Members of local and national tourism trade have recently completed a familiarisation visit to Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy, organised by Mid Ulster District Council, to enable them to be ready, willing and able to inform local, regional and international visitors about this new addition to the Northern Ireland tourist trail.
Jayne O’Neill, Rachel Quigg and Orla Farren from Tourism Northern Ireland, were accompanied by staff from Visit Belfast, Causeway Coast and Glens Tourism and a number of other local Visitor Information Centres, local tour operators, and accommodation providers on the trip which started with a visit to Laurel Villa in Magherafelt. Especially sought after as a place to stay for family history and literary buffs, the owners Eugene and Gerardine Kielt also offer a 5 star guided tour of ‘Heaney Country’.
On arrival at Seamus Heaney HomePlace, the group were encouraged to immerse themselves into the extraordinary world of Seamus Heaney, and to explore through his words and imagination the people and place that so inspired him.
The group also visited St. Mary’s Church, Bellaghy and viewed Bellaghy Bawn and the infamous Turf Man statue, on their way to the shores of Lough Beg and to Ballyscullion Park, the home of Richard and Rosalind Mulholland. Not only did Seamus’ father Patrick’s cattle graze the land on the strand, Lough Beg also provided inspiration for many of his poems. The Mulholland’s and their family have been part of his story for generations, and they provided a unique and personal connection to the area for the visitors.
Events drew to a close for this whistle stop tour as the group visited Church Island, Lough Beg, The Old Thatch Inn for afternoon tea, Moss Bawn, Anahorish Primary School and The Old Forge before concluding proceedings in Castledawson.
As well as receiving extremely encouraging feedback from industry professionals, those attending felt their knowledge of what was on offer was increased. Carolyn Mundell from Visit Belfast said, “It’s fantastic to be able to visit the places first hand and to encourage tourists to come and visit”, with Anne Shiek from Coleraine VIC agreeing, saying “I will definitely be highlighting Seamus Heaney HomePlace and its surrounding attractions to all the tourists that I deal with. It’s a wonderful, emotive connection to our past, literature, history and heritage”.
(L-R, Mary McKeown, Mid Ulster District Council, Jayne O’Neill, Tourism NI, Donna Duffin, Seamus Heaney HomePlace and Charlotte Wilson Fermanagh & Omagh VIC.)