EXPLAINER: Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands – five things you need to know

Longford Leader Reporter

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Longford Leader Reporter

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1. It’s all about getting active in nature  

Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands has been developed to offer a distinctive flavour of Ireland, complementing Fáilte Ireland’s other three brands – Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin. 

It will leverage a growing tourism trend for soft activities* (outdoor activities combined with a nature or cultural element) by encouraging visitors to be ‘active in nature’ and to explore the region through a range of activities including walking, food, cycling, fishing, and boating routes.  

All aspects of the brand (name, logo and what the brand stands for) have been extensively researched with over 10,000 consumers across all key markets. The response from consumers is very positive and we’re very confident that we have arrived at a great solution to enhance and promote the natural assets of the Midlands.   

(*Soft activities are adventures including outdoor or recreational travel to remote or non-traditional destinations for the purpose of new experiences, exploration of cultures and natural wonders, or engaging in a variety of rugged activities.)  

2. There’s a lot more to do and see in the Midlands than you might imagine  

We know there is a growing tourism trend for soft activities and the Midlands has a great basis to provide this. It has rich natural assets including its many lakes, walkways and blueways, and through the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands brand, we will develop what already exists and bring new experiences to the table.  

As the Shannon and Beara Breifne Way are further developed, we see these as the two centerpieces of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. Other key assets proving attractive to the visitor are Strokestown House and the Arigna Mining Experience as well as the region’s many lakes.  

Whether it’s cruising the Shannon, walking Beara Breifne Way, exploring Lough Key Forest, or taking an electric bike trail in Leitrim, there is something for everyone. Not to mention the huge amount of activities like boating and fishing offered by the region’s many lakes including Lough Derg and Lough Allen. 

Complementing these activities, is a wealth of culture to explore, from the Arigna Mines or Strokestown Park House in Roscommon, as well as the Castles at Athlone and Birr and the sacred site of Clonmacnoise. With a great range of accommodation and restaurants in the locality, the Midlands have great potential to become the ideal location for a holiday to get away from it all. 

ALSO READ: Longford set to benefit as initial €2m allocated to new ‘Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands’ tourism brand

3. If the Wild Atlantic Way is ‘primitive landscapes’ and Ireland’s Ancient East is ‘history’, Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is ‘a gentle exploration in nature’ 

Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is all about being active in nature. This gives the area its own distinctive aspect of Ireland’s tourism offering compared to the other regional destination brands.   

The tourism assets in the area, if developed in the right way, can deliver an authentic experience that allows visitors to get off the beaten track and explore unique waterways, tracks and trails at a gentle pace – a chance to relax and recalibrate with friends and loved ones.  

Every element of the brand has been extensively researched across key markets including UK, US Germany and France and relative to key Irish and international benchmark offerings. We have a winning proposition that is very appealing to consumers but there’s work to be done to ensure the true potential is delivered over time. 

4. The investment in the new brand starts today  

Having announced the brand today, Fáilte Ireland will now recruit a dedicated team to ensure a strong local presence to champion the brand’s development, with additional employees being recruited in 2019.  

Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will now become a tourism development zone with Fáilte Ireland allocating significant investment and resources across the region.  

An initial €2million has been allocated to start the development stage of the brand, with further funding and capital grants to follow. This first round of investment will help to develop visitor experiences and the development of infrastructure, tourism products, services and marketing. Over the next few years, significant investment will be required to develop new (and boost existing) attractions in the region to unleash the brand’s full potential. 

ALSO READ: Longford poised for significant tourism growth and jobs

5. You will see the first advertising for the new brand this summer  

Fáilte Ireland plans to launch the new regional experience brand to a domestic audience this summer. This comprehensive through-the-line campaign will build awareness of the area as a visitor destination amongst Irish and Northern Irish consumers while showcasing some of the many attractions and experiences available to visitors. We will build on this domestic marketing and, as the brand develops and scales up, work with our colleagues in Tourism Ireland to position it overseas.

ALSO READ: New ‘Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands’ brand will drive tourism growth in Longford