The F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio in Banbridge has been awarded a four-star rating under Tourism Northern Ireland’s (Tourism NI) visitor experience grading quality scheme for the third consecutive year.
Dedicated to one of Ireland’s most influential and successful artists, Banbridge-born sculptor Frederick Edward McWilliam, the gallery achieved an overall score of 83% after undergoing an independent assessment by a Tourism NI Quality Grading Advisor.
The quality assessment took multiple aspects of the visitor experience at the gallery into account, with top marks awarded for attitude, efficiency and knowledge of staff, cleanliness and the appearance of the grounds.
It also achieved a high score in many areas including catering, retail offering, signage, brochure content, car parking and appearance of the building.
Gallery Curator Dr Riann Coulter said: “We’re committed to making our multi-award winning gallery one of the most welcoming art venues in Northern Ireland, and this rating signifies that it is operating to an outstanding level.
“We will of course take on board the recommendations made by Tourism NI and continue to make improvements where we can to enhance the overall visitor experience.
“Ultimately, we aspire to score a 5-star rating and be classified as ‘exceptional’ as opposed to ‘excellent’.”
The gallery, which attracts over 42,000 visitors a year and boasts an indoor exhibition area, a sculpture garden, a reconstructed studio, a café, a craft shop and tourist information point, is continually enhancing its exhibition and events programme to open up the arts to a wider audience.
It is one of only six visitor attractions in the council borough to receive a 4-star rating.
Other venues included Armagh Robinson Library, Brownlow HQ, No 5 Vicars’ Hill, St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral and Tayto Castle Factory. Mount Ida Pottery was the only visitor attraction in the borough to achieve a five-star rating.
The gallery is one of a number of council facilities which were assessed by Tourism NI.
Armagh City Youth Hostel achieved a four-star rating for its excellent standard of accommodation. Armagh County Museum, Kinnego Marina, Lurgan Park and Portadown People’s Park achieved a three-star rating and Tannaghmore Gardens achieved a two-star rating.