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At Sand In Your Eye we often travel across the whole UK from our studio in West Yorkshire to make our sand art, last year we were making sand drawings from Tiree to Folkestone and sand sculptures from Dover to Gateshead but we don’t often get the chance to grab our passports and cross the sea to Northern Ireland so it was very exciting when Tourism Ireland and the PC Agency asked us to come over to Portrush and make some sand art to celebrate the 148thGolf Open and showcase the beautiful landmarks of Northern Ireland.

sand artists
Credit: Michael Cooper
sand drawing uk

The Golf Open will be returning to Royal Portrush for first time in nearly 70 years and local boy Rory McIlroy is one of the favourites for the Claret Jug (which coincidentally we made a sand sculpture of last year at Carnoustie). We were excited to visit this beautiful part of the country and to hear Tourism Ireland’s ideas. 

Because there are so many things to see and do in Northern Ireland, they had a lot of ideas but we finally settled on a gigantic 150 metre long sand drawing that would incorporate just some of the attractions. Obviously a local hero like Rory had to feature, the iconic Titanic Belfast building and the beautiful Guildhall in Derry/Londonderry as well as the mythical Dark Hedges, a famous road in Northern Ireland framed by entwined beech trees. Northern Ireland’s beautiful and evocative scenery has become very popular for film making in recent years and Game of Thrones has become synonymous with Northern Ireland. Fans from around the world make pilgrimages and take tours to the locations featured, such as Old Castle Ward, which stands in for Winterfell Castle and Tollymore Forest where the Nightwalkers dwell. So we had to include something from Game of Thrones and chose the Stark family crest depicting a Direwolf.

sand art uk
sand drawing Rory mcilroy
beach art northern ireland
Sand Art Rory McIlroy

Such an ambitious drawing required an enormous team, luckily at Sand In Your Eye we have a team of super subs that we can draw from when a job requires it. Most of our freelance artists live within reach of the creative hub of Hebden Bridge that we call home; and Tess, Lou, Katie, Mark, James and Bez flew out from Manchester Airport but Aoife a friend of Jamie’s had only a short distance to travel from Ireland and Sparrow, who has helped us out on many occasions in the past, flew all the way from Newquay in Cornwall. 

Jamie flew out the day before for a recce of beautiful Downhill beach, we know that sand drawings are successful there as last November one of the teams from the South Bank Sky Arts Visual Arts award winning project Pages of the Sea, who we trained in sand art, made a very poignant drawing of Nurse Rebecca Ferguson to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War I.

sand art uk first world war
Courtesy of 14-18 NOW

Downhill is a few miles from Portrush, it’s a great setting with the Atlantic ocean rolling in, the trainline skirting along the beach (must be a great view from the train) and 18thcentury Mussenden Temple on the hillside watching over everything. 

The sea doesn’t go out as far in Northern Ireland as it does in a lot of the UK so Jamie had to pace up and down the beach to find the perfect spot – he probably walked several kilometres that day but all the prep paid off.

When the team arrived we headed off to our air bnb in Portrush. We don’t often stay in luxurious settings, we’ve camped, kipped on floors, stayed in hostels and one hotel that was reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel in the Shining so this was a lovely change. Mark snagged the penthouse bedroom and said the views of the harbour were stunning. Team briefing took place in the Harbour Bar that evening over some incredible sea food.

sand drawing uk
Credit: Michael Cooper

The next day dawned bright and fine and the team were on the beach early, keen and eager to get going. We knew it was an ambitious project for one team and one day and it did prove to be challenging, especially the repetitive elements on the Dire Wolf crest and the complex architecture of the Guildhall. They ended up being on the beach from 8am til 8pm, usually our sand drawings are finished within five or six hours! The sea was coming in as they finished and the drone took off to take the photos. We think you’ll agree all that hard work was worth it and the pints of Guinness at the Harbour Bar that evening were well earned! 

Thanks to Tourism Ireland and the PC Agency for inviting us out to Northern Ireland, we had a great time and hope to return to this gorgeous coastline again soon. Slainte!

The team at Portrush
The team at Portrush

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