As a country, we have a long history of producing dairy products like milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt and ice cream, and the delicious taste is, in part, down to the skill of the artisan who makes it but our unique and special countryside can also take a bow.
Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink continues this month (June) with a celebration of all things dairy, explained Rachel Quigg, Tourism NI, Communications and Destination PR Officer:
“Amazingly, there are around 300,000 cows out in the farm fields in summertime, and they’re hard at work to bring us everything from fresh milk and artisan cheeses to proper butter, yummy yoghurt and ice cream to share with loved ones. Imagine Northern Ireland without dairy?
“There are event visitor experiences inspired by our dairy produce where the whole family can see cows being milked and ice cream being made.”
Cheese-tastic Northern Ireland
Local artisans are skilled at making great dairy products with the milk from our cows, and one of the best ones to try is cheese.
Dart Mountain Cheese in the Sperrin Mountains now has six cheeses on their menu, including the delicious Banagher Bold. It gets washed in a local craft beer, Northbound Brewery’s No.26, itself made from the waters of the Banagher Dam – now that’s as local as it gets. The Tyrone and Sperrins region isn’t just famous for excellent cheese. There are many ways to get out and have fun with friends and family including a visit to the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh or you can take a tour of 17th century Springhill in Moneymore, a plantation home rich history.
The Causeway Cheddar range, shaped in hexagonal ‘truckles’ reminiscent of the Giant’s Causeway, is available in four mouth-watering flavours from Fivemiletown Cheese in County Tyrone. And what better way to further appreciate the cheeses than by visiting the inspirational, Giant’s Causeway for an energetic walk and don’t forget Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Dunluce Castle whilst in the area.
County Down blue cheeses, Kearney Blue Cheese and Young Buck are gaining tasty reputations with cheese connoisseurs. The area is also a hot-spot for tourists who flock to see the Cistercian Abbey in Comber, which was built in 1199, and the stunning, Mount Stewart, a 19th-century house and garden which you can tour, plus the many colourful villages, romantic seascapes and unspoilt coastline.
And it’s not just down to Northern Ireland’s cows to produce lip-smacking cheeses, the goats are at it too. Leggygowan Farm makes several goaty products, including a fresh goat’s curd with a creamy texture and mild goat tang.
When it comes to butter, Northern Ireland can spread the dairy goodness around too.
Abernethy Butter is hand made on a farm in Dromore and from here it makes it way to some of the world’s top-rated restaurants like The Fat Duck in Berkshire. It is used by celebrity chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Marcus Wareing and countless restaurants at home in Northern Ireland. You can even see the butter being made by taking a McComb’s Coach Travel ‘Grub Crawl’ – the tour also includes a slice of home-made soda bread with lashings of butter.
Co Derry~Londonderry’s Donnybrewer Butter is also made the old-fashioned way in Eglinton using the freshest cream available. It is sea-salted, formed into a distinctive hexagonal shape, and packaged in waxed paper, just like it used to be. A great accompaniment to cheese is craft beer so visit the Walled City Brewery and get some of their distinctive beers including Boom, Stitch and Kicks. There is even a restaurant where visitors can enjoy a taste of the north west.
The pampered cows at the historic Clandeboye Estate are responsible for Northern Ireland’s only locally made cow’s milk yoghurt. Their creamy milk is cultured very gently in small batches, which helps create exceptional flavour and texture.
Natural, Greek and three yummy flavours are available and there are no additives or preservatives in Clandeboye Yoghurt. It’s delicious on its own, or topped with fresh berries, granola or even a drizzle of honey.
Cool as Ice Cream!
A day trip to one of Northern Ireland’s many sea-side towns, like Portrush or Newcastle, isn’t complete without a delicious ice cream and the not-so-welcome case of ‘brain freeze’. Luckily we have some excellent ice cream parlours and makers with a huge variety of flavours to choose from.
A trip to Portrush isn’t complete without a visit to Morelli’s who, as well as stocking the usual flavours, also have Ferrero Rocher and Snickers. Not to be outdone, Bangor’s Maud’s Ice Cream has Pooh Bear’s Delight, crème brulee and Guinness flavours.
Ice cream producers Glastry Farm and Dale Farm are two other Northern Ireland favourites and Tickety Moo in Fermanagh has a visitor experience that the whole family can enjoy as you take a tour around the farm, see the cows being milked and ice cream being made.
Streamvale Farm has many events throughout the year for the whole family to enjoy but it is also a commercial dairy farm where you can actually watch their 300 dairy cows being milked every afternoon. They also have their own ice cream, Streamvale Farmhouse Ice Cream, which you can sometimes watch being made through a viewing window.
Another great event for Love Dairy month is the Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, happening on 18 and 19 June, where you can see, hear, touch and be part of Northern Ireland’s farming story. Over twenty farms will be opening their doors to the public to showcase farming industry in Northern Ireland, and each one will feature special tastings as part of the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016 celebrations.
For more information on Year of Food & Drink 2016 visitwww.discovernorthernireland.com/yearoffoodanddrink2016. You can keep up to date with what’s happening on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #EnjoyNI16.