Issue 17  April 2019

Welcome to our new look e-zine showcasing the fantastic Shaped by Sea and Stone tourism brand but still packed with news and industry opportunities.  Happy Easter everyone - hope you all have a great start to the season!

If you have anything you wish to include in a future e-zine please contact
Time to develop more visitor experiences

Can you offer experiences that money can't buy? Or something unique or authentic for tourists?  Well it's time to get your creative thinking caps on and join us for an experience development masterclass on Wednesday 1 May 2019, from 9.30am to 1pm, in Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort.

Without doubt, our tourism industry clusters have improved local knowledge and more businesses are cross selling and working together than ever but we need more new visitor focused products to market.
The aim of this workshop is to help and inspire you to go forth and create and launch new, memorable, 'money can't buy' experiences that both attract and pleasantly surprise visitors to your business and our borough.

Tourism Ireland are investing in a big marketing campaign in September based around supporting the concept of the "Slow Road" and the new for 2019, ‘Fill Your Heart with Ireland’ strap line, so anyone interested in developing experiences is encouraged to participate in this training and have their 'new' experiences ready to go.

Full course details can be found here.  This course is free for Mid and East Antrim Borough businesses but places are limited. To book a space: 
Taste the Island food initiative coming soon
The Year of Food and Drink 2016 was a highly successful initiative delivered through industry collaboration.
The programme did much to enhance Northern Ireland’s reputation as a food and drink destination, increased visitor satisfaction and generated increased demand for Northern Ireland produce. As a result of this year long programme, Northern Ireland was voted Best Food Destination at the International Travel and Tourism Awards in 2018.
In 2019, Tourism NI have committed to participating in ‘Taste the Island - A Celebration of Ireland’s Food and Drink’, a three-year visitor focused initiative that will be delivered in conjunction with Tourism Ireland and Failte Ireland. 

The 8 week programme of new and existing food and drink experiences will take place from September to November, and is designed to provide visitors with a clear motivation to travel, through packaging authentic food and drink experiences, festivals and trails on offer during this period. 

Industry communication sessions will be taking place soon and we can't wait to hear more about it.
'Full steam ahead' for international tour operators in Mid and East Antrim 
In April, almost 150 buyers from across 22 markets arrived in Northern Ireland for Tourism NI's Meet the Buyer event, with 153 local businesses taking part in 5,000+ pre-scheduled one-to-one appointments. 39 buyers were here for the first time.  This special annual event consisted of a 2 day agenda packed with one-to-one appointments and business networking.

During their visit, buyers were briefed on the latest visitor attractions and experiences available in Northern Ireland and were offered the opportunity to participate in one of six showcase familiarisation trips hosted by Tourism NI.  
On one of these trips, tour operators from Europe, Ireland and America, discovered Mid and East Antrim’s hidden gems. 

The group travelled along the Causeway Coastal Route, visiting the breath-taking Gobbins coastal path, Crosskeys InnThe Bank House for some food and finally Whitehead Railway Museum where they enjoyed a ride on a steam train, with a theatrical twist.  For full story click here.

Hot Milk Forge launches as an economusee
Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust recently launched the eighth Économusée in the UK and specifically in the Mid and East Antrim Borough area. 

Hot Milk Forge, a blacksmithing and bladesmithing forge in Martinstown, run by Eamonn Higgins-Artist, has joined the elite group of artisans, which opens their doors for visitors, to witness the craft and passion shared by these authentic tourism experiences.

It's fantastic to see this network of unique and talented artisans growing in strength and we look forward to more being welcomed in the future. Current Économusée members include:  Ursa Minor BakehouseScullion HurlsBroughgammon Farm,  Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil, The SteensonsHillstown Brewery and the North Coast Smokehouse.  For further information on the Économusée network click here. 

Pictured for the launch (left to right) are Ainsley McWilliams, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Brenda Murphy, Tourism NI, Eamonn and Noelle Higgins, Hot Milk Forge, Zoe Lindsay, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Graham Thompson, Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust.

Canopy of colour brightens Larne town centre

A dazzling umbrella canopy is currently greeting shoppers, locals and tourists in Larne town centre, floating above Lower Cross Street and Dunluce Street, in a spectacular display of urban art. It’s even lit up at night so get the cameras out!

It's supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV ST.ART Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

ST.ART (Street Art) is a cross community, intergenerational project that works with communities to bring life into underused spaces, harnessing community spirit and pride to create open welcoming events.

