The Queen; We will Rock you (just not in Cashel)

‘Although 2011 was an encouraging year [for Irish Tourism] in some respects, there is no room for complacency’

So says Fáilte Ireland Chairman, Redmond O’Donoghue, in his end of year review this week.

The word ‘complacency’ clunked immediately in my brain. I had just returned from visiting the Rock of Cashel – the No.1 heritage site in Ireland, the website says.

The Rock of Cashel - the Queen did actually visit....

From the closed off entrance steps and locked door (with A4 sheet saying use the side gate instead) to the tiny wooden hut to pay in, it was all a little underwhelming. Of course, the Rock itself is the complete opposite of that, so the insalubrious start is soon forgotten. Imposing, magnificent, beyond awe-inspiring, it does not disappoint. But I quickly find myself asking – where is the Queen?!

Elizabeth R visited in May 2011, one of only three sites outside Dublin she travelled to. Nothing about entering picturesque Cashel or the Rock itself, would tell you about this most historic event. Where was the fanfare, the billboards – and where was the visitor book she and Prince Philip signed?

‘Oh, that won’t be ready to display for at least 6 months’ I was told upon enquiring. Six months?! How long does it take to acquire a display case? I’m obviously missing something.

In one corner of St Cormac’s Chapel, a hoarding (covering some ongoing restoration works) displayed some discreet photos of the Queen’s historic visit there. But that was it. Now I know an ancient, protected site isn’t going to be bedecked in paraphernalia any day soon. And maybe the Queen is choosy about when/where her image may be used. But might I even suggest the following –

  • Add some video of the Queen’s Rock visit, to the end of the short film that already plays on a loop there for visitors. In fact, use the delightful one used on currently.
  • Fly some commemorative flags on the approach roads to the town and the Rock. Or dare I say it – Union Jack Flags?! (a suggestion already mooted as a nationwide tourist drive). Moneygall village displayed end to end Stars n’ Stripes flags before, during and after long-lost son Barack Obama’s visit. How about it, Cashel? Or have we still not moved on….
  • And …at very least… Get the visitor book out! It’s already been over six months, surely it can’t take six more. The phrase ‘strike while the iron is hot’ barely applies anymore, but then, as Mr. O’Donoghue says, we wouldn’t like ‘complacency’ to set in.

On the drive down to Cashel, I was telling my children to look out for all the Queen ‘info’ we might see. On the way back to the car park, I found myself half tempted to write ‘Liz was here’ on the back of the public toilet door.

I read on Cashel’s website that a major review strategy for the town is underway, so I won’t lose hope. But in the meantime…..

The Queen – caught between a Rock and a Display Case. If you will.