by Donegal Daily
The closure of access to the public at one of Fanad’s renowned attractions, the Pollet Great Arch earlier this week, has angered the local community who say there has been a right of way in place for over one hundred and fifty years.
This week visitors arriving at the parking space before going through the turnstile to the Arch have been confronted with ‘private property’ and ‘no parking signs’ along with traffic cones bearing the legend ‘Donegal County Council’.
The local community said that closure of the access route is a huge step backwards for the people of Fanad. And they say that the actions taken are sending out all the wrong signals that visitors are no longer welcome with the turnstile filled with rubble staring them in the face at this remote place of great natural beauty overlooking Lough Swilly.
The towering 150 feet tall Great Arch is a famed landmark on Lough Swilly about two miles from the Lighthouse which has been attracting large numbers of visitors since it opened to the public a year ago. The Pollet Arch has always been a key attraction with unhindered access providing visitors with a close-up experience with the power of the Ocean having carved out the solid rock into this amazing arch over millions of years.
However locals say the original signpost at the junction to the Arch which was put there by Donegal County Council in the nineteen fifties rusted away and was supposed to have been replaced over ten years ago. But that never happened and retired Council personnel have told us that new signposts were made but never put in place.
Adding to the confusion for visitors is that further down the main road a pristine sign highlights the Arch but fails to indicate how to get there since it is at a different junction.
As it has emerged that the appeal of the Lighthouse has been given added value because of the challenge of the walk to the Great Arch as an integral part of visitor’s experience.
Locals have photographed the scene of the dispute and say that a blocked turnstile, traffic cones with council markings, and no trespass notices, and nowhere to park on this no-through road is quite ridiculous and the Council has been urged to reinstate ‘the Right of Way as a matter of priority.
Cllr. Ian McGarvey who is seeking a meeting with officials of Donegal County Council has described the closure of the access as ‘another step in the continuing erosion of public rights in Donegal.
McGarvey who has already been involved in right of way disputes in Ramelton, Aghadachor in Carrigart, Drumnacraig beach and the Seven Arches in Fanad says that unless Donegal County Council takes appropriate action, visiting the Pollet Arch will be history as officialdom sits on its hands and takes no action.”
The Pollet Great Arch is seen as one of Fanad’s gems on the Wild Atlantic Way and there is dismay and disbelief at the latest turn of events since Fanad needs full access for visitors on all rights of access to these landmarks in trying to build a tourism base as part of developing the tourism profile of the peninsula.
The owners of the property involved are believed to reside in the USA. However the community says they’ve very little knowledge of the reasons for blocking the entrance.
However one source involved in promoting the Fanad walking routes said they were informed four years ago that there was an acceptance that there was a right of way in existence.
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the famed Fanad Coastal Walk told the Tirconaill Tribune that the fundraising event has bypassed the Great Arch in recent years because of ‘certain difficulties in this area’.
The walk will go ahead on an alternative route on Saturday July 1st.
Angry residents and tourism providers have called for the closure of this access to be reopened immediately amid fears that it will have lasting implications for Fanad’s fragile business base.
As visitors including an Italian group were turned away from the access route, the local community has expressed their anger and dismay with one senior source saying: “Fanad tourism is taking one step forward and two steps back.”
Local resident, Frank Coll and his daughter Katherine told the Tribune that the Great Arch has regularly been described as ‘Donegal’s Giant’s Causeway’. They are among those in the community that believes the denial of access will to untold damage to the good name of Fanad and have called for the local politicians to address the crisis urgently.
The Coll family told the Tirconaill Tribune the community was left in disbelief when they discovered that the access had been shut off earlier this week.
The Great Pollet Arch is one of Fanad’s most important landmarks for tourism and his hugely popular with walkers along the coast.
The Arch is a reminder of the power of the ocean as it carves its way through solid rock. Experts say that One day, the roof of this arch will collapse into the sea to leave two giant sea stacks for future generations to ponder their presence.
The site is posted heavily on Facebook and on Tripadvisor and is a real hidden gem of the rugged Fanad coastline. It is located on an unspoilt stretch of the Swilly and has a sparkling pebble beach.
The landmark is much photographed and a quick Internet search will bring up hundreds of images, some photographed during night time and with the Northern Lights as a background.