Summer plans? Read this before you go exploring in Ireland

One of The Journal’s investigation team Noteworthy’s lesser-known missions is ruining your enjoyment of Ireland’s beauty and historic spots…

By Maria Delaney

Noteworthy logo on top of an aerial image of Glasscarraig motte and bailey with obvious coastal erosion.

SUMMER PLANS ARE being made as the weather begins to show signs of improvement, but what is awaiting as you adventure around Ireland in the coming months? 

Noteworthy, the investigative platform of The Journal, has examined a number of tourism hot spots to uncover some of the biggest concerns about our best-known gems. 

Let’s start with the ancient sites you should have on your ‘must visit’ list – with escalating coastal erosion means many on the edge of Ireland may not be saved from falling into the sea. 

Linked to an increase in fierce storms and extreme weather battering the coast, the rising rates of erosion will only weaken already vulnerable landmarks – some beyond repair.

For our VANISHING PAST series, investigative journalist Patricia Devlin found that the threat of losing history is felt profoundly in the many smaller, more remote coastal communities on the island. 

staad1 Medieval site Staad Abbey in Co Sligo which is at risk of falling into the sea due to coastal erosion.
Source: Maria Delaney/Noteworthy

That includes Co Sligo’s Staad Abbey, a medieval church which has been edging closer and closer to the sea.

Another in Co Wexford, where over 75% of the coast is vulnerable to erosion, is Glasscarraig motte and bailey. A section of the landmark has already been lost to the sea with ongoing coastal damage being reported. 

This isn’t the only threat facing monuments, with our investigation finding vandalism “as much a concern” as climate change impact.

Figures obtained by Noteworthy reveal protected sites have been attacked at least 140 times in the last three years.

Monetising heritage

Touring around our historic sites could end up costing you, depending on where in Ireland you venture. 

If that’s to County Clare, reporter Eoghan Dalton covered many of the disputes that locals have had with the council over charging for entry to sites, including the ongoing parking controversy at the Cliffs of Moher.

The council has been embarking on a wide-ranging strategy to develop tourism in the county, but tensions have been increasing in local communities at the plans. 

Noteworthy also reported in our CLIFF EDGE investigation, that locals had been lobbying against moves to charge at another Clare site – Vandeleur Gardens. 

But if you don’t fancy paying, you can always check out our natural heritage and go for a swim at one of our many beaches and bathing spots.

Before you jump in, yes, we are also going to ruin that for you. We examined over 1,600 bathing restrictions from the last ten years in our RED FLAG investigation.

The result? Sea swimming has never been more popular but risks of pollution are also rising. We found that the number of days on which Ireland’s official bathing spots have been restricted has almost tripled in the past decade.

Investigative reporter Alice Chambers revealed that much of the increase in restrictions last year was due to the risks from heavy rain.

And that’s not all… next time you admire the beautiful hills and valleys dotted across Ireland, think not of Ireland being an emerald isle, but instead how much of our famously bleak landscapes are a result of persistent overgrazing causing “devastation” in vulnerable habitats.

Read more about the impact of sheep and deer in Anthea Lacchia’s OVER THE HILL report. 

Two sheep with horns stand facing each other a few metres apart on a mountainside with locks of rocks. A corrie in Connemara's Twelve Bens where overgrazing has led to the loss of rare plants.
Source: Anthea Lacchia/Noteworthy

Help us investigate

If we haven’t spoiled your summer plans completely, we have a number of projects currently open for crowdfunding that you might consider supporting. 

In RACK AND RUIN, we will examine how robustly local authorities are enforcing laws to ensure protected buildings are maintained. 

Our LOOT LEGACY project will scrutinise Ireland’s public art and artefacts to expose stolen collections, including those acquired through violence.

Rhododendron and other invasive alien species are engulfing our native forests and national parks. Through SOIL INVADERS, we plan to uncover why these plants are spreading out of control.

And what about the bottles, cans and cigarette boxes that line the roads along your journey to visit Ireland’s famous sites? 

Well, less than a quarter of surveyed areas in Ireland are litter-free. Our ROADSIDE RUBBISH investigation, which was launched recently, aims to find out what it costs local authorities to keep our country roads and streets clean. 

Noteworthy relies on your support to undertake investigations, either through ideas for projects or funding to carry out the work. 

Don’t let rain ruin your holidays in Ireland. Let us! At least our reports can have an impact - and hopefully encourage more action on decimation of the most beloved beauty and heritage spots in the country.

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