‘Umbrella Street’ launched on 29 March and is supported by Larne Spring Festival, a 6 week programme of events, running in association with Larne Traders Forum and Larne Renovation Generation. It includes entertainment and outdoor music, a pop-up cinema, outdoor cafes and family entertainment in the town.

The umbrella display will be up until the end of the month (subject to weather), so if you haven’t been yet, don’t miss out!

Friends Goodwill music festival returns

Friends’ Goodwill Music Festival returns to Larne for a third year on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May with a major headliner and new content.

One of Ireland’s most successful performers, Brian Kennedy, will appear on the Saturday with the evergreen, Goat’s Don’t Shave, closing on Sunday. They join 11 other music acts over the weekend which offers something of interest for all ages, with street theatre, a chocolate-making workshop, food wagons and a drinks bar and terrace. There’s no entrance cost but admission is by ticket only, downloadable here.   

New for this year is the Cookery Theatre, an indoor exhibition kitchen with 6 chefs showing how they make their favourite dishes using local food produce.

Look out for popular broadcasters Kim Lenaghan and Paula McIntyre and chefs from your favourite eating houses including Rob Curley, Slemish Market Super Club, Paul Dalrymple, Billy Andy’s plus Kevin Osbourne, Ballygally Castle Hotel, Arlene Thompson, Bellahill Cookery School and Join Lutzman from The Lighthouse Bistro. Click here for full events programme or email the Council's events team 

Launch of Heritage Angels awards
Do you know a Heritage Angel? Applications for Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation's #HeritageAngelAwardsNI are now open for those who have rescued, regenerated, recorded, interpreted or offered their craft skills to a built heritage project in Northern Ireland. See more information and apply here. Deadline for applications is 31 May 2019.
Works now underway at Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle is getting a new roof as part of a £1 million project funded by the Department for Communities. On-site work, to replace the Great Tower roof is now underway, with the project led by the Department’s Historic Environment Division. The work is intended to secure the integrity of the Great Tower for generations to come and this phase of work is expected to last for approximately 6 months.  The Inner Ward and Great Tower at the Castle are currently closed to the public. The site compound is being constructed on the Council’s green area next to the Castle walls by contractors JPM Contracts Ltd. The rest of the Castle including the Outer and Middle Wards, the Visitor Information Centre and much of the Castle’s battlements are open as normal and several areas are newly accessible to visitors including the Constable’s Quarters, Constable’s Strong Room, Castle Chapel and Winch Room.

A marquee housing a Visitor Information Area specifically about the new roof will be available in the Castle grounds enabling visitors to see some of the work being done via video footage from the roof, the traditional craft techniques that are being used, and the materials involved. There will also be a display of a prototype of one of the roof trusses, the main timber components of the new roof. 

For the full story click here
Hospitality sector to network with activity providers 

An industry speed networking event has been organised at The Adair Arms Hotel in Ballymena from 10am to 12.30pm on Wednesday 8 May 2019. It will aim to increase accommodation and hospitality providers knowledge of activities and attractions within the area and to encourage visitors to extend their stay here for the benefit of all. Front line staff from the Adair Arms and Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort are already lined up!

Activity, attraction and experience businesses will have 5 minutes to introduce their tourism products to local accommodation and hospitality staff, in a number of one-to-one exchanges. Remember people sell people so they need to know who you are!  

If you’d like to attend, please email by Monday 29 April at 5pm along with a 2-line description of your business.  
Exciting new experience available at Glenarm Castle
Mark Rodgers from Dalriada Kingdom Tours is working with Glenarm Castle and Hawk Walks NI to deliver an exceptional falconry offer for free and independent travellers (FIT) and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE).

This unique experience involves the opportunity to handle and enjoy watching birds of prey in a majestic setting deep in the Glens of Antrim.  Experience is bookable in advance with a min. 2 and max. 12 participants. T:  07752 659202 or E: 
Tourism Ireland's new Game of Thrones campaign reigns supreme
Game of Thrones ‘fever’ is happening again, with anticipation mounting among fans everywhere. Tourism Ireland has unveiled a brand new campaign, around the eighth and final season, showcasing Northern Ireland once again to millions of Game of Thrones fans worldwide. Check out the unique stained glass windows capturing favourite moments!  #GlassOfThrones
Relocation of Visitor Information in Larne

April saw the opening of a Visitor Information Point at the Book Nook Newsagents, Main Street, Larne.  The new point is part of the transformation of tourism services for visitors to help grow the local economy through tourism.  
The new point is more accessible with extended hours and proves an excellent example of Council working with local business to the advantage of all.  It provides information on the local area with online access to Discover Northern Ireland.  

