There are some changes taking place here at Blackthorn and Willow. We have been open now for three years – our doors opened in July 2015 – and during this time we have continued to develop our range of locally produced crafts and foods (the most local of which are our ‘Blackthorn Breads’ which, as customers know, are actually baked on the premises). While nothing will change in this respect, we are adjusting our opening times in order to focus more on the weekend. We will now (from August) open on Sunday afternoons rather than midweek. So our new opening times are Fridays and Saturdays from 11.00 to 5.00 and Sundays from 2.00 to 5.00. We will, of course, continue to provide a range of artisan loaves here every Saturday.
We are pleased to be starting on a new venture, which is a further development of our commitment to locally produced quality foods. From September onwards we will be hosting a monthly supper club: ‘ The Dining Room Supper Club’ will take place on the first Wednesday of each month. Featuring vegetarian dishes made from local and seasonal vegetables as well as local seafood, the Dining Room will offer customers the opportunity to dine with friends – and make new friends at our large shared table – in a pleasant and comfortable setting.
The supper club will take place upstairs in the dining room above the shop. As we do not have a licence we will be unable to serve alcohol, however customers will be very welcome to bring their own alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks.
Tickets for the supper club, which need to be purchased in advance, are available from Blackthorn and Willow and Glenarm Visitors’ Centre. For further details about The Dining Room Supper Club take a look at the ‘Dining Room Supper Club’ page on this website and keep an eye on our Facebook page nearer the time.
We now have a lovely map in the shop: ‘Glens of Antrim on the Causeway Coastal Route’ that highlights the best places to see and visit – and it is free! Generously funded by the Coastal Communities Fund, administered by Carrickfergus Enterprise, the map not only points visitors to places of interest but also gives information on local accommodation providers, restaurants, cafes and bars, craft and artisan food shop (yes, Blackthorn and Willow!) as well as tour guides and activities.
It is beautifully illustrated by Joanna Martin – designer, illustrator and printmaker. Joanna is a keen sailor whose work is inspired by the Northern Irish coastline and its wildlife, particularly birds. Visitors to our shop will recognise her cushions and cards that we stock here.
Now that spring is really here at last (yes, I know that it has been raining today but that is spring!) there are more reasons to drive along the Causeway Coast and see what is on offer.
When we re-opened on March 7th, after a break since Christmas, it didn’t feel much like spring; however, the days are getting longer and the weather will surely become warmer and drier soon. We have daffodils, aubretia, lavender and flowering shrubs planted in pots outside the shop here to cheer things up and they will be in flower soon.
The Causeway coastal route (and also Belfast) was named by Lonely Planet as the place to visit in 2018 so we are looking forward this year to meeting new visitors from far and near. We don’t think that anyone will be disappointed in a visit to Glenarm, especially not on a sunny day! It has a lot to offer for not only is it a coastal village with a marina but also has a beautiful forest and a castle, the wonderful walled garden of which is open to visitors.
Steensons world-famous jewellery workshop and retail store is here in Glenarm as well as two pubs and a small number of shops. This season at Blackthorn and Willow, we have a lovely mixture of new stock as well as familiar and popular lines and we have expanded our book section to include a wider range of new and second-hand books, including works by local authors; a selection of ‘Willow Leaves’ hand-made notebooks and jotters, wooden pens from Mid Antrim Woodturning – and more CDs from local musicians.
We continue to hunt down the best in craft items for the home in ceramics, glass, wood and textiles and our range of locally produced artisan foods is ever growing and changing as we source new lines. And, as always, there is a range of freshly baked artisan breads on sale here every Saturday.
We will be holding a musical event for the festive season here at Blackthorn and Willow: on Thursday 21st of December we will have music and carols from 4.00 to 6.00 lead by by Rose on piano and Rowan on the fiddle. Come and join in – or just sit and listen while enjoying a few Christmas snacks.
As with previous events, other musicians – and singers – will be most welcome.
Along with the music, we will also be offering on that day, discounts on a selection of our craft items as well as on a range of foods and drinks, so it will definitely be worth a visit if you are on the lookout for a few bargains.
And another couple of dates for your diary: if you would like some Glenarm smoked salmon for Christmas then please let me know by Monday 18th and it will be ready for you to collect from Wednesday 20th.
And if you want some of our ‘Blackthorn Breads’ over the Christmas period then please order loaves by Thursday 21st; you will be able to collect them from midday onwards on Saturday 23rd. That will not only be the last time that I bake this year but the last time until early spring as we will be closing the shop on the evening of the 23rd and re-opening in March.
The choice of loaves for the 23rd December will be sourdough, mixed grain cobs, sweet focaccia, savoury focaccia and poppy seed loaves.
Many thanks to all our customers over the past year. We will look forward to seeing you all again when we re-open in the spring.
We are pleased to be stocking a range of fantastic handmade chocolate from Belfast-based company NI CHO. They produce chocolate with differing proportions of cocoa content with cocoa beans from all over the world – we have 37% bars (milk chocolate) made from Indonesian beans; 48% bars from Costa Rica; 82% from Peru up to a strong 91% made from Ecuadorian beans. In addition we keep another range of their chocolate – Rose & Pistachio, Fruit & Nut, Pecan, Ginger – where the added ingredients are attractively pressed into the surface of the chocolate.
In this photo you can also see, next to the chocolate bars, some of the Sea Sugar range of sweets. These sweets are made from natural – and delicious – ingredients: Lemon & Elderflower; Lime & Mint; Rhubarb & Vanilla; Apple, Pear & Ginger … and more.
We have also started to stock the ‘infusion’ range of shortbread from Holmes of Craigavon. These are really nice shortbreads that are flavoured – or infused with – with different fruits, herbs and spices: we have Blackberry; Blueberry & Apple; Ginger; Camomile & Spiced Apple; Pomegranate & Raspberry, and Lemon & Ginger.
Talking of sweet things – after looking around for quite some time we finally managed to source some honey; we are delighted to now be stocking honey from Bellaghy.
And, as we are halfway through November, we are now beginning to keep some special items for Christmas – we have traditional little Christmas puddings from Holmes, while mince pies have been added to the choice of a snacks that we have on offer with tea or coffee in ‘the old bar’.
Of course all of the foods that we keep here, as well as the lovely craft items, would make great gifts.