In a display of community spirit and creativity, residents, community groups and local businesses in Bushmills worked together to design and paint whiskey barrels for the Salmon and Whiskey Festival.

Jotted in various locations across the village over the festival weekend, the beautifully transformed barrels provided a unique glimpse into the history, culture and natural beauty of Bushmills for locals and visitors to enjoy.

Organised as part of the €7.8m Bushmills Courthouse project; and supported by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, and the Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs, this collaborative project brought together individuals, community groups and businesses to showcase their love for their village through artistic expression. The barrels were generously provided by Bushmills Distillery.

Local artists Michelle McGarvey, Sarah Carrington, and Linda Mullholland played a pivotal role in facilitating the project, helping participants turn simple whiskey barrels into intricate works of art.

A special celebration event for those involved was held the night before the festival at Bushmills Distillery, as well as a live barrel painting session at Millenium Park with the three artists involved.

Summarising the project, Enterprise Causeway CEO, Jayne Taggart reflected: “It was wonderful to witness the barrels as a focal point of the Salmon and Whiskey festival, with many commenting and posting about them as the ‘Barrels of Bushmills’ and seeing people with the flyer enjoying locating them and learning the story behind each one.

“A special thanks to Bushmills Distillery for providing the blank canvases and to Council for approaching us with the opportunity to deliver. Also, to our three artists, who deserve immense credit for their role in bringing these barrels to life. Their guidance allowed our community’s stories to be beautifully woven into every design. And finally, to those who took part. It was great to see a real mix of individuals, community groups and local businesses rolling up their sleeves, coming up with these designs and perfectly capturing the rich heritage of Bushmills for others to enjoy.”

The ten barrels featured over the weekend included:

Bushmills Inn: Offering a cosy depiction of the historic Bushmills Inn, evoking images of warm hospitality and the comfort of a glass of Bushmills whiskey by a crackling fire.

The Ivy Leaf: Reflecting on the ‘old’ Bushmills, this barrel explored hidden historical sites, landmarks, and the enduring friendships formed over the years between this group of local ladies.

Market Square: Owner Neil’s barrel invited onlookers on a culinary journey through the diverse flavours of local Bushmills and Causeway food and drink producers, all of which centred around the iconic Clock Tower.

Bushmills Community Association: Celebrating the heart of Bushmills, this barrel showcased the groups community garden (located at the old Distillery field, via Woodvale); as well as other iconic landmarks such as the Distillery and salmon.

Maegden: Owners Emma and Jo’s creation delved into the history of 119 Main Street, celebrating the past, present, and flavours of the beloved local deli.

Portballintrae Residents Association: Providing a bird’s-eye perspective of the picturesque Portballintrae bay, this barrel captured the beauty of the region’s landmarks and hidden gems.

Amanda McIlhatton: Paying tribute to coopers and the craft of whiskey-making, Amanda’s barrel embodied the deep connection between the Bushmills community and the Distillery.

James Bennet: James’ barrel offered a picturesque representation of Bushmills’ castles, bridges and the enduring presence of the River Bush.

Stella Hewitt: With the barrel representing a whiskey glass, Stella’s artwork showcased a leaping salmon, capturing the essence of the river, heritage and the power of artistic passion.

Bushmills Distillery: Distillery employees Julie and Kim’s design raised a toast to the world-renowned Bushmills Distillery, incorporating local songs and a touch of nostalgia.

To view more details about these barrels CLICK HERE


Chef Paula McIntyre, pictured with one of the community barrels designed and decorated by the Bushmills Courthouse project for the Salmon & Whiskey Festival. This leaping salmon was produced by participant Stella Hewitt and was on display during the festival at Sharvagh House, where cooking demos took place.

Staff at The Bushmills Inn felt their barrel, depicting a comfy seat beside a crackling fire and a glass of Bushmills whiskey, perfectly summed up the historical 4-star boutique hotel and restaurant.

Owner Neil Campbell’s barrel invited onlookers to go on a culinary journey of the tapestry of flavours to discover the locally sourced ingredients going into every dish served at Market Square.

Portballintrae Resident’s Association’s barrel, placed at the front of the Visitor Information Centre, provided festival attendees with a beautiful bird’s-eye view of the familiar landmarks and hidden jems of the historical bay.

Local legend Finn McCool was impressed with Amanda McIlhatton’s ‘A Whiskey Story’ barrel – paying tribute to the skill and artistry of father and son coopers, Alastair and Christopher, who are 2 of only 6 coopers across Ireland, and both of whom work at Bushmills Distillery.

Popular deli Maegden’s barrel was a celebration of the businesses and personalities that graced its 119 Main Street location over the years, right up to present day, with owner’s Emma and Jo taking centre stage.

Located in front of the music stage in Main Street car park was Distillery employees Julie Dixon and Kim McMullan’s barrel, raising a toast not only to the world-renowned Distillery but to nostalgia, with lyrics of local songs that Kim grew up hearing from family, invoking many memories.

Keen photographer and local B&B proprietor James Bennet’s design tells of the history engraved within, and surrounding the village – from the many castles and bridges, to the constant flow of the River Bush and the steadfastness of the Distillery throughout the years – all a tribute to Bushmills timeless charm.

Bushmills Community Garden is represented in this barrel with its much-loved shed and allotment, designed and decorated by Bushmills Community Association.

The concept of local women’s group – The Ivy Leaf – was to allow attendees to step back in time to discover the ‘old’ Bushmills, as fondly remembered by the group. The continuous twine of ivy leaves captures the groups’ longevity and connection over the years, with each leaf representing members, past and present, where lifelong friendships have been formed and continue.

Crowds in Millenium Park were treated to a live barrel paint on Sunday 8th courtesy of the 3 artists involved in the community barrel project – Sarah Carrington, Michelle McGarvey and Linda Mullholland. Sarah opted for a landscape design, Michelle, salmon and Linda, puffins. They were joined by Beth Frazer, fellow artist and Community Outreach Officer for the Bushmills Courthouse project, who painted the Courthouse itself.

The completed barrels after the live paint on Sunday 8th October at Millenium Park.

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Steven Garth Callaghan and the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Margaret-Anne McKillop, stopped by the live barrel painting in Millennium Park during the Salmon & Whiskey Festival to see artists Sarah Carrington, Michelle McGarvey and Linda Mullholland at work. Pictured with them are (L-R): Cathy McGarry, Communications & Events Officer, Enterprise Causeway; Beth Frazer, Community Outreach Officer, Enterprise Causeway; and Linda Mullholland.

A special celebration event was held the night before the festival at Bushmills Distillery to give participants the chance to reflect on their involvement and to see where the barrels were placed. Pictured are some of the participants, as well as the 3 artists and Enterprise Causeway staff.

Pictured at the celebration event for the project are (L-R) artists: Sarah Carrington, Michelle McGarvey and Linda Mullholland.