Tourism NI continues its ‘Epic Journey to The 148th Open’

Local schools, golf clubs, tourism industry representatives and sports stars joined together at Belfast City Hall to celebrate the first official stop of Tourism NI’s community engagement campaign ‘The Epic Journey to The 148th Open’.

The community event will take place in every county in Northern Ireland, as well as Dublin, to mark the excitement and civic pride surrounding the return of golf’s most prestigious championship to Royal Portrush for the first time in nearly 70 years this July.

The 148th Open at Royal Portrush will be beamed to over 600 million viewers across the world, and is set to attract 190,000 eager spectators, with a team of 6,000 staff and 500 volunteers warmly welcoming visitors.

The Championship has already achieved record-breaking ticket sales as the first ever Open to sell out and Tourism NI is inviting local communities to join the excitement and get involved in the countdown to July.

Aine Kearney, Tourism NI Director of Business Support and Events, said:

“The 148th Open is the biggest event that Northern Ireland has ever held and has been years in the making. The Championship will shine a spotlight on Northern Ireland, placing us on a global stage and leaving a lasting legacy. We are ready to welcome the hundreds of thousands of visitors who will be joining us to watch a truly spectacular sporting event.

The Epic Journey to The 148thOpen tour will include golf’s most iconic trophy, the Claret Jug, along with a giant #TheOpen letter sculpture, designed by Tourism NI and made out of 4,000 golf balls, which was unveiled by global golfing hero and former Open Champion, Rory McIlroy, last October.

Rory McIlroy commented:

“The Open returning to Portrush is massive for Northern Ireland, everyone is so excited and is getting behind it. I never thought I would have the opportunity to play in a major championship at home and I’m really looking forward to it. You can really feel the buzz here already, it’s going be a fantastic year as we get ready to welcome The Open for the first time in over half a century.”

Practice day tickets are available for sale from and a limited number of new hospitality tickets are also available across Championship days.

For further information


Young Playwrights Shows Performed At Lyric Theatre

The Lyric Theatre and Fighting Words Belfast have reached the final hurdle of the Young Playwrights Programme ahead of their performance this Sunday 10thMarch.

From January, 6 young playwrights (aged 14-18) have been working with industry professionals to bring the scripts they have written to life. Under the guidance of professional actors, directors and designers, the plays have taken shape, allowing these young people to understand the creative process and gain experience.

These brand-new pieces will be performed as part of the 21stBelfast Children’s Festival on a showcase at the Lyric’s Naughton Studio on Sunday 10thMarch.

The Right Twig has been led for the Lyric Theatre by Rebecca Mairs, Literary Manager at the Lyric Belfast, who said:

“It’s been such a pleasure to work with these fantastic young writers over the course of this pilot programme, and we’ve been bowled over by their enthusiasm, commitment, and fascinating ideas.  If this group are anything to go by, the future of Northern Irish theatre is in good hands. ”

Emily DeDakis from Fighting Words Belfast, said:

“It’s brilliant to have the space to work in-depth with these six amazing teenage writers. They’ve got a unique chance to learn & experiment right in the Lyric — and it’s so important that our national theatre feels like their home.”

This programme has been supported by Belfast City Council and by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The Right Twig is showcased for one night only on Sunday 10th March at 7pm. This is a free event but booking is required.

Contact or 028 9038 1081 for more information.

Mervyn Stewart Named ‘Retailer of the Year’ by Skoda UK

Local firm Mervyn Stewart has been announced as the Retailer of the Year by Skoda UK – the top award at this year’s prestigious ceremony held in Tobacco Dock, London.

The award presented by singer-songwriter and Skoda Brand Ambassador Paloma Faith recognises the achievements of best performing Skoda Retailers in the UK Network.

Mervyn Stewart is a family run business, with expert local knowledge – operating in Belfast for over 50 years. Mervyn Stewart’s North Down branch claimed the award which is based on 10 Key Performance Indicators such as customer satisfaction, after sales performance, training, vehicles sales and finance performance.

Stephen Stewart, Managing Director at Mervyn Stewart comments: “I am absolutely delighted with the result. It is only possible to win this award when everyone is focused on delivering excellence for our customers and what makes it so meaningful is that we achieved it together. I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of our staff and customers, without them we would not be here.”

