Ireland's only cable car has reopened, connecting Dursey Island with the west Cork coastline.
The cable car had been closed for the past 14 months to replace its tower structures, tracks and haul ropes. The car itself, which carries up to six passengers, has also been refurbished.
The project cost €1.6 million.
The Dursey Island Cable Car is the only one in Europe which travels over open sea water. The often-treacherous waters below mean it is the safest way to regularly access the island.
Dursey Island is on the western tip of the Beara Peninsula, on the south-west tip of Ireland.
The island measures 6.5km by 1.5km - some 1,400 acres of farmland. It is a third of a kilometre from the mainland.
The cable car was first opened on 5 December 1969, by then Taoiseach Jack Lynch.
It traditionally transported both people and livestock, but the transport of livestock stopped just over a decade ago.
There are less than half a dozen permanent residents of the island. Some, like 82-year-old Jimmy Harrington, live there all year round. Others who farm live on the island for a few weeks at the time.
Joe Sullivan has a herd of suckler cows on the island. He lives on the mainland with his wife, Nicola, and their seven-month-old daughter, Sienna.
He said the past 14 months without the service of the cable car have been difficult for those who live permanently on the island and those who farm and live there periodically.
"It's been pretty tough, very tough actually," he said ahead of today's reopening. "During the fine weather, I could get across fairly easily, but I went 15-17 days, without seeing my animals in bad weather. I just fed them as best I could."
He said he had to bring some of his cows off the island in February, because it just became too difficult for him to farm on the island.
He estimates that he has spent around €1,000 on diesel, travelling over and back to Dursey by boat to feed his herd and to bring shopping to the people living there.
The promotion of the Wild Atlantic Way has meant the popularity of the cable car has grown, particularly among visitors to the area.
Pre-Covid, around 20,000 people per year were taking the 15-minute round trip, suspended 250 metres above the water, including 5,000 people during the peak months of July and August.
A structural assessment in 2016 revealed the support towers would have to be replaced in the early 2020s.
Storm Barra in December 2021 further damaged the towers.
Plans to replace them had to be brought forward and the cable car stopped operating at the end of March last year. At the time, the closure was planned to last eight months, but it soon became apparent that much more extensive work was required.
The cable car is operated and managed by Cork County Council. Its Chief Executive Tim Lucey thanked project partners, Roughan O'Donovan Consulting Engineers and TLI Group, for their work.
"The newly upgraded Dursey Island Cable Car service maintains the character and vision of the original, while ensuring resilient and secure access to the island for years to come," he said.
"This achievement marks an important milestone in the preservation of our cultural heritage, together with the enhancement of our tourism offering."
Mayor of Cork, Councillor Danny Collins, highlighted the safety of the re-opened service.
"This service is not only an important transport link but also a cherished attraction that adds to the natural beauty and tourism potential of our region," he said.
"Thanks to this investment, Cork County Council has now safeguarded it for future generations."
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