Daily Archives: March 6, 2011

A Tour of Ireland ~ Episode 23

Belfast Part 2 and surrounding areas.

The Odyssey Complex at the Titanic Quarter, is home to the W5 exhibition, Imax cinema, sporting, concert, ice rink, and ice hockey arena.  It is home to the Belfast Giants.  Located on the bank of the River Lagan, it is the Northern Ireland Landmark Millennium Project and provides spectacular views of Belfast and the River and is only a short walk from Belfast City Centre.

The Ulster Orchestra was formed in 1966 and it has established itself as one of the major symphony orchestras in the United Kingdom. Its main concert season takes place in the Ulster Hall and the Belfast Waterfront Hall.

From its earliest years The Ulster Hall has played host to famous figures of the age; from Jenny Lind and Caruso to Charles Dickens and John McCormack, from Lord Carson and the Dalai Lama to Barry McGuigan and the Rolling Stones.

The Mulholland Grand Organ in the Ulster Hall, is named in honour of former Lord Mayor of Belfast, Andrew Mulholland, who donated it to the hall in the 1860s. It was built by William Hill & Son and donated after the hall was officially opened. In the late 1970s, the organ was extensively restored to Hill’s own original design.  During World War II, the Ulster Hall was used extensively as a dance hall providing entertainment for the US troops based in the province. Mysteriously, a shipment of American white oak planking arrived in Belfast to refurbish the dance floor.

Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Bangor Road, Cultra, Co Down, is set in over 170 acres of rolling countryside, in the grounds of Cultra Manor.  This outdoor museum tells the story of life in early 20th century Ulster.  It is home to almost 50 exhibits that have been restored and authentically furnished. Visitors are free to wander through former Ulster homes, which include a thatched cottage, a rectory and a terraced house. A church, schoolhouse, water powered mills and many other buildings give a vivid picture of the past. The Transport  exhibits range from historic Titanic photographs to a 120 ton steel schooner, vertical take-off Short’s SC1 to a Belfast-built De Lorean sports car.   Together they form one of the largest and widest ranging transport collections in Europe – a collection that is of national and international importance.

The Hill family built the village of Hillsborough, starting with the fort in 1650.  It is a fine example of an artillery fort, but with pretty additions in the 18th Century.  The village is renowned for its beautiful castle, its fine restaurants and Georgian houses.  Many of the buildings in the village date from the 18th century. St Malachy’s Parish Church was built by the Marquis of Downshire between 1760 and 1774 in the hope that it would become the Cathedral of Down.  There is also a forest park with many walks running through it and a lake which is popular with anglers.  You can just spend a day walking round the village looking at the many beautiful and historical buildings, pop into one of the many village shops, to the coffee shops or even have a pub lunch washed down by a pint of the Black Stuff.   Hillsborough Castle is a late 18th Century mansion house used as a venue for government hospitality and to accommodate significant guests to Northern Ireland.  Members of the Royal family are regular visitors to Hillsborough Castle.

Crawfordsburn Country Park at Helen’s Bay is situated on the southern shores of Belfast Lough. It is full of variety, featuring 3.5.km of coastline, often rugged and rocky, the two best beaches in the Belfast area, a deep wooded glen with an impressive waterfall at its head, a pond and wildflower meadows with excellent views over the Lough. The Park also includes Grey Point Fort, a coastal battery and gun emplacement dating from early this century and updated during World War 2.
Nearby the Old Inn, Crawfordsburn is one of the Oldest Hotels in Ireland the perfect spot for a Victorian Tea beautifully presented in traditional old fashioned style for a little afternoon treat.


Moving back through the City to the north side of Belfast Lough, and on to Carrickfergus.

Carrickfergus Castle is one of Northern Ireland’s most striking monuments whether you approach it from land, sea, or air. With over 800 years of history behind it. today it is open to the public.  Apart from its initial construction, there have been a number of alterations to the castle over the course of its history.  After use as a prison in the 18th century it was further strengthened and served as a magazine and armoury until 1928. Cannons from the 17th to 19th centuries are on show in the castle, while the keep houses historical and other displays.

Andrew Jackson Cottage at 2 Boneybefore, Carrickfergus, is the ancestral home of Andrew Jackson, 7th US President 1829-1837.  A US Rangers’ Centre, in the grounds of the Jackson Centre, has an exhibition on the First Battalion US Rangers, raised in Carrickfergus in 1942

Patterson Spade Mill at Templepatrick, is now in the hands of the National Trust and it is where you can hear the hammers, smell the grit and feel the heat of traditional spade-making. Guided tours vividly capture life during the Industrial Revolution.  You might discover the origin of the phrase ‘a face as long as a Lurgan spade’.

The historic Borough of Antrim retains much of its natural beauty and boasts a wealth of natural attractions.  Lough Neagh and its tributary rivers provide opportunities for water-sports, scenic walks and some of Northern Ireland’s best kept angling secrets.
Antrim Castle Gardens & Clothworthy House. Clotworthy Arts Centre was built in the 1840s as a coach house and stables for Antrim Castle. It was once the centre of a thriving farm and consists of an enclosed central courtyard flanked by two wings built in a neo-Tudor style. It has been restored as an arts centre providing exhibition and meeting spaces.
Shane’s Castle was the family seat of the O’Neills of Clandeboy. It has recently been sold.  The link will tell you about the restoration work.

Antrim Round Tower was built around the 10th century and is one of the finest of its kind in Ireland. It is 28 metres tall and was built as part of a monastic settlement.

Pogue’s Entry – this historic corner of 18th century Antrim contains the childhood home of Alexander Irvine, who became a missionary in New York’s Bowery and eventually pastor of the Church of the Ascension on Fifth Avenue. His book “My Lady of The Chimney Corner” recalls his boyhood years in Pogue’s Entry and describes the lives of Irish country folk during the post-famine days.

Cranfield Holy Well on the shores of Lough Neagh at Churchtown Point lie the ruins of an ancient 13th century Irish Church and St Olcan’s Holy Shrine. Within a few yards east of the church is a holy well, which provides fine spring water and amber coloured pebbles. Pilgrims who visited collected seven ordinary stones to count ‘the rounds’. They recited prayers and walked barefoot seven times round the church, dropping one stone at the door each time. This was repeated seven times around the well. When all the rounds were completed the pilgrim bathed in water from the well.

On a hilltop close to Doagh is a Bronze Age megalith known as The Holestone.  Couples used to promise marriage by clasping hands through the hole in the stone. There is a legend regarding a black horse that inhabits the field in which the holestone is situated. According to this legend a young couple were married at the stone, but the groom committed an act of adultery on their wedding night. For this act he was cursed by the stone to spend eternity as a horse, never dying, and never able to leave that field.

Nick this map of Lough Neagh looks like you can drive all the way round the Lough.