The eldest daughter of revolutionary figure Ernesto 'Che' Guevara visited Loop Head Lighthouse at the weekend, as the West Clare attraction closed its doors to the public following a hugely successful summer opening period.

Dr. Aleida Guevara March, a doctor of medicine based in Havana, Cuba, took time out from the Che do Bheatha festival in Kilkee to visit the 19th century lighthouse. The three-day festival was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the visit to the town of Che Guevara and his entourage in September 1961.

The 19th century lighthouse was opened to the public for the second successive summer season on 18 May last. It is estimated that the 18-week opening period was worth approximately €650,000 to the local economy.

Figures released today show that 17,423 people (13,441 adults, 3,982 children) visited the lighthouse during the opening period up to Sunday, 30 September. Preliminary estimates indicate that 71% of the total visitor figure was represented by domestic visitors, of which approximately 50% were holidaymakers and 35% were day trippers, with local visitors accounting for the remainder. Overseas visitors accounted for 29% of the total figure.

Dr. Guevara and Teresa Trujillo, Cuban ambassador, visit staff at Loop Head Lighthouse

Cillian Murphy, Chairman of Loop Head Tourism commented: "It was an honour to have accompanied Dr. Guevara and the Cuban ambassador, Teresita Trujillo on their visit to the lighthouse which they both enjoyed immensely. Dr Guevara was very impressed with the new exhibition and particularly enjoyed the tour of the tower and the superb views from the top.”

“The closure of the lighthouse brings to an end another great season which saw huge benefits to the local tourism operators. The figures reflect a high concentration of family business and this is the marketplace Loop Head Tourism is keen to be targeting and produce growth in the industry into the future. This in turn will make the whole community on the peninsula more sustainable in the long term. Once again, this project shows the benefits of local community and statutory agencies working in partnership,” added. Mr. Murphy.

Dr. Guevara signed the guest book at Loop Head Lighthouse in Co. Clare

Ruairi Deane, Shannon Development Tourism Product Development Executive said: “One of the main reasons behind Shannon Development’s involvement in the project was to help establish an anchor visitor attraction in West Clare with strong overseas appeal. Loop Head Lighthouse is now a wonderful success story that highlights what true partnership between state agencies and community bodies can achieve. It demonstrates tangible deliverables for the local economy, for the tourism industry and most importantly for the people who live on the breathtaking Loop Head Peninsula. What started out as a pilot initiative has blossomed into a major attraction and we are confident that, with the continued support of all concerned, it will grow further and continue to deliver a significant revenue stream to the local economy in the years ahead.”

According to Ger Dollard, Director of Services, Clare County Council: “Clare County Council is delighted to have been able to work with the local community, Shannon Development and the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) to deliver one of the biggest success stories for Clare tourism in recent years. More importantly, this initiative has provided a significant economic boost to West Clare, and has provided a national and international profile for the wider Loop Head Peninsula.”

“Though only operational for 2 years, in comparison with other visitor attractions Loop Head now ranks in the Top 10 most visited attractions in County Clare and in the Top 20 equivalent list for the Shannon Region,” Mr. Dollard added.

Loop Head Lighthouse, located at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary, is steeped in history and rich in maritime heritage with its origins dating back to the 1670s. The existing tower style lighthouse was constructed in 1854 and was operated and maintained by a keeper who lived within the lighthouse compound.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s grandfather was a keeper at the lighthouse. James John McGinley took up duty at the Lighthouse as Principal Keeper on 16th January 1933. He spent 1 year and 10 months at Loop Head. He was transferred from the station in October 1934. In January 1991, the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation, and today is in the care of an attendant and is also monitored by the CIL.

Visit www.loophead.ie, www.clare.ie or www.shannonregiontrails.ie for more information on Loop Head Lighthouse and the Loop Head Peninsula.

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