SUMMER is a time for holidays, relaxing and fun days out with friends and family but having time off is also a great opportunity to expand an interest or discover a new hobby.  Northern Ireland has a range of classes, summer schools and interesting tours that will make your summer a time to remember.

Tourism NI’s Destination PR Officer Pauline Gormley explains why the summer time is a great way to meet new friends, get out of your comfort zone by trying a new experience or reigniting love for a skill not used for a while.

“Everyone knows about summer schemes for children but what people may not be aware of is that there are classes available for adults too. It’s always lots of fun to learn a new skill and nothing beats that sense of achievement and pride after finishing a class.

“You could learn how to paint, make crafts, cook a delicious meal from scratch or learn more about one of your favourite poets. Why not take a group of friends along to add to the fun,” said Pauline.

Tourism Northern Ireland has outlined a list of interesting things to try out over the coming months:

Summer schools

Literary lovers will be pleased at the summer schools on offer this year

The 28th John Hewitt International Summer School will take place in The Market Place Theatre & Arts Centre Armagh from Monday July 27 to Friday July 31. The programme includes creative writing workshops with Mary O’Donnell, Daragh Carville and Siobhan Campbell as well as readings from Tess Gallagher, Bernard O’Donoghue, Yasmin Alibhi-Brown and Ian Sansom. The packed programme of events incudes readings, talks, discussions and debates as well as celebrations of visual art, music and theatre.

The annual William Carleton Summer School, one of Ireland’s most significant literary festivals has celebrated the life and writings of novelist William Carleton since 1992. The school will run from August 2 -6 in Clogher Valley in Co Tyrone and aims to promote the life, times and writings of William Carleton, foster critical examination of his work and present him as a writer of international significance as well as publish research papers on topics relating to him.

Omagh’s Literary Festival, the 14th Benedict Kiely Weekend will take place in the Strule Arts Centre in Omagh from September 11 – 13. The festival includes readings, discussions and workshops from leading and emerging writers including Michael Harding, Mark Graham, Martina Devlin, Dervla Murphy, Colette Bryce and Conor McCloskey. Wood engraver, Susan Mannion will also exhibit a collection of new work inspired by the work of Benedict Kiely from September 11 to October 31.


Take a class or Tour

Learn something new with an interesting class

If cooking is not your forte then why not take a class at the Belle Isle Cookery School on the magnificent Belle Isle Estate on Lough Erne, Co.Fermanagh. This is the perfect place in which to unwind as you learn how to cook using locally farmed meat and produce.  They have fun classes that suit every level of cook from the novice to the very experienced. Choose from a wide variety of classes which include ‘A Taste of the Mediterranean’, ‘Food for Friends’ or ‘Fresh from the Sea’.

James Street South in Belfast also hosts a range of cookery classes which are hosted by Niall McKenna and his team. Niall has over 20 years’ experience and is an advocate of educating and learning new skills in the kitchen. Take part in these fun lessons before trying out newly learnt skills at home.

The classes will be hosted by Niall McKenna and his team. Chef and owner of James Street South Restaurant Niall is an advocate of educating and learning new skills in the kitchen.  Niall has over 20 years experience in the kitchen and has worked and trained with many of today’s great chefs. Niall is always keen to pass on his skills and knowledge to kitchen enthusiasts and still loves to learn new skills. Guest Chefs will host practical and demonstration classes from time to time.

James Street South

If you would like to explore your creative side then why not take a painting break with Dermot Cavanagh who caters for all levels of artistic ability. Places are limited on these exclusive courses to ensure each participant can benefit from individual attention and hands on instruction.  The painting courses are based in Moy, Co.Tyrone and will take full advantage of Northern Ireland’s magnificent landscape and themes include Buildings in the Landscape, Winter Wonderlands, Summer Foliage, Creating Moor and Atmosphere, Autumn Trees and more. Courses are held all year round and are perfect for a short break with a difference.

Situated in the heart of Downhill Forest, opposite Mussenden Temple is Pretty Crafty Design Studio which is ideal for those who would like to try their hand at learning a craft.  Groups can take part in craft parties where they can learn mask making, stone painting and boat painting. Participants can also explore the showroom and decorative bird garden which host a wide range of exclusively handcrafted, imaginative and unusual gifts.

