Few experiences surpass the thrill of hurtling through the air at speed, the wind whistling in your ears, as nothing separates you from the forest floor rushing past, 50 feet below. Zip-lining and aerial obstacle courses may not be for the faint hearted but neither, as it turns out, is constructing Ireland’s newest, greenest and most heart-stopping family adventure park.
Wildlands is a unique adventure and accommodation development overlooking Ballyquirke Lake in Moycullen, Co. Galway. Due to open in mid-2020 it enjoys an inviting location, at the gateway to Connemara in close proximity to the Wild Atlantic Way. Owned by the Bohan family, who own and run Delphi Resort, a 4-star hotel and adventure centre and the Wild Atlantic Hostel in Connemara, Wildlands enjoys a wealth of experience driving it forward on its way to becoming an unparalleled offering in the family and entertainment markets in Ireland.
The Bohan family comprises of a formidable team including Faye, director at Delphi Resort and a solicitor, together with her brother David, a civil engineer, construction company owner and director at the resort.
Built on lands previously used for farming, the 20 -acre site of the first phase of development is now zoned as amenity and recreation. Planning permission was lodged in April 2016 for a development consisting of the construction of a 2,473.61sqm two-storey adventure centre, a 12m high activity tower with zip lines, high and low- level aerial woodland trekking courses, adventure activities and yurt-style accommodation.
‘There were three main considerations when we started to plan the outdoor adventure course – in fact they were the same three considerations that underpin everything at Wildlands: safety, sustainability and fun,’ explains Faye.
According to David, the family working together has been key to their success to date. He said, ‘We use our family-run construction company, solely for our own design and build projects. This allows us to get a very high spec and finish to our exact requirements. It also brings significant cost reductions on our projects compared with going out to tender. ‘
The original design for Wildlands was from architect Peter Bradfield's Associated Design in Oranmore, Galway who has worked on most of the Bohan family projects over the last 15 years. Peter was behind the design of the suites at Delphi Resort and the Wild Atlantic Hostel which opened in March 2018. David cites the collaboration between developer and architect at design stage as key to the success of their partnership to date. Challenges on this unique construction project presented almost immediately on breaking ground in Spring 2018. Geotechnical surveys revealed a series of narrow underlying caverns where the main building now stands. The sub-structure required a complete re-design with a much larger re-enforced concrete raft to span these mini caves. There was also a requirement for compacted stone fill for approximately 1.5-2 metres underneath it. The show piece outdoor activity at the centre is the ‘zip and trek’ grand course and tower. With only a hand full of companies globally with expertise to build an aerial trekking and ropes course of this size and complexity, the contract was awarded to Swiss based company, Altus.
The decision to go with Altus was based on the company’s track record as world leaders in the design of high line zip courses, along with their commitment to the protection and optimisation of the forests and natural surroundings in which they build their courses.
‘Environmental sustainability was core to this project from the outset,’ says Faye, ‘and Altus ensure no pollution, damage or tree felling when installing courses.’
– David Bohan
Commenting on what was one of the more challenging aspects of the project David said, ‘Traditionally these courses are built on timber poles or truss, however in the design phase we chose steel poles to hang the course off for longevity and performance. This came at a significant extra cost to the project.’
32 large poles, up to 16 metres high each and requiring a significant re-enforced concrete base were constructed by Otter Island Limited. ‘This was both challenging and time consuming for us as the locations are all remote woodland. Altus sent a team of 8 workers from the French Alps over to Moycullen for a couple of months. They were excellent tradesmen and became a real hit in the village throughout their stay. They travel the world constructing similar courses and were a sight to behold scaling 16 metre poles at their ease. The finished product is up there with the best zip lining and aerial trekking courses in the world,’ David said. Currently at internal fit out stage, the main building offers a 150-seater cafe with a rustic industrial interior look, sports hall, a ‘fun walls’ climbing arena, crystal-maze style challenge rooms, imagination role- play town for the kids, a beautiful light filled yoga room that overlooks everything, and all associated facilities, shower rooms, staff areas etc. There are additional outdoor activities for all ages including archery, tag archery, disk golf, orienteering, field archery, team challenge activities, forest walks, cycling and bush craft. David is an exponent of using his own company for family projects. ‘As builders on the project this has allowed us to get exactly the finishes we require internally. Peter has provided really nice design on these areas. He has a very good eye and his design on the bespoke role play mini town is a highlight. A local carpenter, Mattie Donohue, is creating it by hand. It looks fabulous already and will be something unique and special for kids.’ Unique and special it will certainly be, and not just for kids. Adults can look forward to
enjoying locally sourced, organic wholesome food. David also owns and operates the legant and award-winning Corrib House Tea Rooms in Galway City and will bring the same level of quality and service to the food offering at Wildlands. With planning permission submitted for additional accommodation cabins, and a second phase at design stage for further activities, the sky really is the limit at Wildlands.