The Information Point is self-service, however staff at the Book Nook have been trained to Tourism NI standards and will be available to assist visitors with any queries.  Tickets for the McNeill Theatre are available online at or can be purchased at The Book Nook.
All aboard! For the EL CAPITEN project
Council is part of an EU funded Atlantic Area Programme initiative called El CAPITEN. This project involves 19 partners across the UK, Ireland, Spain, France and the Canary Islands and is focused on the promotion of water-based activities such as; sailing, canoeing, paddle boarding, wind surfing etc. 

We’re fortunate to have a stunning coastline and access to major rivers such as the Bann, which allows visitors to get out and be active. So be prepared for some new water based activities in 2019!

The El CAPITEN project funding will support additional activities as part of Portglenone’s Big Splash Festival (24–28 July).  Three Beach Bonanza events will also run during the summer, where there will be opportunities to get on the water including stand up paddle boarding, sea kayaking plus other beach based activities. All of these activities will be free but must be booked in advance (booking details to be announced). Dates for your diary:

- Carnlough: Sun 23 June (11am-3pm)
- Glenarm: Sun 28 July (10am-2pm)
- Ballygally: Sun 11 Aug (12 noon-4pm) 

Enhancements at marina facilities
As part of the El CAPITEN project, Council will also be investing in the installation of WIFI at Portglenone and installing a disability hoist at Glenarm marina, to facilitate the needs of a greater number of residents and tourists.

Additionally, a survey will be issued soon to marina users and the local business community to try and ascertain what we can improve upon and how we can work together to grow marine based tourism across the Borough.

Private sector opportunities 
The El CAPITEN project team are eager to work in conjunction with the private sector to develop new tourism products. Potential activities, which funding could be used to promote, in conjunction with private sector operators, are extensive. 

Half day and full day packages could be created which would offer the visitor an opportunity to sight see, enjoy local hospitality, experience activities and also get on the water.
For example:
- Breakfast in local café;
- 2 hour clay pigeon shooting / walking tour;
- Followed by boat trip / sailing lesson / wind surfing etc. and 
- Lunch in local hotel.

Anyone interested in learning more about the El CAPITEN project should contact Ms. Pat Mulvenna T: 028 2563 3365 or E:

Whitehead food cluster off to an epic start 

Visitors to Whitehead were given a flavour of Game of Thrones when a timely promotion was held to mark the return of the epic television blockbuster.

A “foodie” event, with Game of Thrones themed menus, took place to coincide with the launch of the show’s long-awaited eighth season in the UK.

Five eateries in the town participated in the venture - Coastal Coffee, The Bank House, The Lighthouse Bistro, The Old Tea House, and the Edwardian Tea Room, at Whitehead Railway Museum.  Offers were available from 12 April with some continuing until the following weekend.

Delights included Melisandres Black Smoothie; Fire and Ice: Dragons Egg and Meringue board; a Games of Thrones tasting menu; Stark on the March panini and White Walkers white chocolate and raspberry scones.  Diners were also entertained at The Lighthouse Bistro with actors dressed in costume from Trjegul Reenactment Society, joining in the fun.

Do you enjoy telling a good tale? 
Agri-food co-operative funding scheme
The Agri-Food Co-operation Scheme offers up to £30,500 for primary producers and food businesses who wish to progress a new idea, new product or process. This includes expert help from a facilitator, specialist mentoring, training, business tools, study tours and co-operation support.  The scheme is open for expressions of interest and runs until 2021.  The Lough Neagh Artisan Food group is already up and running.

For further details on this scheme including types of support and eligibility click here or contact Countryside Services Ltd.  E:
Job fair opportunities

More than 35 employers from a range of sectors including tourism & hospitality will be taking part. For more details click here.
New Tourism Ireland stakeholder liaison for Northern Ireland presents to local trade
Tourism Ireland has appointed Ciaran Doherty to the new position of Stakeholder Liaison Manager – Northern Ireland, based at Tourism Ireland’s office in Coleraine. 

Ciaran will work collaboratively with colleagues in Tourism Northern Ireland and other agencies, with local authorities and with groups across the Northern Ireland tourism industry, to identify opportunities to further enhance the delivery of tourism from overseas and to grow overseas tourism to Northern Ireland. 

