THOUSANDS of food and cider lovers poured into Armagh and the wider area over the weekend to see, smell and taste the uniquely sumptuous delights on offer as part of this year’s award-winning Armagh Food & Cider Festival.
Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the inspiring event featured an extended programme to meet growing demand this year, with more foodie events, taster sessions and tours added to whet the appetites of a growing number of visitors to the city and surrounding orchard countryside.
Officially one of the island of Ireland’s top foodie destinations and Northern Ireland’s top food and drink experience in 2019, Armagh City and the Orchard County confidently and expertly showcased its top culinary and hospitality credentials with a major series of events and activities including open air markets, tasting dinners, cider discovery session and food tours and a delicious Bramley Apple banquet at the stunning Crannagael House and Gardens.
There were also busy tours of Long Meadow and Armagh Cider Company orchards, a G-Astronomy food celebration at the Armagh Planetarium and Observatory, foodie film nights, floral demonstrations, flash fiction and hedgerow foraging at Kinnego Bushcraft Centre at Oxford Island.
Northern Ireland’s Hotel Chef of the Year, John Whyte took centre stage at Armagh City Hotel, delivering a series of sell-out foodie masterclasses as fine food purveyor Quails at FE McWilliam Gallery served up a Beef Baron’s dinner fit for any king or queen.
Banbridge once again played a big part in this year’s events, with an Armagh Cider, Pizza and Pie evening at The Vault and a ‘Delightful Desserts’ event at Blend and Batch, prepping nicely for a sun-soaked Sundown Open Air market at Solitude Park on Friday evening.
Crannagael House in Ardress, the Keepers Lodge at Gosford Forest Park, Blackwell House in Scarva, Groucho’s on The Square in Richhill also received top billing, hosting a variety of sumptuous events that set tastebuds tingling.
Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Mealla Campbell, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled by the delightful feedback received and for the continued, growing support from our local stakeholders for what is now a firmly-established, unique and annual must-visit event.
“Locally sourced produce, world-class cider and award-winning restaurants and chefs were all on the menu and it went down a treat.
“Fast-becoming an internationally recognised gastronomic destination and very much renowned for its ‘Food Heartland’ provenance and quality, Armagh has much to celebrate and we look forward to welcoming back even more visitors next year.”
Supported by Tourism Northern Ireland and DAERA, the festival also received top billing in the Taste the Island initiative, an island-wide celebration of the quality, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship of our local food and drink. Armagh attained key billing in a variety of ‘Taste the Island’ TV campaigns over the last few weeks.
The international food and cider extravaganza got under way on Thursday, September 19 and judging by the increased number of international visitors, participants involved and food and drink on show, Armagh has lived up to its growing reputation for outstanding food quality, unique events and distinctive experiences.
More pictures inside this week’s Ulster Gazette.