Come with Me to Downpatrick Head
Logan Rust leans on the fence and stares off at the famed cliffs in the distance, white sea-bursts exploding against the rocks.
Downpatrick Head rises at his right and forces itself into the North Atlantic like stretched fingers grasping futilely at receding water.
He looks up, grateful that the seemingly daily rainclouds had not shown. For now.
Without the veil of shadow’s subduing, Ireland’s internal radiance saturates the landscape in luminosity. Colors find new depths of brilliance.
This impromptu drive from Sligo, an hour and a half one way, was inspired when he found the geological site premiered on the Wild Atlantic Way app. With a free Saturday, he started the car, without so much as a Google search to determine what he was actually going to see.
Logan winds his rental through cow and sheep pastures until the road opens to a long parking lot at the base of Downpatrick’s peninsula. He parks and follows the visitors’ path leading up the hill a few minutes before reaching an observation platform.
The deck overlooks a basketball court-sized hole channeling a ocean surging hundreds of feet below.
Water rushes through the cave, most of its power quelled during the 100-or-so-yard journey. A cycling of hues wash through visible rays of sunlight. Streams of whitewash empty from the hidden spaces found in the rocks and submit to the current.
That’s cool, but…is that it? Logan wonders, looking around. Is this why I drove all this way?
He stands there out of obligation, trying to memorize enough details to justify the trip.
Beyond the hole, a wide expanse of terrain seams with the edge of the sky.
Well, I’m here. I might as well walk around.
In the hollows of the observation deck below, Logan finds plaques of information about Downpatrick Head. The first he’s seen, and as he’ll later learn, the only. Verbiage found on the left of the entrance describes the military, geological, and mythological significance of the area in a few paragraphs each. On the right side, children’s stories, past down through generations, explain how the site came to be.
Logan takes his time reading each one and lets mythical characters breathe life and significance into the location. Had he known resources would be limited, he would have done the research beforehand. But that goes against his preference for experiencing a place by learning about it while simultaneously moving through it. As a cohesive event.
It feels like more of a discovery that way.
As he walks towards the statue halfway up the hill, Logan tries to make sense out of this place. I must be missing something, he thinks. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have warranted a prime position on the WAW app.
The statue, who he assumed to be St. Patrick from the the children’s stories, raised questions for Logan. Why that specific location? Why facing inland instead of toward the ocean? Who designed it? How did they get it up here?
With little more than an unchecked imagination and a few frames to show for his time, he moves on.
About another 100 meters or so, he find his way to the edge of the cliffs and the rock stack.
Logan realizes now, this is what he came for. It is absolutely consuming.
He sits, dangles his feet over the edge, and tries to count the number of blues that swell below.
There should be more synonyms for breathtaking, he thinks. Words apt at detailing, with deft acuity, the moment of the waves curling their backs away from the granite. The water movement juxtaposed with the stoic energy of the rock. Their conversation, as he watched it.
After ten minutes, he walks around the cliffs for another ten.
And that was it.
His whole trip probably required a total of 30 to 45 minutes. Maybe. And only because of the photography. Forty-five minutes for three hours of driving.
When he returns to the car, Logan digs out an apple and a sandwich and sits on the hood. Views of the shoreline below backdrop his thoughts.
While amazing to see Downpatrick Head, he feels cheated somehow. Photography failed to keep him mentally stimulated. When that happened, Logan found himself searching for ways to maintain interest. At one point he’d even considered jumping from moss mound to moss mound, pretending to be a Super Mario Brother.
I can’t imagine how long kids would have lasted, he thinks.
Enter Pokemon Go.
Now, before we circle back with Logan, let’s look at what we know about Pokemon Go. After debuting on July 6, the app took the throne at all major outlets. In only 19 days, 50 million users found themselves running all over the country, capturing imaginary cartoon characters in reality. Every day, millions more people join the ranks, forcing the company to release the app to only a few countries at a time.
So, what’s the deal with this app? What’s so great about it? Here are just a few reasons:
1. It changes how people experience gaming by inspiring them to, “Get up, get out, and explore! Explore cities and towns where you live—and even around the globe…”
2. It encourages users to experience life around them (in a new way) by stopping at “PokeStops located at interesting places, such as public art installations, historical markers, and monuments…”
3. It provides motivation and offers rewards, as users can earn medals for a variety of challenges, i.e., different accomplishments or distance traveled.
4. It fosters social interaction, as users have the option to create teams and play with others.
With 24 million daily active users, Pokemon Go is doing something right.
So, why should the travel industry take notice?
…A new way to experience the world….
…….solo or with others……
……..that is fun and rewarding…….
Isn’t that the basis of traveling?
And consider what we know about adventure travelers:
- Our main focuses of travel are nature, activity, and culture
- We want richer, more rewarding experiences.
……………Do you see where I’m going with this?
Now, Let’s Imagine A Different Way to Visit Downpatrick….with An Interactive App Like Pokemon Go
When Logan arrives at the site, he see signs to download the Downpatrick Head app in the parking lot. (Or maybe it’s part of a larger program like the Wild Atlantic Way app).
This time, as he moves around, Downpatrick comes alive.
Everywhere Logan moves, another icon pops up with a geological point, a historical fact, or an old Irish legend. At times, he can push play and hear stories told, a tinwhistle in the background. There are games and puzzles he completes at different locations, as well. For every interaction, he receives points and rewards.
Everything he collects is stored in somewhat of a virtual treasure chest, so that whenever he wants to, Logan can return to the app and pull up all of the stories and information. (This would be amazing for travel writers or people who like to document their visits).
But the app doesn’t just cater to adults. There are different age ranges that offer kids things like educational scavenger hunts. A place for them to make up and share their own stories. To collect faeries and leprechauns and other mythological creatures.
With an app like this, the experience of visiting the cliffs changes.
That observation platform transforms into a key vantage point to scan all of the possible story locations. That statue finds a name and a conversation that keeps Logan attentive and curious. That Seuss-like terrain gets explained. That rock stack becomes more than a visual wonder.
And then something amazing takes place.
A clarity surfaces.
The unique elements of Downpatrick Head unify, and the location asserts itself, stepping away from the ambiguity of being lumped in as just part of Ireland’s cliffs.
No. It’s Downpatrick Head.
And this is just for a wide expanse of land on the edge of the sea. What if your location is a city? What kind of creativity and options could you include then?
The mind reels.
Why Would An App Like This Work for You?
- It provides visitors a richer and more meaningful experience by tying stories and lessons to key points about your location
- It combines the three main focuses of ATs in one shot
- It literally giving them an adventure that didn’t previously exist in that space.
- It immediately would set you apart from most all other places someone visits simply for its novelty.
- It’ll inspire serious word-of-mouth marketing, as I guarantee users will share their experience with family and friends at home.
- If you create a reward system, say points for every interaction, you could offer players a discount code which they can use at participating businesses—thereby encouraging support of the local economy.
I think it’s important to remember that storytelling doesn’t end when your website visitors sign off and enter reality. An app like this provides an opportunity for you to keep the conversation going.
We’re not just storytelling anymore.
P.S. If you read my post about The Newgrange Tour, this app would have been ideal.