We were delighted that one of his first presentations was at our joint cluster Causeway Coastal Route speed networking event in Ballygally Castle with nearly 50 businesses in attendance.  Don't forget to keep up to date with Tourism Ireland opportunities.
Village renewal scheme works get underway

Work has commenced to enhance a number of villages across Mid and East Antrim. The rejuvenation work is part of over £1.27 million being invested in 17 villages across Mid and East Antrim under the Village Renewal Programme. The programme is funded by Council and DAERA with support from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

It's now the turn of Ahoghill, Broughshane, Carnlough, Ballycarry, Clough and Portglenone to receive significant upgrades to make them more attractive places to live and visit.  Work on all projects is expected to be completed by early June.  

For full project details click here.
Get ready to tee off with WorldHost golf ambassador training
Something giant is coming to Northern Ireland so don't miss out on your chance to become a Golf WorldHost Ambassador.

Preparations are well underway for the 148th Open at Royal Portrush (14-21 July 2019), and you can play your part by becoming a WorldHost Ambassador for Golf and the Causeway Coastal Route. This half day programme is a great opportunity to benefit from this world class customer service course during and after the tournament.  

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have partnered with Tourism NI and local golf clubs to subsidise this training at £15 per delegate including lunch.  You can sign-up now for a half day programme hosted at one of our local golf clubs in May (Galgorm, Cairndhu and Whitehead).

It's expected that 70% of golf visitors will return here so we need to be prepared, enhance their experience and maximise their stay to fulfil the legacy of the tournament. 

Additional tips:

Translink also announced a special transport plan for The Open with visitors encouraged to use enhanced public transport services so please plan ahead for your guests.
Celebrate national walking month this May
To celebrate May as the National Month for walking, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have been working with a number of local walking clubs and walk providers to organise a range of different walking opportunities across the borough.
Why not try one of our May Walks, and enjoy our beautiful outdoors.  From town walks in Ballymena, Carrickfergus and Larne, to heritage trails in Glenarm and Carnlough, and something a bit more challenging for those who like to venture beyond the towns footpaths with Slemish, Sallagh Braes and Skawt Hill.  There are even special interest walks with bluebells, foraging and geology. 

Walks take place throughout May and have something for everyone, with fully qualified walk leaders and experienced guides as part of the group. 
Shaped by Industry, Shared with Pride - participative theatre events 
‘Shaped by Industry-Shared with Pride’ – aims to bring our industrial past to the forefront of visitors’ experience in a hands-on-way.  Participative theatre is an exciting new trend where the audience is invited to join in on the performance. With a rich industrial heritage along the Causeway Coastal Route, combined with the fun of taking part in what working life was like during the 19th to mid- 20th Century,  it’s sure to be a great experience for all involved.

Performances are 15-20 minutes long. Prior booking is recommended as each performance is restricted to 15 participants. 

Carnlough Harbour:  this story is set in the 1850’s when Carnlough’s limestone quarrying industry was at the peak of it’s development. Lady Londonderry, a fabulously wealthy heiress, and owner of industries and property in Carnlough, instructs her Land Agent Richard Wilson to demand payment of rent arrears from her Carnlough tenants. Tenants threaten to rebel against the Lady. 
Performance dates & times:
•    Saturday 4 May: 11am, 12pm, 2:30pm & 3:30pm (Free entry) 
•    Sunday 5 May: 1pm, 2pm, 4pm & 5pm (Free entry)

Glenarm: the building of the Antrim Coast road 1832 to 1840 by Scottish Engineer, William Bald, also the provision of a soup kitchen during the ‘Summer without Sun’ in 1816 to 1817, when poor weather caused crop failures and led to a famine. The Glens were isolated prior to the Coast road, however this opened up trading opportunities for Glenarm and the surrounding villages. Story will look at the impact on local businesses with some people fearing progress and others welcoming new opportunities.
Performance dates & times:
•    Sunday 5 May: 3pm, 4pm, 6pm & 7pm (Free entry)
•    Monday 6 May: 11am, 12pm, 3pm & 4pm (Free entry) 

Whitehead Railway Museum: 1939 unsolved Whitehead Station robbery, pre-emptive measures taken place for the beginning of world war two;  a young Victorian couple make a nervous and over-excited first journey together on a steam train ; a Ballymena smuggler tries to make a get-away on the train until spotted by a customs officer. 
Performance dates & times:
- Friday 24 May: 10:30am, 11:30am, 2pm & 3pm (Entry Fee) 
- Saturday 25 May: 10:30am, 11:30am, 2pm & 3pm (Entry Fee)
Please note however that at Whitehead Railway Museum, the standard museum entrance fee applies.

