I confess. I got selfish when I created this celebration of Belfast’s historic Queen’s Quarter for the Ulster Museum. It features my favourite Sunday afternoon haunts.
Walk inside the places pictured here and you’ll discover dinosaurs, mummies, modern art, exotic tropical plants, theatre, live music, cakes, cinnamon trees, steam engines, even daffodils in December. Best of all, hidden, overlooked gems of Belfast. Like the teeny tiny graveyard at Friar’s Bush, tucked away, forgotten. People hurry past and hardly know it’s there.
Unlike the big star - the Tropical Ravine. This sunken glen has been a city attraction since 1889, and in its previous dripping and misty version, an atmospheric film location. The recent restoration took three years, but the banana trees from my childhood are still thriving, happier than ever in their high-tech triple-glazed luxury accommodation.
The palatial Botanic Gardens Palm House is yet another Charles Lanyon showstopper – the architect synonymous with Victorian Belfast. His 1839 glasshouse is one of the earliest of its kind (curvilinear, cast iron) and the perfect balmy blooming oasis on a dreary winter day.
As for the Ulster Museum; the contrast of brutalist modern and Victorian detail shouldn’t work, but it does!
Now all the Quarter’s greatest hits, new and old, are together in a mug on sale at the Ulster Museum. I love the clash of shapes, textures and materials – glass, concrete, brick, stone.
Some of these places are venues for The Belfast International Arts Festival, October 15th to November 3rd. Grab the chance to get inside!