This week we continue our TIDE virtual tour meeting project stakeholders. Rosie Nic Cionnaith, from Fanad Lighthouse (Donegal, Ireland) tells us her impressions from this interregional learning and exchange of knowledge experience.
Why did you accept participating in TIDE? What aspect(s) attracted you to the project?
Situated where we are, where the Atlantic meets Lough Swilly, we have always appreciated the unique, fascinating history of the lough and felt a communion of sorts between ourselves and other locations along its shores. Lough Swilly has a fascinating military history, from the Flight of the Earls, a lynchpin event that shaped the course of Irish history, through the Napoleonic Wars and World War 1. The TIDE project offered us an opportunity to collaborate with Fort Dunree, Inishowen Maritime Museum and other participants and stakeholders in a celebration of this shared history, and to become part of a bigger project to bring history to life through immersive technology.
Do you find the exchange of experience process, good practices shared from other countries, useful to improve your knowledge and daily work?
It has been a really useful experience to team up with numerous attractions and stakeholders, to find ways to work together on common themes.
At present, in which activities are you involved?
Fanad Lighthouse is currently participating in the development of a VR experience based on the 1811 shipwreck of HMS Saldahna, in collaboration with Fort Dunree who are situated just across Lough Swilly from us. The Saldahna is a huge part of our identity – Fanad Lighthouse was built in response to the tragedy, and its light is still shining over 200 years later. When the Saldahna was identified as one of the potential subjects for development, we jumped at the chance to bring this story to life.
What benefit(s) would you highlight from participating in the TIDE project?
While the story of the Saldahna is central to our identity, we have very little in terms of visual or physical resources to help engage visitors. We have no artefacts, no photographs, not even a sketch of the actual vessel, which sank 210 years ago. We rely entirely on our talented tour guides to bring the story to life. To now have the development of a VR experience that can finally visualise with historical accuracy what the Saldahna looked like is incredible and it will offer our visitors an extraordinary insight into the past and that fateful night when over 250 men lost their lives.
Another significant benefit of participating in TIDE has been to take the opportunity to undertake deeper research into the Saldahna – to recreate the story in a VR experience requires gathering as much historically accurate detail as possible. We learnt so much along the way, including details that may have contributed to the sinking of the ship! We worked towards discerning what was fact and what was folklore, and gained a greater understanding of the story.
Is TIDE inspiring you to develop and market new types of multi-regional historical maritime niche tourist packages or visitor attractions?
Our region has a lot to offer visitors who are interested in cultural and historical experiences. It makes sense to join up with other attractions who share this history. Lough Swilly is a natural harbour that has been the scene of some fascinating chapters of history. During World War 1 it was the base for the British Grand Fleet and was home to around 40 state-of-the-art warships. There are so many shipwrecks in the area, and so many stories to tell.
TIDE has been in many ways the catalyst for collaboration between the three major maritime heritage attractions in the region – Fanad Lighthouse, Fort Dunree and Inishowen Maritime Museum. There is a natural connection between us which TIDE is helping to consolidate. We have also learnt more about the maritime heritage of our neighbouring counties, Derry and Sligo, and we hope that TIDE can raise awareness of the fantastic stories along our coast and be the incentive for both domestic and international tourists to explore the network of attractions.
Would you like to add anything else?
We would like to thank Donegal County Council and Donegal Tourism for the opportunity to participate in TIDE, and in particular Margaret Storey for driving the project, for her enthusiasm, patience and ongoing support. We can’t wait to see the new VR experience and to be able to offer it to our visitors as part of their Fanad Lighthouse experience!