A taste of the North: These gin-themed getaways are the perfect tonic after a long week
From humble beginnings to the toast of the town, the humble gin has enjoyed a serious renaissance in recent times.
The current trend for craft gins served with complementary botanicals is a world away from gin’s hellraising origins in the 1700s or the bland G&T of the eighties or nineties. A new generation of discerning gin drinkers are constantly looking to experience new craft gins or flavour combinations.
Irish gin sales have soared in recent years so it’s no surprise that local distillers are jumping on the trend. New distilleries are popping up in every corner of the island and offering us gins that are flavoured with everything from seaweed to garden berries.
A new Taste the Island campaign is promoting the best food and drink to be found on these shores this autumn, and there are some amazing options for gin lovers who fancy getting away from it all for a short break.
The following two distillery experiences in Northern Ireland certainly won’t disappoint, and we've also picked out a few things to do and see when you’re in the area.
Boatyard Distillery, Co Fermanagh
A visit to the Boatyard Distillery on the banks of Lough Erne will show you how one award-winning distillery is using local ingredients to create a delicious gin that is steeped in the flavours of Fermanagh.
Only the best organic produce and foraged botanicals go into its farm-to-bottle gins, making it the ultimate reflection of the place where it’s distilled. That means foraging sweet gale from the family bog and wild clover from local meadows before adding a range of complementary botanicals.
You can discover the secrets behind Boatyard Double Gin on one of their distillery tours and tasting sessions. Meet the team, see the stills and find out how the McGirr family are tapping into their rich farming tradition to create their amazing gins. You’ll learn how founder Joe McGirr established the first legal distillery in Fermanagh in over 130 years and how it sources only the best organic ingredients for their gins.
Tours are available for £45 per person and include tasting sessions, a look at how the gin is made and more. You’ll also get to personally sign and label your very own 70cl bottle, which you can take home with you for posterity.
What to try:
Book afternoon tea at Corick House if you’d like to enjoy delicious treats in an elegant estate setting on the outskirts of Clogher, Co Tyrone. You’ll be served finger sandwiches, scones, organic herbal teas and decadent sweet options, all while taking in the spectacular views of the gardens.
Where to stay:
Located just outside Fivemiletown, Blessingbourne Estate offers a mix of three-star, four-star and five-star self-catering accommodation options on a peaceful 550-acre estate. Its combination of woodland, lakeland and wildlife make it a perfect place to relax and unwind. If you’re feeling active, you can hire a bike and hit its 13k mountain bike trails or explore one of its many walking routes.
What to do:
Foodies will love the Enniskillen Taste Experience, which is a three-hour guided walking tour that takes in the sights and tastes of the island town every Saturday. You’ll get to sample the best locally-sourced delicacies and try out some local craft drinks along the way.
What to see:
The iconic Marble Arch Caves are just 25-minutes’ drive from Enniskillen and they’re well worth a visit if you’re in the area. The nearby Cuilcagh Boardwalk is also a spectacular walk that you can do in any weather thanks to the winding staircase that meanders up the side of Cuilcagh mountain.
Shortcross Gin, Co Down
Located in a 500-acre estate in Strangford, the Rademon Estate Distillery has led the charge for quality craft gin in Northern Ireland since 2014. Their state-of-the art visitor centre hosts regular distillery tours and gives visitors a chance to peek behind the curtain to see where the magic happens.
The brainchild of husband and wife team, Fiona and David Boyd-Armstrong, it has won more than 30 awards in the last five years. They wanted to create a gin that was infused with the natural flavours of the surrounding countryside and inspired by the fields and gardens of the estate. So they use local botanicals like apples from the estate’s walled garden and the pure water from the estate’s historic well.
The resulting gin is infused with these local ingredients in its unique copper stills, which combine new technology with ancient distilling techniques.
Private and public tours will show you what goes into making a craft gin, from choosing the perfect ingredients to the techniques used to enrich their gin with more flavour and aroma. Or you can discover how to make the perfect cocktail with a cocktail masterclass, whether that’s a classic recipe or a bespoke original.
The distillery offers a range of tours that includes an immersive Gin and Tonic Masterclass, a Private Distillery Cocktail Masterclass and bespoke events that combine gin-tasting and entertainment. Individual experiences start from £20.
What to try:
The nearby Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen gives visitors a chance to try an authentic Northern Irish breadmaking experience in a farmhouse kitchen on the shores of Strangford Lough. You’ll learn how to make a variety of traditional Irish breads and get to try homemade buttermilk fruit soda bannock, with hand-rolled butter and homemade jams. Yum!
Where to stay:
If you’re looking for somewhere spectacular to stay, Kribben Cottages offers luxury, four-star accommodation in cottages at the base of the Mourne Mountains. It’s close to the seaside town of Newcastle and you’ll love waking up to the impressive backdrop.
What to do:
Fans of Game of Thrones can take the opportunity to enjoy one of the many immersive tours on offer in this part of the world. With the show being filmed in Northern Ireland, there is no shortage of themed experiences on offer and famous GOT locations to visit.
What to see:
One of the Mourne Mountains, Slieve Donard is Ulster’s highest peak and hikers who make it to the top will be rewarded with spectacular views of Dundrum Bay, the Sperrins and – on a clear day – the Isle of Man. It’s a beautiful hike that features prehistoric burial mounds, a stone tower and impressive coastal views when you get to the top.
Plan your foodie short break now from £89 b&b on the Discover Northern Ireland website.