Meet the Buyer is Tourism Northern Ireland’s flagship event and provides an excellent opportunity for tourism businesses to showcase their products to international buyers. Read on to see how our Operations Director, Jacqui Curley got on in Belfast.
Day 1 – flew into Belfast and checked-in at my home for next two nights – the AC Hotel by Marriott which boasts inspiring views of the Titanic Quarter and Belfast Hills. The welcome evening was held at Larchfield Estate around 30mins drive from the city. We enjoyed a drinks reception followed by a meal celebrating local produce.
Day 2 – It was a short walk to the ICC Waterfront for the Meet the Buyer event where I spent the day ‘speed-networking’ with Northern Irish hotels and sightseeing attractions. The event is a great opportunity to catch up with existing suppliers and find out about some of the fantastic new products our clients might want to experience. Highlights of the day for me were Crindle Bespoke who offer several special experiences including their ‘Saddle up by the Sea’ package where you can enjoy a scenic ride along the famous Downhill beach. Another new experience that stood out was Pattersons Spade Mill which is the last working water-driven spade mill in daily use in the British Isles. After learning about the history of the mill you will then spend a couple of hours getting hands-on using traditional methods to make your own special souvenir to take home.
Following the full day workshop we were then taken a short distance to Titanic Belfast which has recently re-opened after a £4.5m refurbishment. We enjoyed a tour of the Titanic Galleries before sitting down to an evening of entertainment and food in the Titanic Suite.
Day 3 – I checked out of the AC Hotel to begin my Food & Wellness FAM trip with a food walking tour arranged by the team at Taste & Tour NI which started with a visit to St Georges Market where we enjoyed tasty food from local suppliers. Next stop was Daisies Belfast for some sumptuous hot chocolate. We then headed to Sawers Belfast deli to sample some smoked salmon and cheeses before finishing up at White’s Tavern which is Belfast’s oldest tavern for a hearty bowl of Irish Stew and a half pint of Guinness. We were then back on the coach travelling to just outside Newry to Neary Nogs Stoneground Chocolate Makers who are Northern Ireland’s first bean to bar craft chocolate makers. We enjoyed a talk about the history of the company and their commitment to sourcing sustainable cacao beans. We enjoyed samples of their Chocolate Bars and Drinking Chocolate. They also sell ruffles, Chocolate Fudges, Cacao Nibs and much more!
Our overnight stay was courtesy of Killeavy Castle Estate where we enjoyed a pre-dinner drinks reception provided by two local businesses Whitewater Brewing Co and Two Stacks Irish Whiskey.
The Whitewater team brought along samples of their IPAs, Stout, Ales and Lager as well as their delicious Hard Seltzer products, it was great to hear the history of their brewery and about the tours guests can enjoy. The guys from Two Stacks who are the genius behind the ‘Dram in a can’ provided us with whiskey cocktails and the chance to try their new Irish Cream Liqueur.
Following drinks we settled down in the 2 AA rosette fine dining restaurant which offers sweeping views of the Killeavy Castle Estate to enjoy a seven-course tasting menu. We sampled the finest produce from the Estate’s farm, estate and walled gardens, along with Northern Ireland’s leading artisans, producers and fisheries.
Day 4 – After a restful nights sleep and a hearty breakfast we set-off for a hike in the Mourne Mountains with our wonderful guide Peter Rafferty of Walk the Mournes. The views were spectacular, and the weather was kind! Once back at the coach we set-off for Strangford where you can catch the regular ferry service to Portaferry on the Ards Peninsula. Our destination was the lovely boutique hotel The Cuan. Refurbished in 2021 the 9 guest rooms are stylish and very comfortable. We enjoyed a delicious lunch in their restaurant where we tucked into seafood chowder followed by cod and chips.
After a stroll around the pretty harbour it was back on the coach to travel a short distance to Finnebrogue Woods for a sample of their School of Bushcraft. Here we learned the basics of lighting a fire but they offer many experiences including a Wild Garlic and Steak Experience where you will forage for natural ingredients and cook your own grass fed Dexter steak over fire.
We finally checked-in to the Hilton Belfast where we enjoyed a drinks reception with canapes before our farewell dinner at the AC Hotel.