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A group of 14 leading food writers from Ireland and GB experienced superb food, drink and hospitality during a two-day visit to the Newry, Mourne and Down area.

Organised by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, in association with Food NI, the visit welcomed members from the UK Guild and Irish Guilds of Food Writers.

The journalists, many of whom are also widely published travel journalists, enjoyed the region’s spectacular scenery on the trip that took them from their base in Newcastle to Kilkeel, and then to Crossgar and Ballynahinch.

Commenting on the visit, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairman, Councillor Mark Murnin said, “Newry, Mourne and Down has a growing reputation for great food due to our renowned chefs and excellent, locally sourced produce.

The food writers pictured with Front row: l-r Gary Quate, Food and Drink Officer Tourism Northern Ireland; Michele Shirlow, CEO Food NI, Councillor Oksana McMahon, Deputy Chairperson Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Tracey Mooney, Assistant Tourism Development Officer Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Michelle Boyle, Head of Product Development and Visitor Experience Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The food writers, back,  pictured with front from left: Gary Quate, Food and Drink Officer Tourism Northern Ireland; Michele Shirlow, CEO Food NI, Councillor Oksana McMahon, Deputy Chairperson Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Tracey Mooney, Assistant Tourism Development Officer Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Michelle Boyle, Head of Product Development and Visitor Experience Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

“Food and drink have become increasingly important to tourism as they offer visitors the opportunity to learn about our heritage, landscape and culture and meet our people. Initiatives such as this current visit are important to showcase our rich gastro offering to influencers who can strengthen the profile and attractiveness of regions such as ours. This in turn boosts tourism revenues and supports economic growth and employment through expanding what we can offer to the public.”

The visit was the latest Council initiative to increase awareness, in both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland market, of the many tourism amenities and of the range of premium quality and outstanding food and drink being produced by local enterprises.

Michele Shirlow, Food NI Chief Executive, added, “We are delighted to be working with the Council on promoting Newry, Mourne and Down’s exceptional food and hospitality.

“As part of our strategic focus, we are particularly keen to harness the huge business potential the title 'The World’s Best Food Destination’ has offered Northern Ireland since it was awarded last November, at the prestigious World Travel Trade Awards. Visits such as this allow us to build upon this incredible accolade and develop business opportunities through food tourism in local council areas.”

Some of the food and drink that the writers enjoyed were langoustines and award winning Millbay Oysters (Supreme Champion title, Blas na hÉreann Awards 2018) from Rooney Fish in Kilkeel, and Dexter beef at Castlescreen Farm, Downpatrick.

The visitors were also treated to a trip to Whitewater Brewery, a winner of International Beer and UK Great Taste Awards and to Rademon Craft Distillery in Crossgar, which exports to over 30 international markets, to sample their Shortcross gin and their recently launched Irish whiskey.

The writers were shown how to make, bake and then sample traditional Northern Irish breads such as potato bread and soda farls at Hanna’s Close, Kilkeel. They also met with other local artisans such as Kilmegan Cider from Dundrum during their visit to Montalto Estate, near Ballynahinch.

The journalists not only met with food and drink producers, they had an opportunity to enjoy local cuisine at The Harbour Inn at Annalong by chef Trevor Orr and a special foraging dinner with local producers, specially prepared by chef Paul Cunningham at Brunel’s, Newcastle.

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