Flame! Gasworks Museum: the Sam Gault story. Sam was manager of the gasworks between 1967-1987; interviews have been taken with Sam and some of the volunteers at the gasworks, to bring out a range of humorous and more serious stories of industrial life in the gasworks. Stories focus on the modernisation of the gasworks, the move away from coal to oil and how this impacted peoples jobs.  They will bring to life the demanding work that gas workers did in the 1960s and 70s, before the gasworks closed in 1987. 
Performance dates & times:
•    Friday 31 May: 7pm & 8pm (Free entry) 
•    Saturday 1 June: 2pm, 3pm, 7pm & 8pm (Free entry) 
•    Sunday 2 June: 2pm & 3pm (Free entry)

Book your tickets through Eventbrite / Shaped by Industry. Please arrive 10 minutes before the performance to register. Local businesses will also be joining in the fun!

For further information T: 028 256 35063 or
Antrim Rain Soap moves to Carnlough Harbour
If you've been to Carnlough recently you'll have noticed some renovation works going on in the former beauticians beneath the Harbour Lights cafe, on the sea side of the harbour.

Well we're delighted to announce this is a new shop called EBB & FLOW and it will be the home of Antrim Rain Natural Soaps. The workshop will be open to view, with natural soap being made about 3 mornings each week. Antrim Rain Soap is made using rain water collected at the top of the glens and uses no animal products, only 100% botanicals. 

The new shop also stocks a great variety of quality products mostly from makers and artists sourced from throughout N. Ireland including artwork, ceramics, candles, jewellery, soft furnishings and much more.  For further information E:
Update on Blackhead path works 
Following the tendering process, which was extended by 2 weeks after the applicants requested more time, an award letter has been issued to a contractor for acceptance. Meetings are due to take place with the contractor this week to confirm work schedules and start date for works. Council has continued to carry out environmental licensing and access work with relevant organisations and residents.  
Repairs to the upper path and Golden Steps have been completed. Noticeboards are nearly finished production and will be installed in the coming weeks with full information displayed on them about the works.  Local businesses in the Whitehead area have been delivered 3000 pocket guides detailing the works involved to get the path reopened. View pocket guide here. Regular updates can be found online.
Bluebell festival beckons visitors to Portglenone Forest

Well the Portglenone sunflowers may have gone Instagram crazy last summer but now it's the turn of the bluebells!

Get outdoors and enjoy nature’s colourful bluebell display on Monday 6 May 2019 from 10am – 2pm at Portglenone Forest.

Whether you walk at your own leisure or enjoy one of the guided walks, come and experience this annual floral spectacle, signalling spring is on the way. 

With kid’s entertainment, local live music and refreshments on offer, you can also avail of the free shuttle bus from Portglenone Community Centre carpark, between 9.30am and 2.30pm.

For more details T: 028 9335 8232 or E:

International visitor experience at The Gobbins to be enhanced
A multi-lingual audio guide, unique to Northern Ireland is being installed at The Gobbins, to welcome international visitors. This bespoke system includes tour guide hardware, audio guide handsets for foreign language visitors, foreign language audio guide platform and audio guide content in Spanish and French.

The new system is part of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s digital transformation project and is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.

Since opening, more than half of all visitors to The Gobbins have travelled from outside Northern Ireland. Given the high proportion of international visitors and the nature of the tour, a multi-language solution will improve the quality of the visitor experience and is considered by Tourism Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland as a ‘must have’ for an international attraction. Visitors will be able to download audio content onto their own devices.
Successful boost for two local tourism businesses

In early 2019 Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust launched a Challenge Fund to identify new tourism experiences in the Borough and neighbouring Causeway Coast and Glens Borough. Bursaries were funded, with thanks, by TourismNI.

Uptake was high, with nearly 30 applications, for the 4 bursaries of £500 each. Toast the Coast and Glenview Farm emerged as worthy winners.

Toast the Coast Food Tours & Experiences celebrates local and award-winning Northern Ireland food and drinks along the Causeway Coastal route. The bursary will be used to promote ‘slow’ tours of Cushendall, Cushendun and Whitehead.

