Ireland’s longest walking trail gives walkers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the great range of beautiful landscapes from the Beara Peninsula in Co. Cork to Blacklion in Co. Cavan.
Formed by the Heritage Council in 2005, the role of the IWTN is to help the Walled Towns of Ireland become better places in which to live, work and visit.
The IWTN focuses on uniting and co-ordinating the strategic efforts of local authorities and communities involved in the management, conservation and enhancement of historic walled towns in Ireland. At present, there are 29 member towns located across Ireland (both North and South).
Our member towns are Athenry, Athlone, Athy, Bandon, Buttevant, Carlingford, Carrickfergus, Carrick-on-Suir, Cashel, Castledermot, Clonmel, Cork City, Derry-Londonderry, Drogheda, Dublin City, Fethard, Galway City, Kells, Kildare Town, Kilkenny, Kilmallock, Limerick City, Loughrea, New Ross, Rindoon, Trim, Waterford City, Wexford Town and Youghal.
What we do
Our approach is to work with local communities and to empower them through funding, training and guidance. There are four main ways we help our member towns.
- Providing grants for town wall conservation.
- Providing grants for community festivals and heritage interpretation.
- Training community groups on how best to utilise their place's heritage.
- Coordinating research with third level institutes and publishing advisory documents.
The IWTN's education programme focuses on conservation, planning/town centre economy, heritage tourism and community group development. Its aim is to help people make better decisions about their town.
Over the years by recording many of the presentations at our educational events we have created the world’s largest collection of videos dedicated to the urban renewal of towns. There are almost 100 presentations available to watch.
We have also created a webpage dedicated to helping people renew their town or village. Organised according to relevant topics such as retail, tourism and conservation, the page provides links to relevant publications, presentations, education opportunities and funding sources.
Irish Walled Towns Network Action Plan 2020-2023
By working in collaboration with the various local authorities and communities of our 29 member towns we have achieved much:
- Since 2011, more than 2,600 people have attended over 60 IWTN training events.
- In 2013, the IWTN’s educational programme was awarded the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Award.
- Provided c.€6.7 million to conserve town wall heritage since 2007. Almost all of these projects have a tangible tourism benefit. The conservation work also directly supports employment in the construction sector.
- Helped in the development of: the Kilmallock Town Wall Park, Talbot's Tower Archaeology Park, the Collegiate Church in Youghal, Galway Civic Museum's medieval wing and archaeology based tourism at the Blackfriary excavation in Trim.
- Developed a new format for town regeneration plans. The ‘Solving our own problems’ system allows the creation of a high quality action plan within a short time-span. The format involves mentors in retail, tourism, heritage, public realm, and traffic management working together with locals from the public, private, and community sectors. Plans have now been completed for Carrick-on-Suir, Bandon and Kells.
- In 2017, 32,000 people attended IWTN funded festivals and events. Since 2007, c.€1 million has been provided for community festivals around the country.
- We have published guidance documents on regeneration, tourism, heritage interpretation and community festivals.
- Created the world’s largest collection of videos dedicated to renewal of towns.
- In 2018, we were acknowledged by the EU European Committee of the Regions as being one of two Irish examples of good practice in the use of culture to enhance local competitiveness.
Some of our projects
Loughrea and Youghal's Medieval Festivals
Loughrea's medieval festival is Ireland's largest free medieval themed event. Established in 2014, it attracts roughly 15,000 people into the town. In Youghal, Co. Cork, a similar event attracts up to 8,000 people annually. In 2008, a KPMG report estimated that the economic benefit to the town from this one day was €480,000. Both Youghal and Loughrea's festivals depend on close cooperation between the community and the local authority in order to succeed. The IWTN is the prime funder of both events. We have also provided training to the organisers.
Kilkenny Pop-up Museum
Over four Thursdays in August 2014, a pop-up museum brought heritage directly to the people by locating itself in the place of highest footfall, right beside the weekly farmers market. By combining archaeology with art, public theatre and food, it worked to excite people about the relevance of the past. The Kilkenny Pop-up museum was an attempt to see if a seasonal heritage attraction which was low on capital expenditure but high on interactivity would work. It did. In four days 3,080 attended. The IWTN was a co-organiser and the prime funder.
To learn more about the Kilkenny Pop-up Museum click here and skip to 6 minutes 10 seconds.
Rindoon Abandoned Medieval Town
Rindoon in Co. Roscommon is the best preserved abandoned medieval town in either Ireland or the UK. Located on a peninsula jutting out in to Lough Ree the site contains an impressive collection of medieval remains. The local community working in partnership with the IWTN and other agencies have managed to save much of what survived. To aid navigation and understanding a walk was developed and interpretation signage installed. From very low numbers the site now attracts c.8,000 visitors annually. The IWTN is the main funder of the conservation works. We also funded and designed the site's interpretation.
To learn more about the Rindoon project click here.
Talbot's Tower Archaeology Park
The tower is the most impressive surviving section of the medieval city wall of Kilkenny. Until relatively recently, there were calls to have it dismantled due to health and safety concerns. However, by working with the local authority we not only saved it, we managed to create a pocket park with the tower as its centrepiece. Now open and enjoyed by both locals and tourists, the tower has also been used as a venue for Kilkenny Arts Festival. The IWTN were the main funder of the tower's conservation. We also supported the site's interpretation.
