YOUGHAL town is currently riding high on the crest of a wave with the pretty seaside town enjoying a very busy summer. Staycations have added hugely to their tourism sector with huge numbers of domestic tourists flocking to the seaside.
The town has also experienced a significant overhaul to its amenities in recent years which has further enhanced the natural beauty of the East Cork town. Local business people and politicians are very optimistic with regards to the future of the progressive town.
Michael Farrell who owns Farrell's Bar said business has been very good since they reopened in recent weeks.
“We are extremely busy. A lot of premises have adapted to the outdoor environment. People have put in the effort and they have been well rewarded.”
The publican admitted last year was very difficult but praised the various supports introduced by the Government.
“My parents bought the pub in 1959 and I took over in 1999. Last year was very difficult. Government support has been very good. They have compensated publicans for being closed. There is great community spirit in the town. The business owners work well together. The Chamber of Commerce is a great support. Youghal is a fine town and it is well poised to expand. The new boardwalk has been a great addition. The future is bright.”
Mr Farrell highlighted a few areas he would like to see addressed in the future. “We would always like to see manufacturing come back and for the road infrastructure to be improved. Castlemartyr is a bottleneck on the way to Youghal unfortunately. We need to see that bypass as soon as possible,” he said.
Michael Brett, who is the General Manager of the Walter Raleigh Hotel said they have been busy since the luxury four-star hotel reopened. “We are up the walls. We are nearly at 100% every night. We did the outdoor area up and it is going so well.”
Mr Brett highlighted the importance of staycations which has ensured they are nearly at full capacity every night of the week. “We have 39 bedrooms. We did a lot of work during the lockdowns. Every single room was refurbished. It is busier from an accommodation perspective. Weekends would always have been busier with the midweek nights calmer, but every night at the moment we are nearly running at 100% occupancy. It is all staycations. The majority of them are staying for two or three nights.”
Their successful reopening has also ensured they have been in a position to create a plethora of jobs for locals which in turn helps the local economy. “We have employed over 40 local staff which is great. It is our way of giving back to the local community," said the general manager.
Mr Brett praised the recent addition of the boardwalk as a big factor in the increased numbers visiting Youghal this summer. “All the arrows are pointing in the right direction. Youghal always had a good name for food and drink. There is a lot of history attached to the town and our location is perfect. It is especially great for day-trippers.
“There is plenty to see and do. The boardwalk has been a great addition. When the greenway is completed that will bring more visitors which is great. Youghal has been building nicely in recent years,” he added.
The two-screen Regal Cinema, Wine Bar, and Café in Youghal offers people a great experience. Cillian Daly who is the general manager said they have been very busy since they reopened. “We opened on the June Bank Holiday Monday and we have been going non-stop since. We are thrilled to be back open. We are thankful to the people for their continued support.”
The Regal Cinema was originally built in 1936. Mr Daly said it attracts people from well beyond their local hinterland as the cinema provides an "experience".
“We have our main screen which has 136 seats and a smaller screen which has 60 seats. We have the best sound and best picture quality. You can offer a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and it will be delivered to your seat. It is a great facility.
“We offer more of an experience than your normal cinema. There is always the fear that movies will be going to streaming services, but there are some movies you have to see on the big screen. There are also no distractions at the cinema. It appeals to both young and old,” he added.
Ger Flanagan who owns Flanagan Print in the town is thankful his business survived the various lockdowns.
“We have been in business since 1983. We were very lucky as we never closed. We did a lot of Covid signage. We survived and we got through it. My goal last March was to still be in business when all this was over. We are not out the other end yet, but we are getting close.”
Mr Flanagan, chairman of the Youghal Business Alliance, branched out into another business sector earlier this year after he spotted a gap in the market.
“In February this year, we decided to go into the coffee business. We are roasting our own coffee. We are going in for the speciality coffee market. We sell online and we also sell in SuperValu and the English Market. We sell primarily in Cork and Waterford but we are now selling in Kerry. We are also selling to the commercial coffee shops.”
“We then decided to open our own coffee outlet called Boardwalk Coffee in May. We have a mobile unit next to the boardwalk. We do coffee and treats. Business is booming,” he added.
Mr Flanagan said Youghal is a "fabulous" town, but he said there is a need for more accommodation outlets to meet the growing demand.
Sport also features very prominently in Youghal with a number of local clubs enjoying success on the national stage. Youghal Athletic Club has always enjoyed a great reputation for producing distinguished athletes. Dee Ansbro who is the lady captain said the club is going very well.
“The club will be celebrating 60 years next year. We have roughly 150 adult members and 200 juvenile members. There is a great committee driving the club on. We have good facilities. We get great support from the community.”
Current Olympian Aoife Cooke is a former member of the club. Dee said she is a great role model for everyone associated with the club. “We are very proud of her. She is a great role model. There will be great excitement within the club when she lines out in the Olympics. We will all be rooting for her.”
Sandra McLellan who is the CEO of Youghal Chamber of Commerce and Tourism said there is a great buzz around the town this summer. “There are a lot of people staying in Youghal. We are getting a lot of daytrippers. There is a great buzz around the town. Youghal has plenty to offer everybody. It is a fine shopping town. Businesses have weathered the Covid storm very well. We also have a few new shops opening soon which is very positive.”
Ms McLellan said the town has evolved a lot in recent years. “I was born and bred in Youghal. Youghal has changed a lot. It has evolved. We had the trains coming to Youghal and a lot of factories at one stage. There is a huge history in Youghal. Tourism is now huge and it is a big employer in the town. There is a great community feeling in Youghal. Everybody knows everybody and everybody is very welcoming.”
Ms McLellan would like to see two new additions to the town in the foreseeable future. “Youghal would be a great location for a digital hub. A marina would also be a good addition.”
Cork County Councillor Mary Lenihan Foley praised the strong community spirit which is so prevalent in the town. “There is a great community spirit in Youghal. We have so many voluntary and community organisations who all work well with the Business Alliance for the betterment of all.”
Huge investment in their "gem" of a town has benefitted Youghal immensely, declared the former County Mayor.
“We realised in recent years that we were going to have to work with what we have as we had lost a number of industries. We decided we would invest in what we have as we have a gem of a town.
“We have everything on our doorstep. We have so much to offer for people of all ages. Youghal is the town to be at the moment,” she added.
Ms Lenihan Foley said more housing needs to be sourced to meet the growing demand: “We don’t have enough housing in Youghal and the surrounding areas. We need more housing and we could always improve the broadband in certain areas.”
James O’Connor who is the TD for Cork East said Youghal is a town on the up. “The boardwalk has been a huge success. The greenway between Youghal and Midleton will be a big addition to the local economy. It is expected to bring €12m to East Cork in revenue on an annual basis. It is a town on the up.”
The Fianna Fáil TD is eager to build on the healthcare facilities in Youghal.
Deputy O’Connor would also like to see a new industry located in Youghal. “There are a lot of people willing to invest in Youghal. My ultimate goal is to see an industry located in Youghal under the provision of an IDA facility. Dungarvan has done this very successfully. It would provide great employment.”
Mr O’Connor said Youghal has to capitalise on their location and their natural setting. “The strength of Youghal is our natural setting. We have kilometres of sandy beaches. The priority is to ensure there is a supporting infrastructure that brings visitors into the region.
“The future is good. We are very fortunate to have so many people in the community that want to make a difference. We all want to grow and develop the town in a positive way,” he added.