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Waterford Rural Tourism Network learning journey to the Blackwater Valley

All aboard the bus to Villierstown, Lismore, Ballyduff and Mount Melleray with plenty of intriguing stories, sights and insights along the way.

Tourism businesses and agencies from across Waterford were invited to Dungarvan on Wednesday March 20th to embark on a Learning Journey around the Blackwater Valley area of Waterford. The Learning Journey to the Blackwater Valley, funded and supported by Waterford City and County Council and Fáilte Ireland, is part of the Waterford Rural Tourism Network development programme.

This was the first in a series of five Learning Journeys scheduled to take place over the next two years, across all five cluster areas: Blackwater Valley, Comeragh Uplands, Copper Coast, Gaeltacht na nDéise, and Waterford Estuary.

The Learning Journey gave local businesses the opportunity to learn about tourism experiences and products located in the Blackwater Valley; connect, collaborate, gain personal learnings to help their business, cluster and the overall Waterford destination.

Participants were welcomed on to the bus and guided along their journey by Mandy Rourke of Runda Travel & Tourism Solutions and Alice O’Donoghue from Lismore Heritage Centre. The first stop of the day was Villierstown where everyone gained insights from Blackwater Eco Tours and Glamping Pods before touring the site and pods. In the village, Barbara Grubb shared the fascinating story of Dromana House and Gardens.

The next stop was Lismore Heritage Centre where participants got to see and experience what’s on offer in the Heritage Centre, from the VR Experience and escape rooms to tours and event venue.  MCG Kayaks which run tours on the Blackwater River and Peters Tours also highlighted what they had to offer.

Participants took in the sights as they travelled to Ballyduff where Caroline Senior, owner of Blackwater Distillery, spoke of her business journey and highlighted the importance of collaboration. The Storehouse, a craft shop and café, and Blackwater Valley Fishery, which offer fishing experiences in the area, informed the participants about their offerings.

Lunch in Ballyin House was next on the itinerary where owner, Caroline Fletcher, and her donkeys’ greeted guests.  Ballyin House offers afternoon tea as well as accommodation in tranquil surrounds which overlook Lismore Castle.

The last visit of the day was to the imposing Mount Melleray Abbey situated on the slopes of the Knockmealdown mountains, where participants were greeted by Fr. Richard and given an overview of the current tourism offering, which includes a café, museum and five way-marked trails, and future plans include a hostel linked to the development of Saint Declan’s Way. Saint Declan’s Way is a pilgrim walking route linking Cashel in County Tipperary and Ardmore in County Waterford which runs through Mount Melleray and the Blackwater Valley.

Gráinne Moynihan, Chairperson of Saint Declan’s Way highlighted the opportunities for businesses to develop along the 115km ancient pilgrim path.

If you would like to find out more about the Waterford Rural Tourism Network or join one of the five clusters in Waterford please email


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