Tipperary’s Fethard Horse Country Experience today celebrated its first birthday and the launch of its Summer Season initiative, which will see Coolmore Stud open its gates to visitors for the first time. The museum surpassed its first-year footfall target of 3,000 within its first eight months of operation, welcoming over 6,500 visitors in its first year of opening, from as far afield as Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, USA, Australia, China, and the UAE.
To mark the first birthday of the museum, Joseph O’Brien presented his 2017 Melbourne Cup to the Fethard Horse Country Experience at event this afternoon, which will be displayed throughout summer 2018. The cup will join the skeleton of the legendary Coolmore sire Sadler’s Wells, one of the most successful stallions of all time, ranking as Great Britain & Ireland’s leading sire a record 14 times, and the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup Trophy which was gifted to the museum by local trainer Mouse Morris.
As part of the museum’s Summer Season initiative, Coolmore Stud will open its gates to visitors for the first time with a stud farm tour. The tour will be available exclusively to visitors of the Fethard Horse Country Experience, and will require pre-booking through the museum.
The Summer Season initiative will also see a new partnership with local eateries offering a 10% discount to museum visitors. Fethard is establishing itself as a gourmet hub, most notably with Fethard-based, Dook’s Fine Foods being awarded the Munster title of Best Newcomer in this year’s Restaurants Association of Ireland Awards. Fethard is only 20 minutes from the Cork-Dublin motorway.
A key objective of the museum was to support the regeneration of a town, which like so many across Ireland, suffered during the recession. The knock-on effect of increased footfall has led to two new B&Bs opening in the town in the past year, with more in the planning pipeline, and McCarthy's Bar and Restaurant lengthening its opening hours to accommodate increased footfall. The Fethard Horse Country Experience is largely run by a team of committed local people who give their time on a voluntary basis.
Jimmy O’Sullivan, Chairman, Fethard Community Heritage Centre CGL (formerly Fethard Business and Tourism Group):
“We have been blown away by the support for and interest in the Fethard Horse Country Experience over the past year, and the positive impact it has had on our local community as a whole. The museum has played a key role in attracting visitors from every corner of the world to experience our town, and our local economy has truly benefitted as a result. After a number of years where the whole of Ireland experienced the harsh realities of the economic downturn, it is extremely rewarding and encouraging to see the regeneration of our town. The museum is the culmination of a number of years of hard work from both the local community and our supporters and funders, for which we are extremely grateful.”
The museum has been extremely well received by visitors, garnering impressive reviews. The museum has been described on TripAdvisor as a “world-class exhibit” and “first class experience” and a “delightful surprise of a museum for such a small town” with the refurbishment of the Tholsel building noted as a “masterpiece”.
The museum represents a €1.6m investment, and positions the town of Fethard as a key destination in Ireland’s Ancient East, the Failte Ireland tourism initiative. The Fethard Horse Country Experience offers visitors the opportunity to discover the rich culture and heritage of the region, with an interactive exhibition bringing to life the local history and evolution of Ireland’s world-class bloodstock industry.
The museum was born from a community-led project, with support from Failte Ireland, Tipperary County Council, Leader Programme, trustees of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, the Magnier family and private donors, to drive an increase in visitor numbers to the town. The high-spec museum was developed by Event Communications, designers responsible for The Titanic Belfast, EPIC at the CHQ building and The Guinness Storehouse. It is housed in the town’s 400 year old Tholsel building (town hall), which has undergone extensive restoration.
The Fethard Horse Country Experience is open Wednesday to Sunday inclusive from 10:00am to 16:00pm. For further information on the Fethard Horse Country Experience, please visit http://fhcexperience.ie/. Pre-booking is essential to be included for a tour of nearby Coolmore Stud.