Clare County Council is set to spend an estimated €16.5m, including €2m on a tunnel for pedestrians, at the country’s most popular natural tourist attraction at the Cliffs of Moher.
The spend also includes an estimated €6m upgrade on visitor centre facilities; €4m on 'admission, parking and traffic management’; €2m on Cliff Walk improvements and €2.5m on a waste water treatment plant upgrade.
The current visitor centre in place was designed to accommodate up to 800,000 visitors per annum.
Last year, a record 1.6m paid to enter the visitor attraction.
The tender documentation states that as a result, a number of items must be addressed to ensure the health and safety of all visitors in the unique environment while the Cliffs of Moher continues with its 2040 strategy.
The Cliffs 2040 strategy team is currently preparing an architectural masterplan for future development on the site for the next 20 years.
Now, as part of the planned €16.5m project, the council has confirmed that Dublin based Henchion Reuter Architects has secured a €1.93m contract to provide an integrated design team services while Tom McNamara & Partners has secured a €264,758 contract to provide quantity surveyor work.
The €16.5m project includes a €6m upgrade to the visitor facilities that includes an additional 700-800 square metres of visitor services centre to include catering, retail and toilets.
Currently at the Cliffs of Moher, visitors using the car-park have to walk across a busy tourist route leading to Doolin to access the cliffs site.
Now, the council is looking to spend €2m on an underpass “to improve pedestrian safety at what can be a dangerous intersection between pedestrians and traffic, particularly during periods of dense fog when driver visibility is significantly reduced”.
The Council states that there is an opportunity at the underpass “to create a gateway experience to the attraction, build an expectation and heighten the visitor’s sense of arrival at a world-class attraction”.
The council is also seeking to increase the size of the car-park by 40% from 468 to 650 car spaces.
It says the car-park is currently over-capacity during peak times, particularly during the months of June to August.
The council says that, due to the layout, long tailbacks along the R478 can build up quickly “which is both dangerous and inconvenient for visitors and locals alike”.
The documentation states: “The additional parking would prevent these tailbacks and improve traffic flow along the main road."
The project is expected to take over two years and four months to complete between the appointment of designers and the construction fit out.