VISITOR numbers to the Ards Peninsula are set to grow with the inclusion of the Ards in a major new tourism driving trail.
The newly established ‘Mourne Coastal Route’ stretches from Belfast to the city of Newry, via the Ards Peninsula, the Lecale coast and, in the words of the famous song, ‘the place where the mountains sweep down to the sea’.
A number of scenic loops will also take visitors into the heart of the Mournes, Slieve Croob and Slieve Roosley, as well as the Ards Peninsula.
Designed to enhance the tourism potential of the south east coast of Northern Ireland, the route will be lined with the distinctive and internationally recognised ‘White on Brown’ tourism signage and involve the installation of some 269 new road signs along the trail. In Ards signs will be apparent as soon as visitors enter Donaghadee from the Groomsport direction, with over 40 signs then guiding the visitor on to Portaferry, signposting the villages and tourist attractions of the borough as the route unwinds.
Work is expected to be completed by the end of March 2013.The project has been developed and will be coordinated by Mourne Heritage Trust in conjunction with Northern Ireland Tourist Board. The Tourist Board is providing the bulk of the funding through its Tourism Development Scheme, with additional input from the Southern Organisation for Action in Rural Areas (SOAR) and each of the local councils.
Ards Borough Council has contributed over £14,000 to the scheme and Chairman of the Council’s Development Committee, Alderman Robert Gibson, said: “The inclusion of the Ards Peninsula on this new route is an important boost for tourism along the eastern side of the Borough. It will lead to greater numbers of visitors being encouraged to experience the beauty of the landscape and seascape locally and to stop off in the villages along the way.
“I’m delighted that the Council’s support has helped to bring the project to this stage and look forward to seeing the signs go up”.Stephen Bill, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Destination Manager said: “When complete, I am confident that the Mourne Coastal Route driving trail will attract many visitors from both at home and abroad. This is a great tourism project and one which NITB is pleased to support through the Tourism Development Scheme.
“The routes location, from Belfast to Newry, and the amenity improvements along this scenic way, is an important element of the on-going work to build on the achievements of tourism activity in 2012 and will also contribute to strengthening Northern Ireland’s position as a must visit destination”.
Maps and examples of the signs for the Mourne Coastal Route will be available shortly and anyone who would like further information should contact Ards Tourist Information Centre, Tel: 028 9182 6846.