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Travel & Tourism

Castlewellan SOMA Festival Kicks Off

Soma Festival 2018

The annual SOMA Festival kicks off in Castlewellan tonight with a packed programme of events to suit all the family.

Now in its 6th year, the festival promises to be the best yet with live music, art, drama, and writing workshops, a range of activities from SOMA’s Body & Soul team, and many more.

This weekend sees some fabulous not-to-be-missed music acts hit the town. If Rock ‘n Roll is your thing, don’t miss the Belfast Bullfrogs who bring their unique style to The Town House on Friday July 20.

Tonight (Wednesday 18) one of Ireland’s most revered and prolific singer-songwriters, Paul Brady will take to the stage at St Malachy’s Church.

Paul Brady Set For County Down’s SOMA Festival

Paul Brady Set For County Down’s SOMA Festival

Traditional Music

Meanwhile if you’re a fan of traditional music there’s something for you every night this weekend. Cathy Jordan, front woman of one of Ireland’s most iconic bands, Dervish comes to the Kings Inn on Friday 20, The Grainne Holland Band will also be performing there on Saturday 21, and Sharon Shannon with the Henry Girls perform at St. Malachy’s GAC on Sunday 22.

Currently on their summer tour around Ireland, The Olllam stop off in Castlewellan on Saturday 21 at St. Malachy’s GAC displaying their creative blend of musical influences.

On Sunday 22, Mullholland’s Bar is the place to be for the Sing Along Social for all those who enjoy singing, but really shouldn’t. Good singers will also be made welcome.

The Olllam will Appear on Saturday, July 21 at St Malachy’s GAC in the town

The Olllam will Appear on Saturday, July 21 at St Malachy’s GAC in the town

SOMA Festival 18

SOMA Festival 18 brings writing workshops suitable for all ages from the Sea to Shore for 7-11 year olds with children’s author Paula Matthews, to the Time and Place Creative Writing Workshop with novelist Sheena Wilkinson both on Friday 20 at Castlewellan Library.

If the weekend is your time to relax, visit SOMA Body & Soul at The Lodge, Castlewellan to experience the Sound Healing Bar, Tai Chi, Aromatherapy, and many more activities promoting wellbeing. Don’t miss the Hula Hooping Workshop at 2pm on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22.

One of the walking tours planned for this weekend is led by Brian Hoey on Saturday 21 around the beautiful Trassey River to the Diamond Rocks leaving from Meelmore Lodge, or experience the Castlewellan Arboretum with a guided tour on Sunday 22.

Don’t miss the SOMA Artisan Market which runs all weekend in Upper Square, Castlewellan, celebrating the finest local produce with live entertainment all day.

With over 60 activities and events in this year’s festival, there is something for everyone. For times and ticket prices, view the full programme on the festival’s website or follow #SOMAFest18 on social media.

Travel & Tourism

Most Appropriately Dressed Lady and Gent Crowned at 2021 Balmoral Show

The Most Appropriately Dressed Lady and Gent at the 2021 Balmoral Show was won by Caroline Martin from Tempo and Robert Wallace from Ballynahinch. Flower Wall kindly provided by the Blossom Lane Co, Hillsborough.

The Most Appropriately Dressed competition returned this year to the Balmoral Show and once again it proved to be a hit with visitors, with a record number of entries.

Taking place on Saturday 25th September, Cool FM’s Melissa Riddell had the difficult task of judging the Most Appropriately Dressed Lady and Gent. A range of fabulous prizes were on offer, with the overall winners of each category receiving a stylish country outfit provided by title competition sponsor Dubarry of Ireland as well as a luxury two night stay with B&B and one evening meal provided by Ireland’s Blue Book.

This year’s Most Appropriately Dressed Lady was won by Caroline Martin from Tempo while Robert Wallace from Ballynahinch was crowned the Most Appropriately Dressed Gent. Runner-up winners were Ellen Deery from Dundalk and Alan Martin from Hertfordshire.

On the day, the Flower Wall was kindly provided by the Blossom Lane Co, Hillsborough.

