Future focused caravan park hitches wagon to YoFaD
NI Year of Food and Drink
Published June 21, 2016
Despite celebrating its 50th anniversary during the Year of Food and Drink (YoFaD), it’s all about the new at Castle Archdale Caravan Park where new partnerships and collaborations are creating new events to attract a new generation of holidaymaker to the County Fermanagh site.
Owned by the same family for almost half of those 50 years, the 20-acre facility offers the traditional caravan park facilities with static and touring pitches, camp sites, shops and games room, playgrounds and even water sports given its Lough Erne location.
Where Castle Archdale stands apart though is in its enthusiastic embracing of the Year of Food and Drink and a season-long programme of events tied in with its monthly themes. A brand new direction for its owners, now in their 24th season at the helm, Mandy Ellis explained why the future focused caravan park had hitched its wagon to the scheme.
“The Year of Food and Drink ties in with our Golden Jubilee celebration and has given a sharper focus to what we already do. People coming here on holiday are obviously needing to eat and it has made our job easier to build that need around special events.”
One such special event took place at the start of this month with Castle Archdale’s Ice Cream Sunday kicking off June’s theme of Love Dairy. Working alongside Glastry Farm Ice Cream, whose product is stocked in the site shop, the collaborative aspect of the event was crucial to its success.
“We created the event around the ice cream with the help of Glastry who had a rep there to talk about the artisan nature of their product. We let the kids scoop their own ice cream and put on their own toppings. We are only part way through our programme and doing what we can within our own resources but we really couldn’t do it without the help of the suppliers. It’s been purely down to cooperation from them that has allowed these events to happen, we might not necessarily have been able to go down that route otherwise.”
Such cooperation has already seen a Bacon and Boxty event in March’s Heritage and Traditions month, beer and cider tastings in April’s Brewing and Distilling month and a foraging walk in Landscape and Places month in May. Coming up during the busy summer season is a Banquet by the Lake to jointly mark the ‘Love NI Meat’ theme as well as the park’s Golden Jubilee when guests will dine in style in a marquee overlooking Lower Lough Erne on the best local produce prepared by Saddlers of Enniskillen. A Black Pudding festival run in conjunction with Pat O’Doherty will also take place in August as part of Love NI Meat month. And before that in July’s Seas, Rivers and Loughs month will be a particularly unique collaboration for the forward thinking park with the renowned Mourne Seafood restaurant setting up as a pop up.
“In Fermanagh we have a lot of sites and caravan parks so we really wanted something to help us stand out,” explained Mandy. “We do have a lot of visitors on the site from Belfast who would be familiar with the Mourne Seafood brand but not in a Fermanagh setting so it gives us a unique selling point. A seafood restaurant is not something that you would usually associate with a caravan park so it’s a real point of difference.”
This unique collaboration is one that came about on ‘a wing and a prayer’ with each of the businesses having no prior contact, as Mandy explains. “We absolutely didn’t know them at all, we sent an email on a wing and a prayer and fortunately for us they were delighted to get involved. I suppose from their perspective it’s trying out a different market and for us it’s brainstorming ideas and thinking outside the box. Fermanagh is an area of fabulous beauty and scenery and once you attract people here it’s very easy to keep them.”
That objective would seem to be being achieved with the park recording more new guests and more return visitors and expecting a further uplift in pitch nights during the peak summer season.
“The success of the Year of Food and Drink events is hard to quantify exactly as we also have the Golden Jubilee celebrations – as well as a new play park – but we are definitely seeing an increase in footfall,” she explained. However, through face to face contact as well as our social media analysis we can see that the events draw people in and we know we have what it takes to keep them coming back.”
Social media activity and digitally available YoFaD branding have also helped in ‘joining the dots’ of the caravan park’s events, the online aspect of the business a crucial aspect of the venue’s marketing.
“Online is where we find we have the most success in promoting whatever we’re doing and gauging feedback from our visitors. We don’t have the Giants Causeway and we don’t have the attractions the North Coast is famous for but what we do have is unique. We have great food and a warm welcome, Fermanagh is one of the happiest counties and that’s all part of the package as is our National Trust properties, Castle Coole, Crom and Florenceville,” continued Mandy.
“There is a new generation out there who are spreading the word that we have this fabulous facility, on the lakes, in the middle of food central amongst all this beauty. The Year of Food and Drink has helped us shape that focus and its events are something we intend to continue in the future.”
Find out more at www.castlearchdale.com or Castle Archdale Caravan Park on Facebook and on Twitter @castlearchdale
Posted by Tourism NI
Produced by Tourism NI