Jacqueline shares her pick of what’s on this weekend across NI


North Down Museum will host their Summer Market this Saturday and Sunday. The galleries and courtyard of the museum  will be filled with market stalls selling unique craft and handmade items by local craftspeople. You can also enjoy some live music or grab a coffee and a bite to eat in the museum café.


Experience the traditional art of basket weaving with the assistance of experienced craft tutor and basket maker Sabine Wolniczak from Beaghmore Baskets at the Market Place Theatre on Saturday 27th July.   Learn the techniques and skills involved in this ancient craft to complete your own traditional Irish skib using locally grown, harvested and seasoned willow. 


Share’s ever popular summer schemes are back Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 4:30pm each day for 6 to 8 year olds, 8 to 12 year olds, and 12 to 16 year olds. Offering multi activity weeks and skill specific weeks in Canoeing, Kayaking, Sailing, Windsurfing.  Schedule of Schemes available at www.sharevillage.org. Runs until 30th July.


Enjoy ‘An Evening At Down Royal’ at the Mellon Country Inn this Friday 26th July.  Package Includes: BBQ Lunch,  transport to and from the race course, entry into the races, live music on return. Contact the hotel for more information.


Enjoy the beautiful sounds of local musicians in Mussenden Temple any time between 12 noon and 2.00pm on Sunday July 28th.  What better way to compliment your Sunday afternoon stroll at Downhill? Normal admission applies. NT members free.


Take a walk in the country at one of Northern Ireland’s best known regional one-day agricultural shows and its beautiful location on the shore of Lough Neagh. The Antrim Show takes place Saturday 27th July at Shanes Castle from 9.00am – 5.00pm. Admission is £10 per Adult, £5 for 12-17 year olds, and U12s and car parking are free. Admission is payable at the gate, and discounted adult tickets can be purchased online for £9 until Wednesday 24 July. Further info at www.randoxantrimshow.com.


Visitors on the autism spectrum and those with sensory requirements can enjoy the peace and quiet of Belfast Zoo during Quiet Hour this Sunday 28th July.  The zoo will open an 9am, an hour before normal opening times. Visitors can expect reduced crowds and lower levels of noise, helping to create a more relaxed atmosphere.

For further details on these events and to add your events free go to whatsonni.com. Follow us on twitter @whatsonNI and on facebook at fb.com/www.whatsonni for news, competitions and what’s on near you.  

Jacqueline McGonigle

Summer School to feature remarkable art

The John Hewitt Summer School is back at The Market Place Theatre in Armagh, and as ever, will feature stunning and accessible visual art.

Acclaimed journalist Malachi O’Doherty will be exhibiting a brand new photographic exhibition, ‘India: Faces and Scenes’, supported by Andras Hotels. O’Doherty, who lived in India for four years in the 1970’s, returned for the first time in January this year as a Major Artist funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. His main project was to research a book, but he took cameras with him and brought back striking images of people and places. These include scenes from the cremation grounds at the Ganges, a market place in Kolkata and portraits of people he met at random.

Malachi O’Doherty is better known as a writer and broadcaster. His eighth book will be published this summer, ‘Fifty Years On’, a reflection on change in Northern Ireland since the start of the Troubles.

O’Doherty says “I have always had cameras with me but there is that demarcation in journalism that writing is one job and taking the pictures is another, and there is a lot of sense to that.” He brought cameras with him when, in January, he went back to Brij Ghat, a pilgrim town on the Ganges. “I walked along the Ganges and saw the cremation fires. First I photographed them a bit sneakily then walked closer and one family invited me to take pictures of the body being prepared, a woman. Her hands and bangles were exposed, and they spread incense over her and then piled grasses and logs on top of her and, after prayers, set her alight.”

Malachi says he isn’t seeking to tell any particular story about India, “I just responded to what struck me. In one series of pictures of Sikh men in the Punjab I just saw this man with a rugged face and turban and thought he could be from any century at all and I asked him if I could take his picture and he stood there and let me do it.” In Kolkata he walked through the fish market and photographed beggars, workmen and basically anybody who caught his eye. “I am not saying this is a statement about India. I make my statements in words. Photography for me is not my assertion about anything, it is my response.”

The exhibition, ‘India: Faces and Scenes’, is launched on Wednesday 24 July at  4.45pm by Lord Diljit Rana, MBE, Baron of Malone, who is one of the ‘faces’. The exhibition continues at The Market Place until Saturday 7 September, giving ample opportunity to view these stunning photographs.

