The role of the Irish Walled Towns Network (IWTN) is to unite and co-ordinate the strategic efforts of local authorities involved in the management, conservation and enhancement of historic walled towns in Ireland, both North and South. The Network is formally linked to European Walled Towns, which is the international association for the sustainable development of walled towns, walled cities and fortified historic towns. Established by the Heritage Council in 2005, there are currently 28 member towns and villages throughout Ireland. These are: Athenry, Athlone, Athy, Bandon, Buttevant, Carlingford, Castlefergus, Carrick-on-Suir, Cashel, Castledermot, Clonmel, Cork City, Derry/ Londonderry, Drogheda, Dublin City, Fethard, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Kilmallock, Limerick City, Loughrea, New Ross, Rinn Dúin (Rindoon), Trim, Waterford, Wexford and Youghal.
Since 2007, the IWTN has provided €6.35 million for the conservation of Ireland’s Medieval Town Walls. While the main objective is to ensure that these fascinating monuments do not collapse, almost all the projects have a tangible tourism benefit. One of these projects is Talbot’s tower in Kilkenny. The IWTN has heavily supported the work of Kilkenny Borough Council in the conservation of this impressive part of the city’s medieval past. Another project is the conservation work to the largely unknown but hugely impressive abandoned medieval town of Rinn Dúin (Rindoon).
In recent years the IWTN and the Heritage Council have grant aided the conservation of the town’s walls, medieval hospital, church, mill, and the erection of interpretation panels throughout this extensive site. The monuments which were once covered in dense ivy and in serious danger of collapse have been largely saved for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike. In the last couple of years annual visitor numbers have gone from almost zero to over eight thousand.
Festivals have been at the core of what the IWTN does since its establishment in 2005. Most of the festivals are organised on a volunteer basis by members of the local community. Since 2007, €737,000 has been provided for community festivals. In 2014, 44,430 people attended IWTN funded festivals and events, and experienced medieval life. One such festival is the Youghal Walled Towns Day, seen below, which attracts c.8000 people into the town. In 2008, a KPMG report estimated that the economic benefit of day of the festival for Youghal was €480,000.
One of the ways the IWTN supports its members is through education. Accordingly, since early 2011 there has been a series of training days aiming to up skill the enthusiastic volunteers. Recently, the educational programme has been expanded out in to other aspects that are of interest to our members. So far almost 850 people have attended 32 IWTN training events. Course topics have included: building conservation, heritage tourism, and town planning. In 2013, the IWTN’s educational programme was awarded the Europa Nostra award in recognition of its dynamic approach to the up-skilling and empowering of local heritage champions throughout the country.
For further information on the IWTN check out the Network’s webpage:
If you have any enquiries about the Irish Walled Towns Network please contact the its Project Manager:
+353 (0)56 777 0777
The Heritage Council, Áras na hOidhreachta, Church Lane, Kilkenny, Ireland.