By Pat Dargan
Tourism and the Environment, edited by N. Andrews et al. (Dublin Institute of Technology, 2002)
Introduction: Ireland has a large number of towns where significant elements of their medieval walls survive to the present time. The City of Londonderry, for example, has its wall almost totally intact, while Athenry and Fethard are two lesser known examples where again virtually the entire lengths of their respective town wall circuits can be seen today. Despite this, surprisingly little has been achieved in the utilization of these town walls as a tourist resource. This is in contrast to walled towns elsewhere, such as Avila in Spain, Aigues-Mortes in France and Caernarvon in Wales, where defensive walls have been exploited as very successful visitor attractions.
This paper aims to explore this neglected aspect of tourism potential in Ireland by reviewing two contrasting case studies: the cities of Chester in the north of England and Dublin in Ireland. In the case of Chester, the wall walk along the virtually intact medieval town walls acts as a major tourist attraction, while in Dublin, the surviving sections of the town wall offer considerable – but as yet undeveloped – tourist development potential. The impetus for the study emerge from the Dublin Walking Forum and the resource material has been drawn from the substantial body of published works, historical cartographic evidence, and personal field observations. The work is not a detailed action plan but a conceptual introduction which considers the feasibility of establishing a walkway around the circuit of Dublin’s medieval walls. In terms of format, the success of the Chester walls is reviewed first and this followed by an analysis of the surviving elements of medieval Dublin and their potential for the establishment of such a walking route.