Glenview Farm is an equine learning centre located in Carnalbanagh, equipped with indoor and outdoor facilities. This bursary will enable them to promote this family friendly activity to accommodation providers in the area as well as put together a video showcasing the activity in the beautiful setting of the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Toast the Coast video showcases local food offering
Toast the Coast food tours has produced a fantastic video showcasing many of the great places to eat along our impressive coastline including The Bankhouse, Ann’s Pantry, Ballygally Castle, Glenarm Castle Estate and Walled Garden and The Londonderry Arms Hotel.  Congratulations to Portia Woods and all the trade who participated in this fantastic footage!
New visitor map for Mid and East Antrim 

As part of our 'Shaped by Sea and Stone' tourism brand, a new A2 folded map has been created.  One side contains a map of Mid and East Antrim highlighting specific attractions, promoting our position on the Causeway Coastal Route and showcasing the unique tourism product within the borough. The other side shows town centre and village maps including Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne and Islandmagee.  Maps will be available from Friday 26 April at Carrickfergus and Ballymena Visitor Information Centres, The Gobbins and The Book Nook Visitor Information Points as well as the airports and Visit Belfast Welcome Centre to show visitors what they can do and what Mid and East Antrim has to offer. 
Publicity opportunity for artists and crafters
Pi Productions are making an exciting new documentary series about the popular world of arts and crafts. The documentary follows passionate British makers working in popular crafts.  

The series is not a competition; it follows enthusiastic crafters who probably started with a hobby and love it so much they are now semi-professional or professional, in order to inspire viewers to develop their own skills and passions for popular crafts. Expressions of interest can be submitted up until the end of April.

To enter E: your name, age, location, phone number and explain your craft with a few photos or a link to your website/social media page. 
The Orphan Brigade still love Glenarm!

The Orphan Brigade spent 3 memorable days in April working on their new album.

They based themselves in Glenarm writing and recording at various locations on the Antrim Coast.  The Madman's Window, just outside of Glenarm was the start of their journey but they also visited Slemish Mountain, Carnlough Bay (thanks to Carnlough Bay Boat Tours) and St.Patrick’s Church of Ireland, Glenarm.  Not forgetting a few pints in The Bridge End Tavern!
They also wrote on the headland of Kinbane Castle ruins; at the grave of The Black Nun, Julia McQuillan, at Bonamargy Friary and in the Cushendun caves.

The band gave a fantastic review for Jenny and Peter Monroe at Water's Edge Glenarm.  To quote: ‘wonderful and welcoming hosts ...... If you are visiting the Antrim Coast and are looking for a very special B&B we can't recommend them highly enough!’  In February, Ben Glover,  from the Orphan Brigade also won UK Album of the Year award for his album Shorebound at the 2019 UK Americana Awards so they are definitely making waves both here and in America. Their new album was recorded in St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland and is scheduled for release in autumn 2019.
Consultation underway on licensing law

In advance of the 148th Open at Royal Portrush, the Department for Communities (DfC) has launched a consultation on proposed changes to licensing law which would benefit the hospitality and tourism sectors in Northern Ireland. 

The Department is consulting at this time as a change in law, before the Open takes place, will contribute to the event’s success and improve prospects for this event and others coming in the future.

The consultation focuses around the sale and supply of alcoholic drinks at 'special events' in Northern Ireland with a view to vary permitted hours and to permit off sales in certain circumstances. The number of ‘special events’ is expected to be small and conditions would apply. 

The consultation period runs from 22 March 2019 to 3 May 2019.  Consultation documents can be found online here.  Email responses can be sent to
Roots Revealed offers new Ballymena walking tours
Dates have now been released for Roots Revealed's new 2-hour walking tour of Ballymena with one walk planned per month between April to September at a cost of £10 per person.  Hear the story of the Seven Towers, tales of feudal lordships, of deals with the devil, the headless horseman, ancient monastic settlements and the 1798 Rebellion, along with the more recent history of this busy market town and popular shopping destination. Private tours can also be arranged.  Pre-booking is essential and can be booked at
Local accommodation / hospitality / activity news 
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's Cultural Celebrations Grants Scheme is now open for events taking place between 10-13 July and 14-17 August 2019.  Closing date for applications is 12 noon on Friday 10 May 2019.  To apply click here or for further details E:

A new Thai takeaway and sit in called Thap Thai has opened in Irish Quarter West, Carrickfergus.

Due to phenomenal demand Glenarm Castle have announced that the Official Peter Rabbit™ will appear for a second consecutive day at this years Tulip Festival on Monday 6 May. (May Day Bank Holiday).  Book tickets here.

