attractions throughout Northern Ireland. The scheme invested in natural and built heritage visitor attractions that act as a key driver for encouraging tourism whilst preserving the built and natural assets of our rural regions

The Rural Tourism Scheme funded 19 projects delivering wonderful new attractions, located across Northern Ireland. Many of these have transformed tourism in our rural communities, offering visitors, both domestic and international, a range of quality attractions which embrace the built and natural assets of our rural areas. 

This investment has also acted as a catalyst for increasing economic activity in our rural communities. We have seen new businesses created and existing businesses grow, even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current cost of living crisis.

Two of the projects funded through the scheme include Magheracross Viewpoint situated between Portrush and Bushmills and OM Dark Sky Observatory outside Cookstown.

The redeveloped site at Magheracross consists of two viewpoints, one looking towards White Rocks beach on the north coast and the other overlooking Dunluce Castle. The funding was also used for a new car park, increased accessibility, coach parking, new picnicking furniture, sympathetic landscaping as well as two vendor spaces.

The viewpoint is an important trail head for the Causeway Coast Way, a walking trail stretching to Ballycastle and passing through some of Northern Ireland’s most impressive tourist attractions, such as the Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, bringing visitors to towns and villages nestled in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

OM Dark Sky Observatory lies within Davagh Forest in the heart of the Sperrin’s and is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland. It is one of two international Dark Sky Parks on the island of Ireland and is one of only 85 places around the world to hold this distinction.

Funding provided through the Rural Tourism Scheme has meant that the centre is now fully completed with a dark sky observatory on the upper level which can be used as a viewing gallery during the day. The centre piece is the new LX600 “Meade” telescope allowing for stunning images from our night sky to be projected on to large screens around the centre’s exhibition space. 

This project has featured in Tourism NI’s “Embrace a Giant Spirit” campaign which launched at the World Travel Market in London in 2019. The site has already attracted much attention and has teamed up with Sperrin Glamping Village to offer the “Stars and Stones” experience, allowing access to the solar walk and observatory at night as well as viewing the night sky from your own glass ceiling glamping pod.

With the summer holidays kicking off, thanks to the continued investment in rural tourism, Northern Ireland has lots of experiences out there to enjoy over the coming months.

Sperrin Glamping Village Stars and Stones experience

Both projects mentioned above are just a glimpse of what is on offer within our rural communities.

Check out the short video below which highlights all 19 projects that can be explored throughout the stunning landscapes that our rural communities have to offer. We hope this video inspires you to visit these attractions and demonstrates the positive impact within our rural communities.

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