A prominent visitor attraction near Armoy is one of four tourist facilities in Northern Ireland to have been honoured at a prestigious ceremony in Dublin.
Shean’s Horse Farm History and Heritage Centre was judged by an independent panel in the CIE Tours International 25th annual Awards of Excellence gaining top spot alongside The Giant’s Causeway, Titanic, and the Ulster American Folk Park.
Run in conjunction with Tourism Ireland, the awards were based on an in-depth survey of more than 30,000 customers and management and staff at Sheans were bowled over by the accolade.
It is a remarkable achievement by a facility that has only been opened a relatively short time and is tribute to the work and commitment put in by owner Danny McKinley and his team.
Mr McKinley attended the ceremony at Dublin Castle and afterwards said he was delighted at being chosen alongside such world famous facilities.
“We have tried to live up to our mission statement of providing visitors with a memorable experience treating them as valued guests,” Mr McKinley said.
He added: “We believe we offer a unique service that embraces many aspects including education in local history, myths, legends, horse riding and hospitality.”
The award was essentially for a story presentation through the eyes of Sorley Boy McDonnell, the last of the great McDonnell chieftains, along with tea and scones to the tour operators.
The fascinating insight enjoyed by visitors into the lives of the Irish clans and chieftains gives the Shean’s location an added edge into what is on offer in tourism in Northern Ireland.
The theme was particularly to the fore during last year’s Giro d’Italia bike race when ‘pink’ horses from Shean’s Farm rode alongside the riders in parts of the route along the North Antrim Coast.
Images from the horses at the Giro are claimed by Mr Howard Hastings chairman of NITB to be the most viewed television image of NI.
Mr McKinley has invested substantially in premises and believes there is a bright future for Shean’s in the coming years.
The Mayor of Ballymoney, Alderman Bill Kennedy, has congratulated Mr McKinley on the award adding that he was a worthy winner.
“This is an important tourist attraction in the Ballymoney rural area and is truly brilliant for everyone.
“I am confident that the facility will grow and expand in the coming years and alongside the Dark Hedges will attract growing numbers to our area,” the Mayor said.