The second exhibition of the Summer School, is the superb ‘Blood Horses’. Artist Paddy Lennon from Wexford and poet Moyra Donaldson from Co Down both have horses in their blood. The exhibition and limited edition book, ‘Blood Horses’, is the result of their collaboration, and reflects not only both artists’ mastery of their medium, but also their lifelong experience with all things equine.

Lennon’s paintings combine with Donaldson’s poetry to evoke the history of our human relationship with horses. Central to the book is the story of the three Arab stallions that were the founding fathers of the modern thoroughbred, The Byerley Turk, The Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Barb. All three stallions have fascinating stories and the Byerley Turk has Irish connections, winning at Downpatrick Races before being ridden at the Battle of the Boyne by his owner, Captain Robert Byerley.

The paintings and poems also reflect the influence that horses have in the lives of those who work with them and ride them – the glories and tragedies of this relationship.

To keep up-to-date with the latest news at the Market Place Theatre, you can follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/marketplacearmagh) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/mptarmagh) where you will find all the latest information, special offers and video previews.

Top 10 Summer Activities for all the Family at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

 It’s set to be a spectacular summer at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, County Down, with a series of exciting events and activities that will keep all the family entertained throughout July and August. From hunting for mini-beasts in the stunning 100-acre gardens to family tours of the majestic State Rooms, there’s something for everyone!

A woman and her two children enjoy the Jubilee Parterre and South Lawn at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens. The caste is shown in the background

Make a day of it and discover the top ten activities to do at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens this summer!

  1. Join one of the new interactive Family Tours of the sumptuous State Rooms and discover the weird and wonderful things some of our guests have left behind
  2. Pick up some ‘bugnoculars’, a magnifying glass and an identification kit from the Garden Explorer’s cart and go hunting for mini beasties in the gorgeous gardens, with over 100 acres to explore!
  3. Take a gruesome look at history as you meet the Gorgeous Georgians and Vile Victorians with the amazing Horrible Histories: Live On Stage performed in the gardens (10 – 14 August 2019).
  4.   Travel to the past and meet the 3rd Marquess of Downshire as he entertains you with tales of Ireland’s mythological heroes in the Castle’s four-acre walled garden.
  5. Let your creative senses run wild and pick up a gardener’s notebook in the Summer House to record what you see and smell during your visit. Can you spot the swans, kingfishers and other wildlife near the beautiful lake?     
  6. Immerse yourself in Hillsborough Castle’s history with fascinating object handling sessions. From Georgian shoes to Victorian spinning tops, what curious items will you discover in the Castle’s handling collection?
  7.  Capture a family photo from Lady Alice’s Temple and enjoy the stunning views of the gardens and if you’re lucky   spot otters in the pond below!
  8. Head to the ice house and discover how the Hill family managed to trap winter in a cave all year round! From Saturday 24 August – Monday 26 August cool off and have a go at making your very own Georgian ice cream!
  9. Get crafty and take a bit of Hillsborough Castle home with drop-in summer make and take sessions, including kite making on selected dates.
  10. And don’t forget to refuel in the Hillsborough Castle Café or Stable Yard Tearoom for a yummy seasonal menu with produce from the castle’s very own Walled Garden and tasty cakes for those with a sweet tooth – exploring is hungry work!

Family tickets are available. Certain activities run on selected days. To book tickets and for more information on Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, visit hrp.org.uk/hillsborough-castle

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens has been completely transformed by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces after five years and a £24 million investment – supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other generous donors. Greeting visitors upon arrival is a new visitor centre complete with café and shop. Meanwhile new access and learning facilities will host schools and community programmes reaching out to the widest possible audience. 

10 things to do in Northern Ireland

DiscoverNorthernIreland.com has stacks of fun things to do across NI, from family days out to gigs and cultural events. Here are ten exciting things taking place this week (22-28 July)

1.       Armoy Road Races ‘Race of Legends’, Ballymoney, 20-27 July. The world famous road races take place once again in and around the picturesque County Antrim village of Armoy. The three mile circuit harks back to the 1970s and the days of the legendary Armoy Armada including the famous Joey Dunlop, but has been brought bang up to date by the organisers.

2.       The Portstewart Community Red Sails Festival, Portstewart, 22-27 July. Over the course of the week there will be live music featuring pop, rock, blues, country and traditional music. Street theatre includes Mr Mess, Mr Whizzy, Miss Shell, the Singing Mermaid and Roary the Dinosaur. With O’Hara’s Castle as a backdrop, the finale is a fireworks display making a visually impressive end to the festival.

