Loughrea Things to Do
Dartfield horse Musuem
The ‘Irish Horse museum’ as it is styled may once have been a highly crafted racehorse when it was launched in 2001, but now resembles an old nag that has been put out to pasture.
It would seem that the side of the business that organises horse trekking holidays and local tacks receives quite good reviews, but the museum....
Rather than making this a rather unseemly rant I would like to offer a few suggestions for improvements. I hope that this is taken in the spirit it is intended, as supportive. The buildings themselves are sound and attractive, but much else needs bringing up to the level that is expected of a modern tourist attraction.
1) Entrance area. When I visited the entrance area contained hedge cutting equipment (surely a health and safety issue if not just unsightly) and a collection of both real and model dogs. And this is supposed to be a horse museum ? Some pleasant music would not go amiss either.
2) Arrival. Staff training needs improving here. Someone schooled in the Gallic charm school (I’m being sarcastic here) who looked both mystified and bored at the same time was not the best advertisement for the establishment. The building was also left unstaffed for at least 20 minutes during our visit. This is not acceptable and would also be a security concern.
3) Cleanliness. Some exhibits simply looked dirty. The place may act as a retirement home for horses outside, but it shouldn’t be for spiders as well.
4) Video room. The video talk about the horse in Irish society was made in 2001, with much of the ‘up to date’ footage being dated even then. It needs a re-edit and to be projected with more modern equipment rather than being shown on a television that was hand-made by John Logie Baird himself. Quite why it is shown in a room that also acts as a antique shop was also quite inexplicable. The ‘horse art’ in the room for sale was acceptable (if not to my taste) and this could have been easily supplemented with prints / copies of works by famous artists from around the world who have used Irish horses in their compositions.
5) Vehicles room. This room had some good exhibits, but there was a lack of context and background for them. Audio explanations or at least appropriate sound tracks would have enhanced the experience.
6) Veterinary science exhibit. This section looked especially dated and staid. It rather put one in mind of a Chinese municipal museum used to teach medical students in the 1980’s.
7) Metalwork area. This area at least had a real life person in it ! and he was a delight to chat with. Unfortunately the vast majority of his work is non-horse related. The area needed something to bring it back to the Irish horse, perhaps demonstrating how a horse shoe is made would be a good idea.
8) Cafe. Coffee from supermarket own brand tins is just not acceptable in 2015 for a cafe. This area needs serious attention.
9) Dead horses. I understand the problems that the death of any farm animal can cause. I live next to a farm myself. Several of the worst reviews on tripadvisor talk about children witnessing the sight of a dead horse on arrival. A simple tent over the animal before the removal people arrive would prevent such incidents (and reviews) occurring again.
10) Other suggestions : Incorporate other ‘fun aspects’ related to horses. E.g games involving horseshoes, riding simulators etc. It may have been possible to arrange visits to animals in the stables or even a short pony and trap ride, but I didn’t see any evidence that such services were there. Children prize interaction with animals above anything else at this sort of attraction. Many ‘children’s farms/ pet farms’ manage this perfectly well in this country.
It might also be possible to construct an ‘trail’ around the estate (which is to be fair quite beautiful) to view some of the impressive structures on the three-day eventing course.
I could not possibly give any other rating than ‘terrible’ to this place. What is so disappointing is that a combination of a good clean, staff training and more attention paid to the visitor experience could have significantly improved the rating.
What is a Crannog ?
If you wander down to the water's edge in loughrea, you should be able to get a view of a Crannog ? Is it a bird ? Is it a plane ? Is it a mythical celtic creature ? Is it a cartoon family ?NO, it's a small island made of sticks.
The Crannogs were ancient dwelling for a family, although some crannogs had several families living on them. There are about 2000 examples in Ireland, mostly in the Midlands and a further 600 in Scotland. They built at least 1,500 years ago by driving oak shafts into the slurpy mud of a small marshy island. It was their defensive qualities that were paramount. Some were connected to the 'mainland' by a causeway that could be easily be removed, but others were only connected by canoe.
Ever heard on Clonfert ?
Clonfert (yes, i've never heard of the place either) is Ireland's smallest diocese. Must be the sort of place that Father Ted would aspire to.
The Cathedral at Loughrea, although only the size of a reasonably large parish is a little gem.
Begun in 1897, it marries the Celtic revival movement with the arts and crafts movement. This means that unlike most cathedrals that are a mixture of different architectural styles from differing eras.
The interior is thus more important than the somewhat ordinary exterior. The wooden Church furniture have a certain homely quality to them, as you might expect. The stained glass windows are of an exceptionally high standard.
There is a 30 minute audio tour available, which I somehow missed and a small museum (closed when I was there).