Mervyn Stewart topped off its previous sales category win from 2018 by taking home this year’s coveted top prize – based on excellent performance throughout the year. Karen Bickerstaff, Operations Director for Mervyn Stewart commented: “We are extremely proud to have won this award, it is a credit to the whole team who work extremely hard all year to ensure we provide the best possible service to our customers. The sense of team spirit in the dealership is incredible and everyone works so well together, it’s a great team to be part of.’

The annual awards were created by the Czech manufacturer to highlight the hard work and dedication of its Retailer network. With 130 retailers across the UK and Northern Ireland and 10 key categories awarded, competition is fierce.”

Rod McLeod, Director, ŠKODA UK, commented on the awards: “We are proud to work alongside some of the best retailers in the UK. Our retailers continue to deliver fantastic service and value to customers and I’d personally like to congratulate the whole network for their results over the past 12 months.” For more information visit or find us on Facebook.

TV chef James Martin’s ‘adventure’ comes to Northern Ireland

The superb Northern Irish food scene is in the spotlight this week in Great Britain with millions of people set to tune in to two episodes of the popular ITV show James Martin’s Great British Adventure, which were filmed here in Northern Ireland. The episodes, aired on Thursday (21 February) and Friday, were created by Blue Marlin and supported by Tourism Ireland and Tourism NI.

In the first episode, viewers see James meet up with his friend, chef Paul Rankin. Together, they visit the Giant’s Causeway, where they cook a fish stew for some of the tourists visiting the site. They visit Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil in Limavady and chat with owner Leona Kane. They also take part in a hovercraft race at Foylehov Activity Centre and, after a spot of mackerel fishing off the north coast, James prepares a mackerel and grapefruit salad for the crew.

Belfast, Moira and Strangford Lough all feature in the second episode. James enjoys a tour of Belfast with Paul Rankin and checks out some of the new visitor spots in the city, before heading for a game of golf. He meets with chef Danni Barry at her restaurant, Clenaghans in Moira; and checks out the nearby Himalayan Salt Chamber. James also spends time on Strangford Lough, fishing for his all-time favourite seafood – langoustines – and then cooks up a delicious lunch with the langoustines on the harbourside.

Julie Wakley, Tourism Ireland’s Head of Great Britain, said: “We are delighted that the James Martin’s Great British Adventure crew chose to film two episodes in Northern Ireland. It’s a really great way of highlighting the superb culinary experience on offer here. Food and drink are vital elements of the holiday experience nowadays, so our message here in GB is that Northern Ireland is a superb choice for ‘foodies’ for a holiday or short break.

“Television and film are recognised as strong influencers for prospective holidaymakers and Tourism Ireland regularly works with TV and production companies in GB, and elsewhere around the world, to facilitate the making of travel and lifestyle programmes in Northern Ireland.”

Award Winning Illustrator Visits Northern Ireland Schools

More than 700 pupils from 10 different schools in Newry, Derry/Londonderry and Belfast will enjoy a visit from award winning author and illustrator, Catherine Rayner as part of the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour.

The Children’s Book Tour is a national charity which aims to transform lives through reading and writing. It is supported by Scottish Friendly and organised by the Scottish Book Trust. Over the years, the event has captivated more than 100,000 children with visits from over 100 individual authors since they began in 1998.

Catherine Rayner studied illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. She lives there now with her husband, young son and her pets. She finds huge inspiration in her pets and often uses them as models, furthermore she has also spent hours sketching tigers in the freezing temperatures.

Her books have been nominated for several awards, including the UK literary Association Awards and the CILIP Greenaway medal.

During the book tour Catherine will work with the pupils on drawing and illustrating, giving step by step guides so they can draw characters from her books. She will also give insight to how she produces her characters by sharing her sketchbooks so they can see how characters develop – with a focus on how many mistakes she makes, and there’s no ‘right’ way to create a picture book.

Over 35 restaurants set to dish up deliciousness for Belfast Restaurant Week

Belfast One and Destination CQ invite you to ditch the dishes this February as they launch Belfast Restaurant Week, a seven day long celebration of the city centre’s fantastic culinary offering.