3.       Newtownards Historical Walking Tour, Newtownards, 25 July. Newtownards has a wealth of historical treasures waiting to be discovered.  Hear fascinating stories from the Middle Ages through to Cromwell’s conquest and the 1798 rebellion, as well as finding evidence of how civilisations, such as the Normans, Celts and Vikings, shaped and influenced the town.

4.       Strawberry Tea Fair at The Ballance House, Crumlin, 27 July. Join a guided tour of the House and Ulster-New Zealand Exhibition.  Learn about the life and achievements of John Balance during his New Zealand parliamentary career, including helping to secure the vote for women and land reform. Enjoy a craft market and much more at this summer family event.

5.       Day Walk – Slieve Bearnagh, Newcastle, 27 July. Enjoy a day walking in the beautiful Mourne Mountains and admire the granite tors on the summit of Slieve Bearnagh, with a multi-lingual, qualified Mountain Leader.

6.       Randow Antrim Show, Antrim, 27 July. From the Festival of Food and Paula McIntyre cookery demonstrations to livestock, sheep shearing, horse jumping competitions and much more there’s plenty to keep all of the family amused at the Randox Antrim Show at Shane’s Castle.

7.       Game of Thrones® Workshops and Feast Experience, Belfast, 28 July. Sign up for this unique immersive event starting with a Game of Thrones® style lunch, then take three themed Game of Thrones® workshops. Try your hand at bladesmithing in Gendry’s forge, or create goblet pottery and Dothraki Jewellery for the Khal or Khaleesi in your life, all at The National.

8.       Waterpark, Enniskillen, 23, 25 & 28 July. Corralea Water Park is open to the public on these dates. Just bring a towel, swimsuit and trainers and enjoy paddle boats, canoes and an inflatable water park at Corralea Activity Centre.

9.       Belfast TradFest, Belfast, 27 July- 2 August. Descending upon the city – in a series of concerts, masterclasses, workshops, talks and sessions – will be a host of world-renowned traditional musicians. Enjoy this one of a kind festival that brings together both the Irish and the Ulster-Scots musical traditions.

10.   Happy Days: Enniskillen International Beckett Festival, Enniskillen, 25-28 July. Enjoy a number of performances across this festival including three Beckett short plays with the Mark Morris Dance Group, Morning Recital – Late piano works of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin and Scriabin with Saskia Giorgini and Cascando by Samuel Beckett.

For more information on these events or to plan a short break in Northern Ireland, visit www.DiscoverNorthernIreland.com.

Offers of the Week!

Northern Ireland boasts an irresistible collection of places to stay including beautiful B&Bs, luxurious spa hotels and great value self-catering properties. Discover NI has selected the best offers of the week to help you plan a short break.

·         Summer Offer, Spelga Lodge, Co. Down from £525 per stay

This four-star, luxurious self-catering accommodation is set high in the Mourne Mountains, yet conveniently only a 10 minutes’ drive from Newcastle. The house sleeps up to five people and has a jacuzzi spa, games room and BBQ. Offer includes seven nights’ accommodation at this ideal setting for a luxury retreat. To book call 0772043 2781. Offer available until 31 August 2019.

·         15% August Discount, Hazelwood Self Catering, Co. Antrim from £420 per stay

This four-star self-catering bungalow is ideally located in Glenariff, one of the picturesque Glens of Antrim. In the perfect location to explore the Causeway Coast, this luxury accommodation sleeps up to five people and is just a five-minute walk from the Glenariff Forest Park and Waterfalls. Offer includes 15% off a week’s stay in August and a welcome hamper on arrival. To book call 028 2177 1440. Offer available until 31 August 2019.

·         Seamus Heaney Sunday Special, Glenavon Hotel, Co. Tyrone from £67.50 per person sharing

The three-star Glenavon House Hotel is situated on the outskirts of Cookstown. Overlooking the Ballinderry River and set in nine acres of its own mature grounds, this luxurious hotel offers a wide range of high standard facilities. Offer includes overnight accommodation, admission to Seamus Heaney Homeplace, a four-course dinner in the Cellar Restaurant and a full Irish breakfast the following morning. To book call 028 8676 4949. Offer available until 31 December 2019.

Jacqueline shares her pick of what’s on this weekend across NI


Heartbreak Productions presents the iconic tale, Wuthering Heights, at Bangor Castle Walled Garden, 18th July. Step into the desolate realm of Wuthering Heights, home to the Earnshaw family and the mysterious orphan, Heathcliff. While under the care of the wealthy Mr Earnshaw, Heathcliff’s relationship  with the gentleman’s daughter, Catherine, blossoms into an unruly and passionate romance.