Congratulations to The Clock House restaurant at Leighinmohr House Hotel who were awarded County Antrim and Northern Ireland Restaurant of The Year at Food Awards Northern Ireland.

Delighted to see new illustrated Whitehead cards designed by Claire Bagshaw for sale in Victoriana Floral.

Get ready for #MuseumWeek, taking place from 13-19 May, when they’ll be celebrating 7 themes using 7 hashags over 7 days. So start thinking about the part you can play in raising the online profile of museums.

Congratulations to The Gobbins cluster chair and general manager of Ballygally Castle, Norman McBride, who was appointed as this year's President for Skål International Northern Ireland.

Fare changes on Metro/Glider, NI Railways and Ulsterbus came into effect on 1 April 2019. On average, fares increased by 2.6%, in line with RPI, but many best value fares were held and discounts of around 25% continue to be available using best value ‘Smart’ tickets.

One Hair & Beauty recently opened in the space above Greenisland Golf Club, which was formerly ‘The Tee Rooms’.

Nearly 50 local children took part in an innovative, cross-community digital tourism project, thanks to youth arts charity WheelWorks.  The Trailblazer tourist app consists of a walking tour of both Clough and Martinstown and details the commonalities in the areas such as history and heritage, flora and fauna and other wildlife. For full story click here.

The highly-anticipated GAME OF THRONES: The Touring Exhibition, including two-never-seen before sets, arrived at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast for its debut visit to the UK and Ireland (11 April - 1 September 2019).

Europe’s busiest international airline routes were revealed with the 449km hop between London Heathrow and Dublin placed third.

Budget airline WOW collapsed in March and cancelled all flights between Dublin and Reykjavik.

Eco friendly, bamboo re-useable cups are now available at The Dancing Goat Café. Buy one for £5.50, receive your first tea/coffee or hot chocolate free and then 10% discount for every use!

Sea Sugar Handmade Confectionery has been working with NI company Podium Apps to launch a new app on Android and Apple, so ordering your sweets is now easier than ever.   

The Dairy & Cafe Butchers Farm Shop in Gleno officially opened on 3 April.

Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, the industry umbrella body for tourism in Northern Ireland, announced the appointment of Dr Joanne Stuart OBE as Chief Executive Officer.

Larne Museum & Arts Centre will be closed for Easter from Friday 19 until Tuesday 23 April inclusive. They will re-open at 10am on Wednesday 24 April.  However there's lots happening for Easter at Carnfunnock Country Park, Galgorm Castle Fairy Trail and Whitehead Railway Museum so check them out.

Council is requesting expressions of interest for a new public artwork from experienced and suitably qualified artists/design teams. The public artwork will be located at Pound Street/The Roddens junction on open space in Larne and is part of the new environmental improvement scheme. The theme of the artwork will take the form of a jaunting car with horse and driver.  Closing date is 14 May 2019 at 12 noon.

All the Stations recently filmed at Whitehead Railway Museum.  Look forward to seeing the footage!

The Blackstone Bar and Restaurant in Ballymena has been put on the market.

The applications deadline for the next round of Invest NI innovation vouchers is 3pm on Friday 3 May 2019.

National minimum wage and national living wage rates were increased from Monday 1 April 2019.

New signage has been appearing at State Care Monuments across Northern Ireland providing health & safety advice and emergency contact details to protect visitors and the monuments themselves.

Additional tickets went on sale for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush on 15 April. The R&A extended the capacity of the venue on all four Championship Days to cater for the huge demand among golf fans to attend the event’s historic return to Northern Ireland.

Heathrow announced the former Michelin site in Ballymena, which once served as the company’s main European manufacturing plant, was one of two Northern Ireland sites shortlisted to help deliver the expanded airport. 

BBC’s Antiques Road Trip explores Mid & East Antrim’s treasures at US Rangers Museum.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, signed the Heads of Terms for the Belfast City Deal, alongside the Belfast Region City Deal partners and the Northern Ireland Civil Service. This is a major milestone towards the completion of the first City Deal for Northern Ireland. The Belfast Region City Deal will see the UK Government invest £350 million into the Belfast Region over the next 15 years. It's proposed that this figure will be matched by the Northern Ireland Executive once the devolved institutions are restored.

