European Heritage Open Days to embrace Northern Ireland’s rich food heritage

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan is calling on hotels and restaurants to embrace our rich food heritage and get involved in the European Heritage Open Days (EHOD).

Running from the 13 to 14 September 2014, EHOD is a Europe wide event that promotes interest in historic and modern buildings. These buildings are brought to life when they throw open their doors to the public and host various free events from living history to poetry readings.

This year will also see the event embrace our rich food heritage by pairing local producers with a building steeped in history with the Hastings Hotel Group, Food NI and the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) already on board.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “EHOD weekends offer a wonderful opportunity to see inside many fascinating historic buildings, many of which aren’t normally open to the public.

“The marriage this year between our rich culinary heritage with our built heritage really will give some ‘food for thought’. I welcome the involvement of the Hastings Hotel Group, Food NI and the NIHF which will really add an extra ‘flavour’ to what is already a highly successful annual event and I encourage others to sign up.

“Last year over 68,000 visitors were able to get inside many of our stately homes, churches, museums and gardens. This year we have all the ingredients for an even better event and I encourage everyone to come out in September for a good ‘nosey’ round our historic buildings whilst sampling our local fare.”

Howard Hastings from the Hastings Hotels group will be hosting food events in two of his hotels – Ballygally Castle and the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa.

Mr. Hastings said: “European Heritage Open Days are well established as a special weekend for those who live here, and for visitors alike. I welcome the initiative from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and Food NI to further enhance the visitors’ experiences by linking our Built Heritage to our Food Heritage.

“At Hastings Hotels, we are passionate about local sourcing of our produce and we are fortunate in having heritage properties of note at Ballygally Castle and at Slieve Donard Resort & Spa. Ballygally Castle for example will be providing a talk and tasting of Glenarm Shorthorn beef. Supplied locally, this is a perfect example of how heritage buildings and suppliers can pair up for the Open Days.

“We also look forward to offering themed menus during the EHOD, and offering our guests the opportunity to view our recently installed herb gardens, herbs which are used by our hotel’s chefs every day.”

The strength of our local produce has made an impact on the food experience our visitors can expect in our restaurants, hotels and cafés. Michele Shirlow of Food NI says: “Northern Ireland has a unique food heritage that is still alive today, especially with our griddle breads, dripping with melted butter and accompanied by a nice strong tea. European Heritage Open Day is a great way to evoke food memories and connect local people to local foods.”

Janice Gault, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation views the event as an excellent opportunity for the hospitality industry. She said: “Many of Northern Ireland’s hotels occupy heritage sites with strong links to our history. An authentic tourism product is what today’s visitor is keen to explore and combining this with a unique food offering is a great initiative. Last year over 68,000 people visited EHOD sites and this year’s programme with its focus on food is an excellent opportunity for the hotel sector.”

This year’s EHOD sub theme of ‘Anniversaries’ enables hotels, restaurants and cafés to encourage customers to spend the weekend or have a meal. The large number of visitors across all of the sites may need accommodation and refreshments so what better way to keep in the EHOD spirit than to visit the restaurants and cafes local to the buildings.

For more information on how your business can get involved please contact or visit

Notes to editors:

For media enquiries or images contact the DOE Press Office on 028 9025 6058. Out of office hours, Call the Executive Information Service’s Duty Press Officer on 07699715440 and your call will be returned.