To learn more about the Talbot's Tower project click here.
Kells Town Kick-Start
An innovation of the IWTN, the Kick-Start Project is a multipronged initiative to renew historic towns. After a competitive process, Kells in Co. Meath, was chosen as the pilot. For the first time, the conservation of a town’s heritage assets was combined with the enhancement of the skills of its retailers and a community-led regeneration plan that incorporated public realm, the arts, heritage, planning and parking, tourism and retail. Much facade conservation work in the town centre has already been completed. The regeneration plan is done and training is ongoing. Already, the scheme has allowed the community to leverage additional funds in their drive to renew Kells.
To learn more about the Kells Town Kick-Start project click here.
Galway Civic Museum Medieval Wing
The IWTN have been assisting Galway Civic Museum and Galway City Council in their efforts to construct a new medieval wing to the museum that will also allow access to the top of the Spanish Arch. We have provided funding for the city wall conservation plan, concept plans of the new wing and an economic impact appraisal.
Viking and Medieval Dublin Online
Over several years, the IWTN supported Dublin City Council and Dublinia in creating an interactive online platform where historical research on the walled city of Dublin would be freely accessible. The compelling site directly ties into the primary and secondary school curricula. Available across desktop and mobile devices, in 2016, the learning zone was the No.1 most visited free web resource in Ireland amongst primary school teachers/pupils and No.2 in secondary school equivalent rankings.
To visit the site click here.
Dig: the Value of Archaeology for Society and the Economy five day Conference
For five days in November 2018, 300 delegates gained at least partial answers to the questions: how does archaeology impact positively on our society and economy? And secondly, how could this be sustainably deepened? Speakers from Ireland, the UK, Sweden and the USA both informed and inspired a diverse audience attending the 24 separate events that made up Dig. Aside from the main two day conference, there were tours, workshops, digital recording demonstrations, panel discussions and even a poetry reading in a medieval tower.
Dig was a collaboration between the Heritage Council, Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Department of Communities NI, Fáilte Ireland, Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, and Dublin City Council. It was project managed by the Irish Walled Towns Network and receiving support from Creative Ireland.
For our dedicated Renewing your Historic Town or Village webpage click here.
Town Wall Conservation Plans
- Athlone Town Walls and Defenses Conservation Plan
- Athenry Town Walls Conservation and Management Plan
- Athy Town Walls Conservation, Management and Interpretation Plan
- Bandon Town Walls Conservation, Management and Interpretation Plan
- Buttevant Town Walls Conservation, Management and Interpretation Plan
- Carlingford Town Walls Conservation and Management Plan
- Carlingford- The Tholsel Gate Conservation Plan
- Carrick-on-Suir Town Walls Conservation, Management and Interpretation Plan
- Cashel City Walls Management Plan
- Castledermot Town Walls Conservation, Management and Interpretation Plan
- Clonmel Town Walls Conservation and Interpretation Plan
- Cork City Walls Management Plan
- Derry Walls Management Plan
- Drogheda Town Walls Conservation Plan
- Dublin City Walls and Defences Conservation Plan
- Fethard Town Walls Conservation and Management Plan
- Galway City Walls Conservation, Management and Interpretation Plan
- Kells Town Walls and Conservation Management Plan
- Kildare Town Walls Conservation, Management and Interpretation Plan
- Kilkenny City Walls Conservation Plan
- Kilmallock Town Walls Conservation and Interpretation Plan
- Limerick City Walls Conservation and Management Plan
- New Ross Town Walls Conservation Plan
- Rindoon Conservation and Management Plan
- Rindoon Interpretation Plan
- Trim Town Walls Conservation Plan
- Waterford City Walls Conservation and Management Plan
- Wexford Town Walls Conservation Plan
- Youghal Town Walls Conservation and Management Plan
- Archaeological and Environmental Heritage at Buttevant
- A Short History of Athenry and Loughrea Walled Towns Comic Book
- Athenry Medieval Walled Town: Past and Present
- Discover The Walled Towns of Ireland- A Workbook for Primary School Children
- Fethard Medieval Town Trail
- Fethard Public Realm Plan
- Investigations at Carrickfergus Town Walls
- Ireland of Archaeology Map
- Loughrea Heritage Trail
- Kilmallock Walled Town Public Realm Plan
- Medieval Walls of Kilkenny City
- Stepping into Kilkenny's History: a Resource for Primary Schools
- Talbot's Tower Interpretation Panels
- Talbot's Tower, Kilkenny: Excavations for the City Walls Archaeology Park
- The Medieval Town Walls of Drogheda
- Walks through Medieval Dublin
- What lies beneath: chasing the Trim Town Wall circuit
- Youghal Collegiate Church and Graveyard Activity Sheets
Management structure and staff
The IWTN is not a top down organisation. Rather, it exists to help its members. The network’s activities are controlled by a steering committee. The committee is made up of representatives from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Northern Ireland Department of Communities, The Heritage Council and several member towns. Oversight and governance is provided by The Heritage Council which also administers all finances.
Putting into practice what the committee decides is one full-time project manager. The present project manager is Roisin Burke.