No ordinary farm - Tom and Patricia Gilbert's farm, near Carrickfergus, was the first in Co Antrim to achieve organic certification from the Soil Association in the early '90s, and then the first in Northern Ireland to have an organic farm outlet - and the shop was officially opened by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, no less, on May 5th, 1999.
The farm itself is open to visitors at time, but the shop is always open six days a week and well worth a visit. A one-stop shop offering an unusually wide range of foods, including imported organic fruit, deli and store cupboard items, it even sells even organic toiletries.
But the main aim is to sell their own carefully produced foods - Aberdeen Angus and Dexter beef, native British sheep, Tamworth pork, a variety of poultry and eggs, home grown vegetables in season, jams and chutneys. No online sales, but the interesting and exceptionally informative website not only tells you about their own produce and philosophy but you'll also enjoy reading Tom's 'Irregular Rant'.
A Tea Room is open at the same times as the shop and there are some outdoor tables for fine weather. Offering some of their own produce and other delicious organic fare - light lunches, cakes, scones, tray bakes, teas, coffees and juice - it's a lovely homely place to take a break, with great home baking a particular treat.
And there's accommodation too. Restoration work in 2011, to what was originally an early 19th century farmhouse, also allowed the Gilberts to open a very comfortable four-bedroom guesthouse. Rooms are named after wildlife found on the farm - Lapwing, Brown Trout, Heron and Irish Hare - which tells you a surprising amount about Ballylagan before you arrive; it's luxurious for farmhouse accommodation and unusual features include wood burning stoves in the bedrooms which are lit ahead of arrival (there is an extra nightly charge for use of the stove).
Retaining all of its original charm whilst offering modern facilities, this would be an interesting and relaxing place to stay.