Great feature in the Farming Life on Économusées within the Causeway Coast and Glens and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council areas. The Steensons, their Économusée experience and their involvement in Game of Thrones also recently featured in The Joy of Travel Ltd

Exhibitor booking is now open for The Twilight Emporium artisan markets at Larne Market Yard on Thursday 25 July and Thursday 5 December.  If you're a designer/maker or artisan food producer and you'd like to get involved, simply drop them an email to receive an application form to showcase your products alongside some of the finest indie creatives in the country.  E:

Carnfunnock Country Park is now home to the first Little Free Library in the Borough.  Little Free Library is a worldwide phenomenon aimed at inspiring a love of reading, building community, and sparking creativity through neighbourhood book exchanges around the world.

Have you 10 minutes to help Tourism Ireland build a better Please encourage your visitors to complete their travel survey to discover how they choose, book and enjoy their holidays.

Granny Shaws Fudge Factory are branching out with their new pre-packed fudge bags available in Carnfunnock Country Park, The Gobbins Visitor Centre and even Rathlin Island.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council are currently recruiting casual Gobbins Guest Relations and Tour Guides.  For information and to apply click here.  Closing date for applications is Wednesday 1 May 2019 at 4pm.

The All Ireland Chowder Cook Off took place in April in Kinsale.  No winners from Northern Ireland this year but maybe next year for the 10th anniversary!

Jim and Roberta Dunn have taken over the catering franchise at Larne Golf Club and we wish them every success.

The Old Mill Bakery will open at 18 Mill Street, Ballymena on 24 April 2019.  Expect traditional recipes from Leiths Bakery, which was originally located here.

Great blog write up about Catrina Briggs Evans and the story behind her business H'evans Truffles.  Lots of fantastic PR being generated including Northern Woman Magazine's feature on female chocolate artisans. 

Largy Coastal apartments were delighted to be in Travel myth's Top 20 5-Star Accommodations Northern Ireland.  Ballycairn House were also in the Top 50.  Congratulations to both businesses!

Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort are again celebrating being nominated for the World Luxury Spa Awards.  Vote for them here.

Upcoming Northern Regional College business training

Industry dates for the diary 
Date Time Location Event
Friday 26 April 9.15am - 11.30am Ballymena Business Centre Business Essentials:  Basic Accounting
Tuesday 30 April 2019 8.30am-5pm Slieve Donard Resort & Spa Tourism NI:  Northern Ireland Golf Tourism Convention 2019
Wednesday 1 May 9.30am – 2pm Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort MEA Tourism:  Experience development masterclass
To book email:
Tuesday 7 May 8.30am-10.30am Ecos Visitor Centre, Ballymena ‘Access to Finance' for Small Business
Wednesday  8 May 10am-12.30pm Adair Arms Hotel Hospitality and activity provider speed networking 
To book E:
Wednesday  8 May 1pm-2pm Adair Arms Hotel Ballymena Area Tourism Cluster meeting
To book E:
Monday 13 May 6pm buffet dinner, 6.45pm meeting Laragh Lodge, Glenariffe Antrim Glens Tourism (Cluster) meeting
To book E:  Michael Bird, Secretary, Glens Cluster Group at
Thursday 16 May 9.30am – 2pm Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort WorldHost Golf Ambassador 
Wednesday 22 May 9.30am – 2pm Cairndhu Golf Club WorldHost Golf Ambassador
Wednesday 22 May 2.30pm TBC The Gobbins Tourism Cluster meeting
To book E:
Thursday 30 May 9.30am – 2pm Whitehead Golf Club WorldHost Golf Ambassador
Thursday 30 May 7pm – 11.30pm Palace Demesne, Armagh Northern Ireland Tourism Awards
Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 June TBC St. Georges Market, Belfast Digital DNA 2019
Wednesday 26 June 2019 10am-4pm Volunteer Now, 34 Shaftesbury Square, Belfast Volunteer Now:  Developing a Volunteer Programme
What's keeping you? Tourism NI targets Irish market with Neil Delamere

57 per cent of the Republic of Ireland have never crossed the border to Northern Ireland say Tourism Northern Ireland, quoting an independent survey conducted around two years ago. This startling fact has led them to create a video titled ‘What’s Keeping You’, starring Irish comedian Neil Delamere, as he visits many of Belfast, Derry and the Causeway Coastal routes key tourist spots. Great to see Flip Robinson from Giant Tours also featuring.  

Fantastic achievement by Stephen Reid from Grafters Media in Ballymena who directed, filmed and edited the travel vlog over 3 days on six different cameras. 

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