As the world marks International Women’s Day on March 8, Discover Northern Ireland is shining a light on the women who have played a central role in shaping our tourism industry.
From hoteliers to renowned chefs, artisan distillers and business leaders, such as Clare Smyth, the first female chef in the UK to be awarded three Michelin stars, and Wilma Erskine OBE BEM, who played a pivotal role in the overwhelming success of The 148th Open at Royal Portrush, these women are paving the way for future generations.
Discover Northern Ireland has enjoyed speaking with a number of influential local women, to find out how Northern Ireland inspires them and where they are looking forward to visiting again, once it is safe to do so.
Caro-Lynne Ferris: Executive Director, Outdoor Recreation NI
Caro-Lynne has been credited with helping to transform the adventure tourism industry in Northern Ireland through her role with Outdoor Recreation NI, a not-for-profit organisation which has the vision of placing outdoor recreation at the heart of society.
“I’m very fortunate to live in the Mournes. Every day I have the privilege of being able to get out and enjoy the beauty of nature all around me.
“Whether it’s walking in the majestic mountains of Mourne or taking a stroll along the windswept beach of Murlough Bay, with landscapes and seascapes like these it’s hard not to be inspired.
“Northern Ireland has so many hidden treasures but one area that I have really enjoyed exploring recently has been the Sperrin Mountains. Two years ago, a friend produced a cycling brochure that had 12 different routes on it of varying lengths. When I started riding them, I couldn’t believe how beautiful the area was.”
Emma Millar: Artisan Distiller, Hinch Distillery
Emma Millar is an Artisan Distiller at the Irish whiskey and gin distillery, Hinch Distillery in Ballynahinch, Co. Down who plan to open in 2021. Emma joined the distillery after working at Scotland’s largest gin school.
“My inspiration comes from my mother, if I can be half the woman she is, then I will be very happy indeed.
“When it comes to being inspired about Northern Ireland, there are so many things to choose. I love our culture and how friendly we are plus the amazing scenery, whether you are at the coast or inland, it is always special.
“I’m really looking forward to a time when I can enjoy a city break in Belfast with the girls. The Causeway Coast is always spectacular no matter what time of year you visit and my absolute favourite place to visit is White Park Bay – it’s a real hidden gem.”
Janice Gault: Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (pictured above)
In her role with the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF), Janice Gault provides a strong voice for hotels, guesthouses and other accommodation, especially during these difficult times. The Federation lobbies government on issues impacting the industry as well as championing economic and employment opportunities for tourism here.
“I’m inspired by how Northern Ireland has responded to the challenge of tourism and how we have moved to better times of embracing our various strands of shared history.
“It’s so hard to select my favourite place in Northern Ireland, we are really spoilt for choice. But if pushed I’d say Derry~Londonderry, even though I haven’t lived there for many years, it always feels like coming home. I also love Belfast especially spending time in Ormeau Park, but for me, Northern Ireland’s greatest asset is our people.”
Helen Mulholland: Master Blender, Bushmills Irish Whiskey
Helen Mulholland is a Master Blender at the Old Bushmills Distillery, one of the world’s oldest and most famous whiskey distilleries and Helen says it is an honour and pleasure to work there.
“When it comes to being inspired about Northern Ireland, I have to mention the Giant’s Causeway. A stone’s throw from The Old Bushmills Distillery, the Giant’s Causeway has been a source of inspiration to me and to Bushmills’ Master Distillers and Master Blenders for centuries. It was also the inspiration behind our new Causeway Collection.
“My favourite place in Northern Ireland is definitely Portstewart Strand. I love to walk along the beach and the views of Inishowen headland and Mussenden Temple perched on the cliffs above are breathtaking. On a good day there is nowhere I would rather be. I even had my wedding photographs taken there. Northern Ireland is a very special place with outstanding natural beauty and amazing people.”
Paula McIntyre, MBE: Chef and media personality
Paula McIntyre is one of Northern Irelands best-known chefs and as a regular newspaper columnist and contributor to radio shows, she is a fantastic champion of local produce and the chefs who use it to create culinary masterpieces.
“Home is Portstewart and there’s never a day that I don’t count my blessings that I live here. It’s a stunningly beautiful place with a long golden sandy beach, a bustling promenade with great shops and cafes, Morelli’s ice-cream, and Harry’s Shack for seafood and great drinks. I swim in the sea most days, all year round and there’s nothing to calm the soul more than being at one with nature in this way.
“When I was young, we had friends in Fermanagh who we’d visit a few times a year. The county is still somewhere I love to go to whether it’s staying with friends or in one of the many lovely hotels. With staycations very much an option for the foreseeable I’d love to do a boat tour of the islands on Lough Erne – they say there’s an island for every day of the year so it might be a long trip.
“From a cook’s viewpoint Northern Ireland is rich in culinary heritage and produce, it’s very inspirational. From sublime seafood, magnificent meat, dairy from lush pastures, vegetables that thrive on rich soil and producers who enthusiastically innovate and collaborate with each other.”
Charlotte McReynolds: Curator of Art, National Museums NI
Charlotte McReynolds is Curator of Art at National Museums NI and is responsible for the Ulster Museum’s fashion collection, jewellery, silver, toys and dolls. The collection contains about 5,000 items and spans from the 17th century right up to today’s designer fashions.
“I am lucky to have grown up surrounded by reminders of local history, I think that is part of what has inspired me to work in the museum sector. I was raised in one of the last thatched cottages in Ulster, overlooking a 17th century flax mill.
“Armagh County Museum is where I got my start in curatorial work and will always hold a special place in my heart. It is situated next to the Georgian Mall and is a true gem. They also have an enviable costume collection – I wouldn’t have minded raiding it for a few additions for our new La Belle Époque fashion exhibition in the Ulster Museum.
“At the weekends and in my time off, I like to spend hours wandering the beautiful Sperrin Mountains and if I can find the time, I will visit JC Stewart’s foodhall in Magherafelt. It has excellent artisan and local produce, that is why we call it the ‘Harrods of Mid-Ulster’.”