Belfast Telegraph

Everybody's left enchanted by fairy trail in Northern Ireland garden

By Mark Bain

Once upon a time, Sean McKeown had an idea - but before he could do anything with it he had to assure his family he wasn't away with the fairies.

Now, down the winding roads around Newtowncrommelin on the north coast, a fairytale land awaits and the talented craftsman behind it has big plans for his Littleworld creation.

Two years on from starting his real-life land of the fairies, Sean has welcomed visitors from across the world to marvel at his creations of intricately-carved fairy houses as he continues to create a magical trail.

"My children and my grandson call me the Fairy Man," he joked. However, he's very serious about turning his passion into a major tourist attraction.

"I have ideas," he added.

His plans include constructing a tunnel from his full-sized fairy house - which is believed to be the biggest in the world, and in which four adults can fit comfortably inside what was once a large tree.

"I'm already working on the tunnel," he said. "I want to create a kind of underground Disneyworld for kids to marvel at...and adults too."

It's just going to be the start for Sean.

"Ideally I'd like to have four underground tunnels, once for each season. And it would be great to set up a tea house for visitors. That's all in the long-term plan."

Sean is already welcoming school groups to view his hand-crafted fairyland, and he says it is often the adults who get most pleasure from the experience.

"I had a group of seven Hell's Angels pull up on their bikes last weekend," he added.

"By the end they were grinning like little kids and it was lovely to see the effect the place can have on people.

"I've had people here from all around the world.

"We have the Giant's Causeway, the Dark Hedges and plenty of seaside villages around the coast, but I'm trying to give children, young and old, something a little bit unique."

Sean was unemployed when he turned his tools to intricate wood carvings five years ago, which were an immediate hit.

"I just used my imagination," he said.

"I started by making a few simple fairy doors for people to put in their gardens and it took off from there.

"I started carving an old tree stump into a fairy house and that sold as well so I thought I was on to something."

Sean's work got noticed and before long he was helping to develop a fairy trail at Galgorm hotel in Ballymena. Work has mushroomed.

"I've been involved in some projects in Scotland and at Malahide Castle, but a couple of years ago, after some people commissioned me to create fairy houses for them, it really started to develop into a business for me." Now Sean is focused on turning that business into the north coast's latest tourist attraction.

"I know the plan sounds adventurous and there will need to be planning applications and a lot of work in the background, but I want to make this happen.

"People need a little magic in their lives and I'm going to try to give it to them."

Sean has six and a half acres to work with and can complete a new fairy house in about a week.

He says he regularly wakes up in the middle of the night with an idea for a new creation.

"I'll jump out of bed and get straight to work," he added. "I just go with it, start carving and see where it goes. I usually find if I like the final creation, other people will like it to. The first underground attraction I'm creating is in my own garden and I'll obviously get the necessary approvals to allow people to come and enjoy it."

For now, Sean is happy to invite people along to step into the world of fairies. "I'll greet everyone who visits. They're more than welcome to come in for a cup of tea as well," he said. "I hope it's giving families a chance to get outside and explore nature, go searching for fairies and lose themselves in the magic. The kids can leave their iPads behind and get into the fresh air of the Glens of Antrim. I'm just so happy to be doing, working on my own project and creating a place that puts a smile on faces."

Sean welcome visitors for Littleworld at his home on the Old Cushendun Road, with a promise of new magical treats in store in the years ahead.

Belfast Telegraph

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