A RESTORED coastal fort could become an iconic internationally recognised tourist attraction, hosting up to 100,000 visitors annually within 20 years.
But it will require an investment of up to €10 million to develop historic Fort Camden in Cork Harbour to its full potential.
The ambitious vision was outlined yesterday at the launch by Marine Minister Simon Coveney of a strategy document for its sustainable development up to 2035, compiled by John X Miller of the Cork Civic Trust.
His report says the fort, located on a 45-acre complex at Ram’s Head near Crosshaven, should be developed in three phases.
Phase one will include the full restoration of the complex, with phase two seeing the development of guided tours, exhibitions, a cafe, and a viewing terrace.
The phases will require an investment of over €1m by Cork County Council.
Phase 3, which will need substantial Exchequer funding, will see the fort make a “quantum leap” from a public access venue to an iconic visitor attraction, with plans for the development of an outdoor, family-focused adventure facility, cycle trails, and opening up the fort’s tunnels to the public.
Mr Miller also suggests that the fort could become an International Strategy Gaming Centre for online gaming fans, and host a Global Centre for Conflict Resolution.
The mayor of Cork County, Cllr Tim Lombard, welcomed the report and said the fort’s full potential must be realised to attract overseas visitors.
“The county council has spent some €500,000 on this project over the last 18 months and we have had on average 1,500 visitors every weekend,” he said.
“It is a key part of Cork County Council’s harbour tourism strategy and I would like to see its pier developed next.”
Fort Camden, or Fort Meagher, internationally recognised as one of the finest remaining examples of a classical coastal artillery fort, is at the centre of one of the country’s largest voluntary restoration efforts.
It derives its name from the Earl of Camden, who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1795.
Fortifications on the site originally date from around 1550 and were further added to in 1600 but the fort fell into disuse after the battle of Kinsale in 1601.
It was taken over by the Irish state on July 11, 1938.
Fort Camden was renamed Fort Meagher in honour of Thomas Francis Meagher, who fought for Ireland’s independence in the 19th century.
It was acquired by Cork County Council in 1989 and lay derelict and overgrown until the council signed an agreement in February 2010 leasing the fort to the Rescue Camden Committee, who, with the backing of the council, embarked on a massive restoration project.
Chairman Paul Brierley praised a core team of 30 volunteers, backed by Fás workers, who cleared and restored several buildings.
Their efforts ensured the fort could open to the public last September, attracting almost 8,000 visitors.
It was open for tours every weekend during this summer, attracting almost 10,000 visitors.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved