Cycle Sperrins wins top tour at the Belfast Telegraph Year of Food & Drink Awards
On Friday night we get on the bus with Derry & Strabane District Council staff. Heading for the Belfast Telegraph Year of Food and Drink Awards. Tux and high heels (not together) all round. Brief stop on the Glenshane..fear of famine still innate. Despite our destination being the Culloden Hotel and Spa. Our bike tour, Cycle Sperrins, was shortlisted in the Best Food Tour and Trails category.
The evening kicks off with Derry & Strabane Council lifting the Best Event category, despite strong opposition, for the Legenderry Food Festival. Doubtless Derry-Londonderry pushed food strongly in 2016 as a tourism focus. Landing runner up in the Irish Foodie Town Awards was only the start. Amazing new kids on the block like Pyke N’ Pommes and Walled City Brewery have trail-blazed- pushing the town into whatever the short-hand is for the 2010’s.
But tonight is the time for the countryside to shine. Kevin Hickey from Dart Mountain Cheese, a micro-industry in the heart of the Sperrins producing the finest of cheeses, is on-board. Kevin is one of 10 partners in Sperrins Cycle Consortium. These 10 small businesses- food producers, farms, B&Bs and tourism centres, support Cycle Sperrins and have done from the start.
Far and Wild provides cycles, with or without a guide, and our partners in the consortium host the cyclists as they do the tour. Tours can be anything from half a day to four days through the best of countryside and local culture. You get a novel slip-in-your-pocket map guide, with loads of useful info- and the knowledge that local folk will help you on your way!
Personally, I think the judges understood we aren’t a big player in the tourism game. But we are serious, ambitious and bursting with creativity! The region of the Sperrins doesn’t get a big tourism bump. It has patiently waited for folk to recognise its quiet appeal. Well, now it is shouting it from the roof-tops. and some of the judges, thankfully, heard us.
The Award is very gratefully received. Not least because of the competition we overcame, and who are very worthy, inspiring initiatives. Like Belfast Food Tours. Tours I would like to do myself. We are continually inspired by cycling developments in Mayo, the Burren, Inishowen.
Our own Slow Adventure will continue to grow. Moral support from key people, not least in Tourism NI, is really helpful. We look forward to continuing to evolve our tours. To reveal the special appeal of the Sperrins, its colors and hues. Its morning mists, and sleepy roads. Archaeology and dark skies.
The evening ended with Derry winning ‘Destination Delicious’, the overall, judge’s special prize. The fourth Award to go to the North West that night. I left inspired by seeing new businesses like Lough Neagh Eels and Comber Earlies.
And by what we can do if we set our minds to it…