Belfast Telegraph

North Coast bakery with a unique twist is ready to become the region's newest tourist destination


By Rachel Martin

A north coast bakery founded with a 'Down Under' twist will open its doors to the public this summer, becoming Northern Ireland's newest working museum.

Tourists will be able to see behind the scenes as the team whip up the day's orders at north coast venture called Ursa Minor, a Ballycastle business specialising in Australasian inspired bakes.

The business, which is run by husband and wife team Dara and Ciara O'hArtghaile, has been producing a range of unique recipe breads and pastries for just three years.

Now it's been selected to showcase Northern Ireland food and drink production to the world as part of an international network of artisan businesses.

Dara and Ciara first discovered delights like sourdough loaves and Friands - a small almond cake, popular in Australia and New Zealand -while they spent a year living in New Zealand.

They returned home to Ballycastle determined to keep those tastes alive. Inspired by New Zealand's cafe culture, the duo set about bringing fresh, seasonal bread and sweet bakes to the north coast.

The duo founded Ursa Minor in 2014, producing small batches of hand-crafted bread and patisseries. The bakehouse is a lifestyle business for the couple, involving extended family and the local community.

Ciara O'hArtghaile said: "It's fantastic to join the amazing Economusee Network of artisans - we are honoured to be counted among a group of pioneering craftspeople across the world.

"We look forward to creating working relationships with the artisans, as well as welcoming groups into our bakery and spreading the word about sourdough bread."

The announcement was made on Thursday at an event at the bakery and was heralded by John and Sally McKenna, the authors of the McKenna's Guides.

Keen to keep the business on a sustainable scale, the finished products have very low food miles and are only available on the north coast.

Some even make use of other artisan ingredients such as North Coast Smoke House's smoked salt.

It comes as international interest in agri-tourism is growing and follows in the legacy of Northern Ireland's Year of Food and Drink, which saw the region promoted internationally as a tourist destination through its food stories.

Ursa Minor bakehouse first welcomed sightseers as a stop on the Ballycastle Food Tour, North Coast Walking Tours, which was shortlisted for the best trail and tour at this year's Tourism NI Year of Food and Drink Awards.

And the Ballycastle bakery will also be featured in next month's Lonely Planet guide, which includes a foodie's guide to Northern Ireland.

It describes the "new generation of food producers who are drawing the best out of its epic-worthy landscapes" and also includes producers like Abernethy Butter in Dromara, Co Down.

Ursa Minor's new working museum status is part of the international Economusee project to encourage artisan producers to show their products to the public.

Ursa Minor joins five other Economusee workshops in Northern Ireland including Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil in Limavady, Scullion Hurls in Loughgiel, Steenson's Jewellers in Glenarm, Hillstown Brewery in Ahoghill, and Broughgammon Farm, also in Ballycastle.

Each workshop is situated on or close to the famous Causeway coastal route, making it an easy add-on for visitors interested in what this scenic part of the island has to offer.

The Economusee (Artisans at Work) project is a concept developed in Quebec.

The project involves businesses from Canada, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and the Republic of Ireland.

There are currently 70 workshops, with another 20 planned to be launched within the next 12 months.

The aim is for visitors to learn about the history of the craft and the business, the enthusiasm of the artist, along with the added opportunity of meeting the artisans face-to-face.

Belfast Telegraph

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