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Travel & Tourism

Marble Arch Caves Set to Welcome Back Visitors for Guided Tours

Photo credit: Brian Morrison

The award-winning Marble Arch Caves – one of Europe’s finest show caves nestled in the heart of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark in Co. Fermanagh – will reopen for guided tours from Monday 24 May 2021 following the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions.

From 24 May visitors can enter a world of subterranean rivers, winding passages, lofty chambers and an array of spectacular cave formations by pre-booking a cave tour on the Marble Arch Caves website or by contacting the visitor centre directly.

With hand sanitising stations, directional signage, pre-booking and numbers limited for tours, visitors will have the time and space to enjoy the stunning million-year-old cave network and appreciate why it is the most active river cave in the UK and Ireland.

Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Diana Armstrong, said:

“The reopening of the Marble Arch Caves is another welcome step as we move into the summer holiday period.

The team has worked hard to ensure that people feel safe and comfortable when they visit so they can enjoy the truly awe-inspiring experience when in the depths of the 94 metre below ground cave network.

We are incredibly fortunate to have a world class tourism product on our doorstep in Fermanagh and Omagh.  The Fermanagh and Omagh district is the perfect place to enjoy a staycation this summer with its stunning landscapes and spectacular waterways, rich built and cultural heritage as well as a fantastic retail and hospitality offering.”

Photo credit: Brian Morrison

At just over 7 miles long, the million-year-old Marble Arch Caves is the longest cave network in Northern Ireland.

The Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre has already reopened, with outdoor family activities and guided walks now on offer and available to book. Toilet and take away café facilities are also open.

The 4-star Tourism NI visitor attraction is also marking the world’s first ‘International Year of Caves and Karst’ (IYCK) by hosting a number of special events and activities throughout the year.

The next free event “Caves and Karst of the Marble Arch Caves and other UNESCO Global Geoparks” takes place online on 27 May 2021 with guest speaker, Dr Kirstin Lemon of the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland.

Guided cave tours, outdoor family activities and guided walks and IYCK events and activities are all available to book via the Marble Arch Caves website at www.marblearchcaves.co.uk or by telephoning 028 6632 1815.

Guided cave tours sell out fast with people encouraged to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Travel & Tourism

NI Food and Drink Pavilion Back at Balmoral Show with Delicious Flavours

Delicious and original food and drink from a range of local artisan companies from across the country will be showcased at this year’s Balmoral Show in the colourful Northern Ireland Food Pavilion organised by leading promotional body Food NI, and supported by the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme, and Tourism NI.

Visit Balmoral Park from 22nd – 25th September where there will be hundreds of innovative products on Show. The NI Food and Drink Pavilion will host the biggest celebration of the outstanding tastes and rich flavours from local companies, including many which have won top awards for originality and quality in prestigious national and international food challenges.

These high-profile food accolades include the UK Great Taste Awards, the Blas na hEireann Irish National Food Awards, the UK Food and Drink Quality Awards and the Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards where the smaller food and drink producers have ‘punched above their weight’ in such challenges for many decades. A host of excellent local companies including Milgro, Glastry Farm Ice Cream, Erin Grove, Ballylisk of Armagh, Kennedy Bacon, Natural Umber, Ke Nako Biltong and Irish Black Butter will be sampling and selling their products.

An exciting new addition to the Pavilion this September is the NI Food and Drink Experience Kitchen, supported by Tourism NI. Situated right in the heart of the Food Pavilion, the Experience Kitchen will provide a platform to showcase dozens of talented producers and foodie experiences from across Northern Ireland. Visit www.nigoodfood.com to download the Experience Kitchen Timetable in the run up to the Show.

The Food NI Food Pavilion is one of the most popular attractions at the Balmoral Show and it provides opportunities for visitors to meet producers and learn how they hand craft the food and drink to ensure consistent quality and memorable flavours.

Virtually every sector in this vibrant industry, Northern Ireland’s largest single manufacturer and the only industry represented in every community, especially rural areas, will be featured in the pavilion. It’s an industry which generates over £5 billion annually to the local economy and contributes particularly to the wellbeing of rural communities.

Food and drink products from local companies are now exported to over 60 global markets such as the Republic of Ireland, other parts of the EU, as well as the US, Middle East and Asia.

Food NI’s Chief Executive Michele Shirlow, commented, “It’s marvellous to be setting up the Food Pavilion again for thousands of people to see and sample the best of local food and drink. It’s always been one of the most popular presentations at a show which draws visitors from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and further afield.

“Food writers and journalists we’ve worked with from outside Northern Ireland have always been impressed by the overall showcase and talented producers.

“We’ve certainly missed the show since it was paused over the last two years by the awful pandemic. During the Show, we have taken steps to ensure visitor safety by implementing systems which promote social distancing and hand sanitation throughout the pavilion. We have also involved increasing space between stands and reduced company numbers this year. Visitor and participating company safety is a priority for us. We would urge visitors to comply with Government guidance and to make yourself familiar with the mitigations implemented by the Balmoral Show to ensure the event is as safe as possible for all who attend.

“I am sure that our changes won’t impact the enjoyment of visitors to the pavilion. They’ll have an unprecedented opportunity to experience the very best of our outstanding and award- winning food and drink.”

The Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank, Northern Ireland’s largest agri-food event will take place from Wednesday 22nd September to Saturday 25th September at Balmoral Park, Lisburn. Tickets are available to purchase online at www.balmoralshow.co.uk. Please note this year tickets are day specific only and must be purchased prior to the Show. Conditions of entry can also be found online.

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Travel & Tourism

Ministers hold Progress Meeting on All-island Rail Review

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan T.D. held their first progress meeting with the consultants ARUP who are taking forward the all-island Strategic Rail Review.  

This All-Island Strategic Rail Review, will consider how the rail network on the island of Ireland can improve sustainable connectivity between major cities and towns, enhance regional accessibility including to the North West and support balanced regional development across our island. In addition, the Review will consider the feasibility of higher speeds on the network and whether there is a potential to increase use of the network for freight. ARUP were appointed in July to carry out the review.

Minister Mallon said: “The appointment of ARUP was an important step forward in delivering our All Island Strategic Rail Review and I welcome the opportunity to meet them today, along with Minister Ryan to hear the progress that has been made and importantly to personally convey a shared North South ambition for this important work which will allow us to consider and improve our rail network across this island for everyone.

“I am pleased with the detailed work already carried out by ARUP and share with Minister Ryan the determination and dedication to make progress on this key project as quickly as possible. I have huge ambitions for our rail network on our island and it was encouraging to hear the shared vision at today’s meeting. There are real opportunities for communities across Ireland and significant benefits that a better connected island could bring not just to people but also for our environment. With the Climate Crisis and the immediate challenges facing our natural environment, Minister Ryan and I have once again recommitted to working together to deliver clean and green transport on the island of Ireland. This transformative project is key to our joint effort.”

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