Whether it’s classic French cuisine overlooking City Hall, tapas below the twinkling lights of Cathedral Quarter, or pizza and a pint, the event is certain to serve up a gastronomic feast for everyone.

The joint venture will run from Monday 18 to Sunday 24 February across over 35 restaurants in the BT1 and BT2 areas, with workshops and chef demonstrations in St George’s Market on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd February.

Belfast One and Destination CQ are bringing Belfast Restaurant Week 2019 to the city centre as part of their marketing strategy aimed at driving domestic footfall by promoting the retail, leisure, culture, and entertainment offering, and showcasing what a unique city Belfast is.

Speaking at the launch of the event, Julie McCullagh, Marketing Manager of Belfast One said:

“We have been delighted with the interest from restaurateurs keen to sign up and the offering is shaping up to be absolutely fantastic.

“Each and every restaurant has worked hard to develop a special menu or event which will showcase their cuisine, their uniqueness, and their location within the city.

“We want to celebrate the amazing range of restaurants from the multi-award-winning Deanes, Coppi and The Great Room at The Merchant Hotel, to the new and emerging Jumon, Edo, Buba, Pizza Boutique and many, many more.

Julie concluded: “There is an excellent variety of food on offer so that every palate, budget, and dietary preference is catered for and the city will be alive with variety, flavour and most of all, choice.”

Gareth Neill, BID Manager, Destination CQ continued: “This fantastic event is aimed at showcasing the unique hospitality offering in Belfast and encouraging people to stay after work, have dinner somewhere new and enjoy the vibrant offer of what’s going on in Belfast.”

“From Monday to Thursday, diners can enjoy two courses for as little as £10 or £15 in over 25 restaurants from 5pm to 7pm.”

On Friday and Saturday there will be food workshops and chef demonstrations at St George’s Market, in partnership with Belfast City Council, from 10am to 3pm, as well as a host of other events across the city.

The week will be concluded with the Big Belfast Brunch on Sunday from 11am to 3pm which will be held across a number of restaurants.

A full list of the participating restaurants can be viewed at

NI Institute of Hospitality Awards for Professionalism- Enter Now!

The clock is ticking and the closing date for applications for this year’s Institute of Hospitality Awards for Professionalism is fast approaching. The deadline for entries is Monday 18thFebruary 2019. You can self-nominate or nominate one of your colleagues by visiting

Now in their 24thyear, these are the longest established hospitality awards in Northern Ireland, recognising the success of individuals working across all sectors of the hospitality industry.

The Institute of Hospitality Awards for Professionalism pay tribute to and recognise the achievements of many committed, passionate professionals in the hospitality industry throughout Northern Ireland.

Marianne Hood, Chair of the Institute of Hospitality (NI Branch) says:

“The awards provide a platform to celebrate individual managers who have made a recognisable contribution to their place of work and to the industry in general. There is a broad spectrum of categories, covering all sectors and we encourage everyone to get involved and celebrate success and personal achievements.”

Judging will take place on Tuesday 12thand Wednesday 13thMarch 2019 at The Crowne Plaza and the Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner will be take place in Titanic Belfast on Friday 17thMay 2019.


British Medical Association celebrates Dr John D Woods

British Medical Association members and staff recently attended an event to mark Dr John D Woods term of office as BMA Northern Ireland Council chair.

At the event Dr Woods was joined by his wife Dr Sara Hedderwick and other members of BMA committees including the former BMA Cymru-Wales chair Dr Philip Banfield and BMA Scotland National Director Jill Vickerman.

Speaking at the event Dr Woods thanked BMA Northern Ireland national director Claire Armstrong, BMA staff and BMA committee members who had who worked with him during his term as chair.

Holiday World Show 2019 at Titanic Belfast

Holiday seekers and adventure enthusiasts alike will pleased to know the Holiday World Show will be returning to Belfast once again in 2019. TV Personality Paul Martin from ‘Flog It’ will be opening what is set to be an even bigger and better event than ever before.

From Friday 18th January- Sunday 20th January 2019, the action-packed Holiday World Show will be taking place in the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast.