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Travel & Tourism

Tourism NI Equips Industry for Incentive Travel Excellence

Front (l to r): Kim Smart, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, Hannah Watson, Larchfield Estate, Michael Dalton, SITE Ireland Chapter, Joanne Taylor, Tourism NI, Charlene Lourens-Griffiths, Visit Derry, Naomi Wilson, Clayton Hotel Belfast and Caitriona Lavery, Hastings Hotels. Back (l to r): Caroline Wilson, Taste & Tour, Ashleigh Hamilton, Killeavey Castle, Jennifer Michael, National Trust Giant's Causeway, Jamese McCloy, Glenshane Country Farm, Terry Kelly, Killeavey Castle, Kellie-Anne Small, Hilton Hotel Belfast, Judy Hutton, Linen Mill Studios, Jonathan Campbell, Titanic Belfast and Stephanie Sheerin, Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast.

Tourism NI and The Society of Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Ireland have joined forces to deliver an educational initiative to support the tourism industry here as it continues to recover and rebuild, and with the aim of securing business from high value tourism markets.

The Certified Incentive Specialist qualification from SITE is the first stage of a programme of activity designed to further develop the incentive tourism industry in Northern Ireland, provide networking and destination awareness opportunities, as well as equip businesses with the knowledge to deliver motivational travel experiences for future clients.

Participants included Glenshane Country Farm, Titanic Belfast, Larchfield Estate, Hilton Hotel Belfast, Linen Mill Studios, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, National Trust Giant’s Causeway, Taste & Tour, Clayton Hotel Belfast, Visit Derry, Hastings Hotels, Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast and Killeavey Castle.

The partnership agreement between Tourism NI and SITE Ireland first launched in 2020 and has been extended to 2022 due to demand.

Eimear Callaghan, Business Solutions Manager at Tourism NI commented:

“We are pleased to announce the continuation of our valued partnership with SITE Ireland. This is a very challenging time for the tourism industry and our relationship with SITE offers opportunities on a global platform to promote Northern Ireland as a world class Incentive Travel destination to international clients looking for new programmes from the island of Ireland. Incentive Travel is focused on amazing experiences and through Northern Ireland Embrace a Giant Spirit, we have a range of immersive experiences well suited to this market.”

She added: “At Tourism NI, we continue to work with a range of key strategic stakeholders to position Northern Ireland as a destination of choice for MICE (Meetings, Incentive, Conferences and Exhibitions). This business is lucrative, with the average MICE delegate worth on average three times that of the leisure visitor.

“I congratulate the 15 industry representatives who successfully completed their CIS certification, and we look forward to delivering further opportunities for our industry together with SITE Ireland.”

Front (l to r): Michael Dalton, SITE Ireland Chapter, Charlene Lourens-Griffiths, Visit Derry, Joanne Taylor, Tourism NI and Caitriona Lavery, Hastings Hotels. Middle (l to r): Caroline Wilson, Taste & Tour, Naomi Wilson, Clayton Hotel Belfast, Hannah Watson, Larchfield Estate, Ashleigh Hamilton, Killeavey Castle, Kim Smart, Hillsborough Castle and Stephanie Sheerin, Fitzwilliam Hotel. Back (l to r): Jamese McCloy, Glenshane Country Farm, Terry Kelly, Killeavey Castle, Judy Hutton, Linen Mill Studios, Jennifer Michael, National Trust Giant’s Causeway, Jonathan Campbell, Titanic Belfast and Kellie-Anne Small, Hilton Hotel Belfast.

Michael Dalton, Immediate Past President, SITE Ireland, added:

“SITE Ireland is extremely grateful for the commitment of Tourism Northern Ireland to the professional development of the industry in the Incentive Sector. The Incentive Travel Industry is very niche and can be hard to grasp. The Certified Incentive Specialist Course provides all the knowledge anyone working in this sector should possess.

“It is the most lucrative segment and highest spend of all Business Tourism. Great to now have 30 Certified Incentive Specialists in Northern Ireland. This is sure to provide clients with the confidence of a destination that delivers exceptional incentive experiences, understands the value of incentive travel and is 100% incentive ready.”

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