To celebrate Neil Armstrong’s One Giant Leap, Armagh Observatory will be showing the award winning 2018 movie ‘First Man’ at the Johnson Building, Shambles Yard, Friday 19th July. Ryan Gosling stars in the riveting story behind the first manned mission to the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the decade leading to the historic Apollo 11 flight.


The Lady of the Lake Festival in Irvinestown, is celebrating its 41st anniversary and continues until the  21st July with a range of outdoor and indoor events taking place, including sports, music, dancing, arts & crafts, gardening and water sports. 


In the double activity workshop of slime making and nerf games at Ranfurley House Dungannon this Saturday,  children will be guided through the process of making their own slime and clay models, using air drying clay and a few safe everyday household ingredients, which they get to take home with them at the end.


The inaugural LegenDerry Street Food Festival will run from Friday 19th July to Sunday 21st July.  Set in Guildhall Street this 3 day festival will bring together the very best of local street food, complemented by craft drink producers. Live DJ music sets, beers served from a double decker bus and a totally unique dining experience.  


The Carryduff Forklift Down Rally is back at the Eikon Exhibition Centre and Balmoral Park this Saturday for a second year and promises to be an action packed day filled with adrenaline fuelled fun for all the family. Why not come along and avail of the free kids activities, including bouncy castles!


As excitement for The Open builds across Northern Ireland, The Lost City Adventure Golf at Cityside in Belfast is set to go ‘crazy’ to mark the momentous golf competition taking place on home soil.  From Thursday 18th July to Saturday 21st July, NI’s first indoor adventure golf course will offer visitors dressed in ‘crazy golf’ gear a 20% discount after 12pm across the weekend.

For further details on these events and to add your events free go to whatsonni.com. Follow us on twitter @whatsonNI and on facebook at fb.com/www.whatsonni for news, competitions and what’s on near you.  

Jacqueline McGonigle

Belfast Blues, Lyric Theatre Belfast

Geraldine Hughes has launched the final homecoming of her critically acclaimed show Belfast Blues for one week only this August at the Lyric Theatre.

Having just wrapped a year on Broadway in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Belfast actress Geraldine Hughes is coming to the Lyric Theatre with her smash hit one woman show Belfast Blues!

Belfast Blues is one ‘wee girls’ story about family, war, Jesus, and Hollywood.  Geraldine Hughes’ one-woman show is a tapestry of stories told from Hughes’ perspective as a little girl coming of age in the war-torn Belfast of the 1980s.

After award-winning runs in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and London, the play is returning to her home city of Belfast for 6 nights only. Belfast Blues is directed by Carol Kane, and is written and performed by Geraldine Hughes.


“Awe-inspiring” -Talking Broadway

“Outstanding” -LA Times 

“A bravura performances” -London Morning Star 

“Takes your breath away” -Chicago Sun Times

Geraldine Hughes on the show:

“There’s no audience better than a Belfast audience! It’s such a privilege to play at the Lyric again, and thanks to Brassneck, I am doing just that. I’m so excited to share the story of Belfast Blues with a new generation of theatre goers and eager to re tell it to all those who are returning! The support from home is truly incomparable!”

Family Day at Downpatrick providing entertainment for racegoers and families alike!

With over 20 free attractions for kids, Downpatrick racecourse is hosting one what should prove to be a fantastic day out for family members of all ages.

Including a climbing wall, motorbike displays, face painting, dog agility displays and many, many more.

Also, by Pre-booking family tickets before 13th July, all kids will be given free tokens allowing them to get free ice creams, crisps, chocolate, soft drinks and face painting.

With the gates open from 12pm, and the first race not scheduled for 3pm there is plenty of time to tire your kids before you catch a couple races. BOOK YOUR TICKET TODAY.


Final farewell to Amphitrite, Doris and the 2018/19 Seal Season at Exploris Aquarium

On Sunday 14th July the public and the Exploris Aquarium seal rescue team will gather at Knockinelder beach, Co.Down to say farewell to grey seals Amphitrite and Doris. They have been at Exploris Aquarium’s seal sanctuary for 10 months and are now well enough to be released back to their natural home.

Both seals where rescued from Ballywalter last October, about 2 weeks apart. They both arrived at the seal sanctuary after being discovered by the public – abandoned, injured and in need of help by our specialist team.

After an initial assessment each seal began their journey to rehabilitation receiving extensive medical care, to ensure infections were kept at bay and housed in hospital pen whilst learning how to eat fish. Once they reached about 15kg and could self-feed they were moved to the outdoor pools where they learnt how to socialise with other seals. At this stage, all human contact was kept to a minimum to ensure a successful re-introduction to the sea.

