The Bushmills town is famous for Old Bushmills Whiskey Distillery.
The Victorian architecture of the Distillery dates from 1885 when it was rebuilt due to a fire. It is located on the on the banks of St. Columb's Rill and reputed to be the oldest licensed Distillery in the world - being given legal status in 1608 when King James 1st granted a license to local landowner Sir Thomas Phillips. The process of illegal distillation in the village goes back even further than 1608. Local folklore tells of whiskey being made illegally in the 1400's, there are also records of a Sir Robert Savage enjoying the 'aqua vitae' (whiskey) with his troops in 1276 and the drink is even mentioned in the Book of Leinster. The company itself was founded in 1783 and in 1800's we find records of the S.S. Bushmills, a large sailing ship owned by the company which transported whiskey across the Atlantic. During its existence the distillery has changed ownership many times, at one time it was owned by the Boyd family who were responsible for promoting the product worldwide, in 1972 it became part of the Irish Distillers Group who themselves were taken over by Pernod Ricard, the distillery is now owned by Diageo. Whoever the owner is, it is hard to fault the Black Bush, especially hot with a hint of clove and a wee teaspoon of honey, oh!, and a winters night.
Bushmills has some wonderful examples of period architecture along its streets, it is also fortunate in having an example of work by the famous architect Clough Williams-Ellis who designed the Old Grammer School and also the Causeway School. The river though, will always be a focal point to the village and a reminder of its past heritage. Today Palmer's Mill, one of the two remaining mills of the village has been renovated back to its original condition with a meticulous eye to detail. It looks exactly the same today as it would have done one hundred years ago when horses and carts would bring grain in from the surrounding farms. The renovation stands as a credit to its owner and and excellent example of how heritage and modern needs can work together within a conservation area. On the opposite bank another mill has been restored to its former glory with only a wheel needing to be replaced to complete it. Behind the town's listed frontages lie many 'still to be preserved' and perhaps some the most 'important' examples of the villages heritage - stables, tailor lofts, coach yards, walled gardens, archways and even a Georgian farmyard. A Townscape Heritage Initiative will hopefully help bring back even more of the architectural heritage of the village. The old Court House and Legion Hall, formerly a schoolhouse are both on the way to being renovated by their owner.
Another well known attraction of the village along with the distillery is the salmon, each year these ocean travellers navigate their way across the Atlantic ocean back to the Bush. How they find their way still remains a natural mystery but if you enjoy watching salmon jumping over rushing torrents of water then a visit to the Walkmill Falls is well worth taking - here the salmon encounter the biggest obstacle on their long journey home. Years ago the salmon would have been caught by net between the two bridges and some local elder's can remember the banks being lined 'silver with fish', nowadays the runs are not so abundant, the stocks are physically under threat from netting and over fishing in the north Atlantic while biologically they are threatened by the introduction of escaped farmed salmon. The village is recognised as the gateway to the Giants Causeway and is in the process of developing a cultural tourism strategy that will see the two current festivals, The Causeway Hammered ,Dulcimer Festival and the Finn MacCool Festival developed, with two more festivals being introduced during the Autumn and Spring. The Ulster Scots tongue is part of everyday life in the village, this is marked and celebrated by the Alphabet Angel, a bronze figure created by the sculpture Ross Wilson through a community lead project. The first physical marker to the tongue in Europe if not the world.
Bushmills was formerly known as Portcaman, it developed with water powered industries of the 1600's to became one of the main centre's for corn, flax, spade and whiskey production. The river once powered seven mills along its stretch through the village, one of the first mills in County Antrim existed here. The Diamond area is typical of many old traditional Ulster towns and villages where the corners are gathering places for the exchange of news and banter, a way of life that passes silently from one generation to another. As it does in many Ulster villages, The War Memorial stands in tribute to the young men who left these same corners and rural fields never to return. Their story and bravery told by only a few who returned, like Robert Quigg V.C. from the townland of Ardihannon. The village has a unique North Antrim quality and is recognised as being authentic in the Ulster Scots tongue, the 'Alphabet Angel' one of the world's first physical markers to the tongue was created with the community by the sculptor Ross Wilson and was unveiled in 2004. A walk along the Main Street will reveal the odd shop or bar that can only be described as living heritage. Designated a conservation area and with over ninety listed buildings. The community hopes this will be enough to conserve the unique character of Bushmills for generations to come and keep developers within enforced guidelines.