Whether you’re in the market for a weekend break, a family holiday, activity adventure or the luxury break of a lifetime, you’ll find it all right here.  Amongst the big new names checking into Northern Ireland’s favourite celebration of travel and tourism will be China’s National Tourist Office, the Great Lakes region of the USA, the Madeira Bureau and the Turks & Caicos Tourist Board.


The three-in-one show is a one-stop-shop for expert global travel advice, deals and destinations, competitions, show-only offers and great family entertainment.

A 50+ Village and the ever-popular Cavan & Motorhome Show will add to the holiday highlights, which also include the Oasis Travel Cruise Pavilion and Clubworld Travel’s Honeymoon & Wedding Destinations Pavilion.

Visit Holiday World at Titanic Exhibition Centre on:

Friday         18th January: 1pm – 6pm

Saturday    19th January: 11am –5.30pm

Sunday       20th January: 11am – 5.30pm

Or visit for more information

The MAC And Cahoots NI Collaborate For Magical Christmas Show

This Christmas, the MAC will collaborate once again with the children’s theatre company Cahoots NI for a magical production of the much-loved Brothers Grimm story, The Elves and The Shoemaker.

This classic fairytale is the uplifting story of a kind-hearted tradesman who has fallen on hard times and is assisted by a mischievous band of fairy folk. As ever with the MAC’s Christmas shows, expect a unique twist on the traditional fairy tale format with a funny script co-written by Simon Magill and Stephen Beggs, under the direction of Paul Bosco McEneaney, and an enchanting festive score from Garth McConaghie.

This show is suitable for all ages and will run from Tuesday 27th November to Saturday 6th January, but tickets are selling out quick! Avail of discount prices when you purchase a Family Saver ticket, valid Monday to Friday, which will save you 10% when you purchase 4 tickets or more.


For more information about the show or to book tickets for your festive family trip to the MAC, visit

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas at Hillsborough Castle!

A series of magical events and activities will be taking place right through the festive period at Hillsborough Castle, Co. Down.

From 28 November – 23 December visitors can travel back to 1895, as Lord and Lady Arthur Hill decorate the grand house for a Victorian Christmas! Soak up the seasonal atmosphere in the stunning candlelit State Rooms, adorned with exquisite paper cuts from local artist Emma Davison and discover the rich, inspiring and often surprising history of this famous residence, guided by the Castle’s team of expert explainers. After exploring the Castle’s beautifully decorated interiors, families can even have a go at making their very own decorations with drop-in family workshops, on selected weekends, including wreath making and decorative paper cutting classes.

Each weekend, the Castle will burst into life with costumed interpreters as the household celebrates yuletide with live musicfrom the Downshire Brass band and Sestina music ensemble. Kitchen staff will be serving up scrumptious samples of Twelfth Cakeand Wassail Cup,while on 15-16 and 22-23 December, Father Christmas will be taking a break from his very busy schedule with a special appearance at the Castle.

Following Christmas, from 27-30 December, the world turns topsy-turvy as the old year makes way for the new! Meet characters from the Castle’s past as Lord and Lady Arthur Hill get ready for a dazzling Christmas Ball. Listen to stories and music, play traditional festive games and sample traditional food and drink. On the 29 and 30 December, you might just bump into one of the Tower of London’s present day ‘Beefeaters’ who will be taking part in the celebrations, just like they did in 1895.

Throughout the Christmas calendar, Hillsborough Castle will also be hosting a range of after-hours events for adults. For those that dare, round off the year by diving into the chilling world of Victorian Christmas ghost stories. On 28 December, internationally-acclaimed actor and local legend Ian McElhinney delivers an atmospheric reading of terrifying tales in the imposing Throne Room.

For the full programme of seasonal events at Hillsborough Castle and tickets, please visit:

Hillsborough Castle general admission ticket:

  • Members: Free
  • Adult (18+ years old): £8.00
  • Child (5-15 years old): £5.10

Ulster Tatler pre-Christmas drinks at Fratellis Belfast

Sarah Sherry

Fratellis Belfast was the fabulous venue for Ulster Tatler’s pre-Christmas drinks reception. Guests enjoyed wonderful canapés and drinks and the party continued into the wee small hours. Here’s a preview of some of the pics that will feature in our January issue – on sale Saturday 22 December.