Durrow High Cross reopens to publicFriday, April 20th, 2012
The ancient monastic site and High Cross at Durrow Abbey in County Offaly re-opens to the public this weekend.
The event opens up one of the country’s most important historic religious sites as well as providing a significant additional visitor attraction in the midlands. The Office of Public Works has invested some €5m in acquiring the site and surrounding land and in carrying out restoration works and its Minister of State, Brian Hayes, is to launch the site’s summer season.
While the restoration work, which included moving the High Cross to a new position to protect it from the elements, was completed some time ago, the opening of Durrow Abbey to the public was delayed because of concerns about road safety. The National Roads Authority opposed the opening until major road works were carried out, involving the widening of a long stretch of the N52 and the creation of a safe turning area for visitors.
Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen and the chairperson of Durrow High Cross Committee, Helen Bracken, have now called for further funding to develop Durrow Abbey as a major tourist attraction. Mr Cowen said a gate lodge at the abbey should be developed as a gift and coffee shop and parking spaces provided.
His proposal was backed by the chairman of Offaly County Council, Cllr Danny Owens.
Ms Bracken said it is, "great to see it open to the public in a formal way," and added that her group wants to see that Durrow, “becomes a must on the tourist trail."
Local councillor Tommy McKeigue said that traffic difficulties would be overcome in the short term by allowing bus parking in the nearby St Colmcille's Catholic church car park.
“It is the first time visitors will be getting access to that site in over thirty years,” he remarked, adding, “Durrow could develop links with other monastic sites associated with St Colmcille at Derry and Iona in Scotland.” He said the potential tourism market available to Durrow High Cross could match Clonmacnois as a major attraction to visitors.
“This is great news for the local community and for tourism in Offaly and I look forward to working with the committee and relevant authorities to see the completion of this entire project,” Mr McKeigue concluded.
The news follows on the announcement that the Scottish whisky firm Grants which recently bought the Tullamore Dew brand is to develop a €35 million Tullamore Dew distillery and expand the existing heritage centre about the history of the product.
by Fintan Deere