Two gallery and studio visitor experiences have carved out a four-star quality ratings double for County Down under a Northern Ireland Tourist Board quality scheme.
The four-star awards signify that the F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio and Mount Ida Pottery, both in the Banbridge area, are of an ‘excellent’ standard for visitors.
The F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio is dedicated to the memory of Banbridge-born sculptor Frederick Edward McWilliam, one of Ireland's most influential and successful artists.
It houses a large permanent collection of his work alongside temporary exhibitions of home-grown and international art in a superb gallery, sculpture garden and reconstructed studio. It also provides a popular café and craft shop as well as a visitor information point for the area.
The purpose-built Mount Ida Pottery studio and gallery has been developed by retired art teacher Trevor Woods and offers a pottery school and a range of other art classes together with a unique and very personal collection of his hand built and thrown ceramic work.
Both visitor experiences share an artistic link in that the craft shop at the F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio displays a range of handcrafted products created by talented local designers and makers, one of which is Mount Ida Pottery.
Mount Ida pottery is also displayed in galleries all over Northern Ireland
The NITB grading scheme assessment process rigorously evaluates attractions and visitor experiences across a number of criterion including hospitality and welcome, catering and retail facilities as well as the maintenance and presentation of the facility.
Caroline Adams, NITB Quality and Standards Manager said: “From big visitor attractions like Titanic Belfast to smaller ones including garden centres and art venues like these two, there are different designations within our visitor experiences grading scheme. The overarching aim is to provide visitors with the means to identify the experiences that have the quality of facilities and services they desire.
“These two galleries and studios are marvellous examples of the vibrant arts scene around Banbridge and they can now clearly show they are right up there in terms of quality. I commend both for raising the bar in terms of delivering a quality visitor experience.”