Representatives from GB-based coach and tour operators enjoyed a six-day fact finding familiarisation trip to the island of Ireland in September.
The trip, organised by Tourism Ireland, Tourism Northern Ireland and Failte Ireland, began in Belfast. Hosts Northern Ireland Tourism welcomed the group to Belfast Cathedral for a two-and-a-half hour b2b workshop, bringing coach and tour operators together with representatives from the country’s destinations, visitor attractions, hotels and tourism suppliers. A delicious dinner, complete with magnificent musical entertainment from well-known violinist Eimear Bradley, set the scene for the days that followed.
Highlights of two full days in Northern Ireland included a visit to Blessingbourne Country Estate, a relaxing cruise on Lough Erne on the ‘Lady of the Lake’ as part of the exploration of the picturesque Fermanagh Lakelands, a visit underground to see the spectacular Marble Arch Caves, and a tour of the famous Belleek Pottery.
Crossing into the Republic of Ireland, hosts Failte Ireland produced an itinerary focusing on ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’. This included a cookery demonstration at Ghan House in Carlingford, and a visit to the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre near Drogheda. There was an opportunity to bake bread, dance a jig, play a bodhran and milk a cow at Causey Farm, and hear about the filming of ‘Braveheart’ at Trim Castle.
But it was a visit to Slane Castle, home to the eponymous distillery, and the location for the famous rock concerts, that provided the biggest surprise. Sitting down to the usual ‘welcome’ video inside the castle, we were greeted on screen by the owner Lord Henry Mountcharles. Sitting in a comfy chair, and seemingly without notes, he told the story of the castle, its destruction by fire, and its restoration. It was a remarkable piece of storytelling, and surprisingly emotional, leaving many of the group, and this writer included, with a tear in the eye.
The main part of the trip ended with a b2b workshop held at Dunboyne Castle Hotel and Spa.
Congratulations to the teams from Tourism Ireland, Tourism Northern Ireland and Failte Ireland for a well organised, enjoyable and informative fam trip.