Meet the Locals:
From the top of Slemish Mountain, if you only knew where to look, you could pick out the nearby village of Martinstown, where Eamonn Higgins is reviving the ancient craft of blacksmithing.
Eamonn Higgins stands by one of the eight forges he has constructed from scrap metal in the old milking shed built on the family farm by his father. The coals are glowing hot, the hammer and tongs ready to fashion the burning hot metal over an anvil. When the right temperature is reached, the metal will be pushed and knocked into medieval blades, fire implements, a leaf key ring, anything that can be achieved in a single session by a beginner in the craft.
An ancient craft
Here, amidst the unspoilt beauty of Glenravel, the tenth Glen of Antrim, Eamonn is reviving a hugely valued craft. The blacksmith traditionally made implements, shoed horses and even made weapons (as the makers of pikes for rebels, they were often the first to be arrested during rebellions).
An experience you will never forget
Today, that craft is no longer needed for practical reasons, but Eamonn has seen a dramatic interest in blacksmithing from locals and visitors alike. People of all ages and backgrounds, from teenagers to brain surgeons, make their way to the Hot Milk Forge these days. It's an experience they will never forget.
Getting into the rhythm
“Each person has their own anvil, forge and hammer,” explains Eamonn.
“The forge is already heated, the coal glowing like in a grate but a wee bit more aggressive. Perhaps a thousand degrees centigrade, with the air pumped in below.
The hot metal is like play dough, to be knocked and teased into shape on the anvil. If they're making a knife, they'll use a knife grinder to finish it off. But that's it.
There's music on the sound system to help them get into the rhythm and with the heat and noise they become totally immersed in this intense experience.”
Men of the Night's Watch
People have come dressed as men of the Night's Watch and characters from Star Trek, but Eamonn has only one request. “Wear thick-soled shoes not stilettos! I provide safety equipment, aprons, gloves and glasses, it's not scary, just common sense.”
Crafting a longbow
Eamonn, an acclaimed metal sculptor, who works using traditional methods, is a qualified teacher in blacksmithing, blade-making and crafting longbows fit for Game of Thrones®. Group classes can be booked in advance on his website, private lessons are more flexible but a little more expensive.