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Best of Northern Ireland: Artisans at work on the Causeway Coastal Route

Experience the road less travelled on one of Northern Ireland's most iconic routes.

Chances are you’ve driven the Causeway Coastal Route and ticked off the big attractions, from Carrickfergus Castle and the Dark Hedges to the Giant’s Causeway and Mussenden Temple.

But what if there was a new way to experience the spectacular driving route, on a road less travelled?

This year a network of six working museums have opened to visitors, where you can watch artisan craftspeople at work. Visit their workshops and watch your host carve a hurl, produce award-winning rapeseed oil, handcraft a sourdough loaf or polish a pewter ornament.

Named ‘Économusées’, the concept was developed in Québec and provides a network for artisans to develop and combine culture, craft and tourism. Visitors will meet the artisan or one of their helpers then explore their studio, learning about the history of the craft and the business and seeing the authenticity of the products made and sold onsite.

On a 150-acre farmland in Ahoghill, the Logan family have lived and worked for generations. Meat in the shop travels the bare minimum of food miles, as the butchery counter is stocked entirely from the farm. And among the cattle sheds lies a thriving craft brewery. Hillstown produces both premium wagyu-style beef and craft beer – and a tour of the brewery will explain how beef led naturally to beer. 

In Glenarm, watch goldsmiths at work at Steensons Jewellers. Husband and wife team Bill and Christina use traditional techniques and cutting-edge technology to form elegant designs from silver, gold, platinum and precious gems. Learn about the art of jewellery making, the rich historical design heritage, the origins of gemstones and about their work for Game of Thrones.

Drive through the picturesque villages of the Glens of Antrim to arrive at an artisan bakehouse in Ballycastle, Ursa Minor. Founders Ciara and Dara O hArtghaile discovered delights like sourdough loaves and friands while living for a year in New Zealand and use traditional techniques to hand-mould loaves.

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Ursa Minor Bakehouse, Ballycastle.

Also in Ballycastle is Broughgammon, a family-run farm specialising in artisan food production - kid goat, free-range rose veal and seasonal wild game. Hear what inspired them to produce goat meat and discover the craftsmanship involved in the butchery process. They also hold pre-booked artisan butchery classes and have an on-site farm shop.

Twenty minutes away is the Scullion Hurls family workshop, where you can experience the craftsmanship involved in hurl making. Watch Micheál and Denis take the time to produce a Scullion hurl and learn about the history of hurling.

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Scullion Hurls.

And at the Broighter Gold workshop in Limavady you will see the oilseed rape transformed into a crystal clear golden liquid. Explore the historical connection to the Broighter hoard and discover the characteristics of Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil.

There are an abundance of quality B&Bs to stay at along the way, many of which have stunning views of the Causeway Coast.

The boutique Blackrock House in Portrush offers authentic coastal living in a beautifully decorated Edwardian property. Strandeen B&B provides luxury accommodation sitting just above the bay and sandy beaches of Portstewart Strand. Alternatively, enjoy the smell of an earthy peat fire at the traditional Bushmills Thatched Cottage. 

For Economusee opening hours and contact details, visit ccght.org or telephone 02820 752100. To plan your short break, visit DiscoverNorthernIreland.com

Nearby attractions

Glenarm Castle Walled Garden

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Walled Garden at Glenarm.

Visit the ancestral home of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim, with its glorious Walled Garden packed full of natural and manmade features. Enjoy a treat in the charming tea-room, located in the 19th century Mushroom House. The castle itself is open on selected dates, where you can see superb examples of Irish furniture plus family portraits. Open Easter until end of September.

Castlerock Golf Club

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Castlerock Golf Course (Picture courtesy of Derek Robinson)

A fabulous links course set among rolling sand dunes. Its scenic qualities embrace the River Bann flowing out to the Atlantic, eye-catching views of Donegal and on a clear day towards Scotland and the Isle of Islay. An ideal retreat in which to play golf.

Limavady Sculpture Trail

Explore the myths and legends of the scenic Roe Valley area with this trail of beautiful and innovative art pieces. Learn about the notorious, 18th century highwayman Cushy Glen, enjoy the stunning coastal views from the sculpture of Celtic God of the Sea Manannàn Mac Lir, and see the writhing form of Lig-na-paiste - the last remaining serpent in Ireland.

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