Both seals are now ready to be discharged from the seal unit as they have successfully reached their target weight of over 30kg and are in good health, ready to take on adult life in the wild.

Peter William, Curator at Exploris Aquarium said “Both of these seals had a difficult start to life but after a long and difficult journey, we are pleased to be finally saying farewell and good luck to Amphitrite and Doris.  All being well the release of these two will conclude our rehabilitation season for 2018/19.”

He continued “Every year Exploris Aquarium rescues and releases between 20 to 40 seals. We rely on members of the public to call through to our seal rescue line when a pup is found on a beach.  Our team of trained staff will take as much detail as possible regarding location and seal condition and if necessary take action to lift the seal off the beach and bring to the centre.  At the centre our staff can treat the pups for injury or illness and provide 24 hour care. Only when the seals are fit and healthy again do we release them back to the wild. “

Ahead of the release all seals are tagged on their rear flipper to help identify them. Over time this will be used to see how rehabbed seals influence the wild population through breeding.

To date Exploris Aquarium has rescued and released over 600 common and grey seals back into the wild. This wouldn’t be possible without the funding support from DAERA, the vigilant public and our adopt a seal programme. This adoption programme allows the adopter to follow their seals journey through rehab for a small fee. The adoption helps fund the fresh fish they eat, medication to make them better and equipment to transport and keep them safe.

Amphitrite and Doris will be released back to the wild on Sunday 14th July at 10.30am on Knockinelder beach and the public are invited to come along and see them being released back to their natural home.

As this release concludes the 2018/19 seal season the 2019/20 begins and on the 22nd of June the seal sanctuary at Exploris Aquarium accepted their 1st Common Seal pup of the year, Ariel. Each season the seal rescue team decide on a naming theme for the rescued seal pups. For the 2019/20 season the naming theme is Disney. You can follow the progress of our new seal season on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @explorisni

Epic Journey to The Open inspires next generation of sports stars

TOURISM NI’S Epic Journey to The 148th Open at Royal Portrush is set to inspire the next generation of sporting stars in Northern Ireland.

As the greatest golfers in the world prepare to tee it up at the Dunluce Links in front of 215,000 eager spectators over the next week and a multi-million television audience, Tourism NI has led a powerful journey involving more than 1,000 people from across the community to build up excitement, momentum and civic pride for the golfing Major returning to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years.

Over 600 miles have been covered during the last six months stopping at eight locations in every county throughout Northern Ireland, along with Dublin, while the celebration engaged local councils, golf clubs, tourism industry representatives, sports stars and 645 school children. 

Stars from the world of sport participated to make the journey extra special as hockey’s Shirley McCay, international footballer Roy Carroll, Belfast Giants coach Adam Keefe, young golf star Tom McKibben, Armagh GAA ace and netball star Caroline O’Hanlon, Tyrone GAA hero Peter Canavan and County Down gymnast Rhys McClenaghan celebrated Northern Ireland playing host to such a prestigious event.

The lasting legacy that The Open provides to Northern Ireland was keenly in focus throughout The Epic Journey, with hundreds of budding young golfers and future sporting greats being inspired by the excitement and momentum leading into Royal Portrush.

Tourism NI’s 148th Open Project Manager, Lesley-Ann O’Donnell said, “On the Epic Journey, we saw so much of the pride that Northern Ireland’s people have in a destination that is attracting people from across the world. The friendliness, professionalism and experience we encountered on the journey from local attractions, sports stars and golf clubs leave us in no doubt that those visiting Northern Ireland are in for the very warmest of welcomes during The Open and beyond.

“The waiting is almost over and we have thoroughly enjoyed celebrating the excitement of this epic year for Northern Ireland through The Epic Journey, but it is only just the beginning. This week the electric atmosphere of The 148th Open will unfold and the prestigious Claret Jug to be lifted at Royal Portrush; it will put Northern Ireland on a global stage, promoting the best of what we have to offer and enhancing our reputation as a premier destination for international events.”

Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director – Championships at The R&A, said, “It has been fantastic to see the passion and excitement among the people of Northern Ireland for the return of The Open to Royal Portrush and we are very grateful to them for their support.

“We are now only a matter of days away from welcoming more than 215,000 fans to the Antrim coast to enjoy a true celebration of golf and attend the biggest ever sporting event ever to be held in Northern Ireland.”

The Epic Journey to The 148th Open was captured on video for all to enjoy:

The Epic Journey to The 148th Open