Learn more about how pottery is made at Belleek Pottery in Co Fermanagh. Established in 1857, Belleek Pottery is one of Northern Ireland’s oldest attractions and holds a special place in the cultural and commercial heritage of Co. Fermanagh. Original and unique pieces of pottery are made using traditional methods passed down from generation to generation. Belleek Pottery is situated in the picturesque village of Belleek near Lough Erne and visitors to the centre can take part in guided tours, explore the onsite museum, visit the audio visual theatre showroom or enjoy some refreshments in the restaurant.

Discover how all those delicious treats get made at Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory in Belfast which is one of the finest purveyors of hand-made chocolates, fudge and boiled sweets, made from 100 year old recipes. Visitors to the shop will have the opportunity to observe the production process through a viewing window and see how hand-made chocolates and fudge are created. They may also have the chance to sample the wide range of confectionary on offer which includes honeycomb, yellow man, raspberry ruffle, macaroon, Belfast fudge, Baileys fudge and much more.

Pop along to Greenwood Baskets in Benburb, Co.Tyrone to learn all about the art of basket weaving. Alison Fitzgerald has been weaving baskets for over twenty years and her work has featured in exhibitions throughout the UK and Ireland. Group classes are available and individual tuition can be arranged at the workshop. Accommodation is available for course participants at Benburb Priory so why not make a weekend of it.

Uncover your inner Bear Grylls at the Northern Ireland Survival School in Ballymena and learn about bushcraft and wilderness living skills.  Choose from a range of challenging activities including Bushcraft Seedling Course, Pioneer Bushcraft Course and Bushcraft Survivor Course.

Northern Ireland Survival School

Steensons Jewellery in Glenarm, Co. Antrim not only offers customers the chance to browse through beautiful hand crafted contemporary designs but visitors can also observe the goldsmiths at work and watch as they create all kinds of beautiful pieces. Why not treat your mum to a day out where you can learn all about what it takes to create handmade jewellery as well as browse some of the items available for sale.

Steensons Jewellery

The Old Bushmills Distillery in Co. Antrim welcomes over 100,000 visitors each year and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.  A tour of the distillery is a must-see for visitors to the area as they will learn how the various whiskeys are made and visit the Mash House, Fermentation room, The Still House, Cask Store and Bottling Hall. There is also a gift shop and restaurant available for those who would like to take a sample home to enjoy.

Sporting fans will enjoy a tour of Scullion Hurls based in Loughguile, Co.Antrim as they can experience the craftsmanship involved in hurl making and watch the Scullion family take the time to produce a Scullion hurl, a skill which has been passed through generations, focusing on quality and finally hand finishing the hurl in the Loughguile workshop. Visitors can then explore the exhibition area to learn about the history of hurling, the process involved in making a Scullion hurl and the family connection behind the business.

Michael Scullion manufactures Hurling Sticks and Sliotars at his factory in Loughgiel.
Michael Scullion manufactures Hurling Sticks and Sliotars at his factory in Loughgiel.

Situated in the heart of Downhill Forest, opposite the Lions Gate and Mussenden Temple. Pretty Crafty Design Studio takes its inspiration from a beautiful and historic part of the world.
They are a working studio and support 20 local crafters (commission work can be undertaken). The showroom and decorative bird garden support a wide range of exclusively handcrafted, imaginative and unusual gifts. They also specialise in craft parties for all ages including mask making, stone painting, model boat painting or the art of your choice, perfect for delightful and educational evenings for groups of up to 50 (supper by arrangement).

There is also the Willow Garden Tea Room, where a wide selection of tray bakes and light lunches are on offer.

Pretty Crafty Design Studio


Fun Festivals

Perfect for keen culture vultures

The Happy Days International Beckett Festival is the world’s biggest celebration of Nobel Prize writer Samuel Beckett and will take place in Co Fermanagh from July 23 to August 3. The festival is set against the backdrop of Enniskillen, Ireland’s only Island town at the heart of the Fermanagh Lakelands. Events and performances take place all over the county in the most unusual and interesting ways and include All that Fall, Ohio Impromptu, Stirrings Still, Beginning to End and Phaedra by Benjamin Britten.

Happy Days International Beckett Festival

Deemed as one of Northern Ireland’s premier literature festivals, the Aspects Literary Festival is set to return this September from 23 – 27 in various venues around Bangor with an eclectic mix of poetry and prose.  During the festival you can also discover North Down’s fascinating landscape, heritage and history on the ‘off-the-beaten-track’ programme of walks and tours.

To find out more about summer schools and literary festivals in Northern Ireland click on or visit your local tourist information centre.

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