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Revitalising Mount Congreve: Waterford City and County Council’s Supporting Tourism Award

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Waterford City and County Council

In this article, Waterford City and County Council unpack their award-winning Mount Congreve redevelopment project – highlighting why the project received the 2023 Chambers Ireland Supporting Tourism Award and has been acclaimed for its heritage, sustainability and tourism benefits. 

In March 2023, Mount Congreve opened after a €7m redevelopment. The project received €5m in capital funding from the Rural Regeneration Development Fund, €1.2m in funding from Waterford City and County Council and €1.2m investment in capital and business support from Fáilte Ireland.

Mount Congreve has been lauded as one of the ‘great gardens of the world’ and the title is certainly fitting to an incredible 70 acres of gardens and estate.

Mount Congreve House was built in the 1760s by the celebrated architect John Roberts and remodelled in the 1960s. Under the redevelopment works a re-invigoration of the gardens took place under the vision of the Garden Curator Michael White, the result of which is an iconic visitor experience, with improvements to the garden infrastructure, the establishment of new plant collections and the installation of creative play features that tell the story of Mount Congreve, new pathways, orientation plus a woodland playground for the gardens very young visitors. In addition, at the 18th Century mansion house, a new purpose-built visitor centre has been created in the existing courtyard and former stables in the Eastern wing of the house.

The new purpose-built visitor centre also houses a café overlooking the magnolia treetops. The Stables Café’s plot-to-plate menu features an abundance of local produce, along with flavours and vegetables fresh from the Mount Congreve Kitchen Gardens.

The result of this project is a purpose-built visitor centre with three different walking routes, which are peppered with creative interpretation, bringing the history of the estate to life. The aims of the redevelopment of Mount Congreve were to re-invigorate the gardens which has taken place under the vision of the Board of Mount Congreve Trust. The new orientation and wayfinding system is in place where visitors can now explore three different walking routes. The ambitious project aimed to allow enhancements to be made to the garden infrastructure to include new pathways and a woodland playground for families. Visitors can now also enjoy an immersive audio-visual exhibition of the garden and family history, which are also available in English, Irish, French, German and Spanish.

This project is innovative as it has successfully opened the southeast region to new visitors. The visitor hub ensures that visitors can now learn about the estate’s history on their trip. Works have also been undertaken to the Main House, to accommodate a visitor welcome space with a reception area, ticketing, orientation and interpretation pre-show.

The investment in Mount Congreve marks the largest investment in a visitor attraction in Waterford and highlights the potential both Fáilte Ireland and Waterford City and County Council have in the project. Mount Congreve House and Gardens also act as a respite point for the Waterford Greenway with the 48km long attraction running adjacent to the gardens with direct access at the Kitchen Gardens gate. The investment by Waterford City and County Council, RRDF and Fáilte Ireland towards this world-class tourism destination will open the south east region to a raft of new visitors.

The tourism sector was the primary target sector. Mount Congreve estate and gardens offers local, domestic and international visitors a chance to learn about and immerse themselves in one of the ‘great gardens of the world’. The benefits of the investment within Mount Congreve are not solely concentrated in the immediate vicinity, as neighbouring towns will also reap the rewards. The investment will lead to increased footfall and allow for spill-off hospitality sectors to benefit. Along with these visitors may decide to explore the city and county to enjoy the other local attractions.

Social media charted the progress of the project and generated a huge interest in the development of the estate and gardens. The launch garnered widespread local, regional and national attention. U2’s Adam Clayton, an avid gardener, even paid a visit to the gardens, where a magnolia has been named after him!

The Mount Congreve investment relates to promoting sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth which is the 8th goal of the sustainable development goals. It also aims to achieve Goal 15, which is to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

The benefits of the Mount Congreve project cannot be overemphasised. Mount Congreve development will deliver a tourism destination that will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually; an enhanced visitor experience to the gardens and planted woodlands, which are of international importance; investment in the underdeveloped assets on the Estate to generate additional employment and revenue opportunities; and increased visitor numbers to ensure the long-term viability of this enormously important visitor attraction.



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