A few months go I had the brightest idea whilst walking around Belfast. Why don’t I organise a bloggers photo walk to meet some new people! Spurred on by Neil I put some feelers out on Instagram to see who would like to come along. I got a good response and I started looking at where we could head on our walk. The walk soon turned from a picture walk and coffee to a history tour, coffee and photograph walk.
I have always been fascinated in Belfast but when I thought about it I know a lot about the political aspects of the town, the troubles, the arguments but I haven’t really looked at the town before the “troubles” During my education in history the focus was really on the troubled past of Northern Ireland and I hadn’t really learned much about the the town prior to that. From my research I have discovered a new found love of the city of Belfast, how it became a town, the people who played key roles in making it the place we live in and love today. ( If you have never been to Belfast you need to pay us a visit! I might even be free to take you on a little history walk)
Belfast became a city in 1888. (100 years before I was born.. That’s bound to be relevant right?) The original settlement of Belfast was small and was in the beginning a village. It was a small settlement of people and the original town was around the modern day junction where Victoria street meets high street. This is where you would find the Albert memorial clock now a days.
As time went on the town begun to flourish and got bigger and bigger by the 1800’s it had become a town of merchants and industry. We were ( and still are ) famous for ship building, linen and tobacco production. The site of the town on the River Lagan and leading to the Belfast lough was perfect for export and imports via boat and it really was an ideal location for a thriving town. It then became the perfect location for ship building and Harland and wolff was set up in 1886. I love the history of Harland and Wolff and was told a few years ago that it was “amazing the cranes that built Titanic were still standing”…. Despite the fact that they were built in 1969 and 1974. Time travelling cranes?
Getting city status from queen Victoria in 1888 was a big deal for the city and and by 1901 Belfast was the largest city in Ireland. Our city hall then was constructed and competed in 1906, the architect for the City hall was Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas The design and structure of the city hall was an inspiration to another architect Stanley G Hudson who went on to Build an almost identical replica of our city hall as the city hall in Durban in South Africa, the town had wanted a progressive and bold design and the design submitted by Hudson won. The only two differences between the city halls is the furnishings and the surrounding gardens as Belfast is a more opulent interior and a larger green space around it with memorials.
So I need to talk about the newest man in my life… Charles Lanyon. This man is becoming my idol (he’s sort of neck and neck with the character of Ron swanson from parks and recreations … watch it it’s so good!) Lanyon was Forward thinking, artistic and he practically designed Belfast. I had always wondered about the lanyon building in queens and kind of knew it was named after the man who designed it. We had a walk a few weeks ago around the queens and Botanic area, I had read a little plaque about Lanyon… then Naturally I googled him. He literally fascinates me. Born in Eastbourne in 1813 he moved to northern Ireland and contributed some of the finest pieces of architecture to our city, some would argue within the whole of the uk ( to be fair it’s probably me arguing that fact)
His works include the Lanyon building of Queens university, The Crumlin Road Jail, the Crumlin Road Courthouse, The Belfast customs house, Belfast Castle, the Theological college and one of my favourites, The Palm house in Botanic gardens. So he is pretty much a big deal.
The palm house in Botanic gardens in Belfast was built in 1840 and it takes my breath away every time I see it. I love walking into the gardens on a sunny day, walking along the path towards the palm house and as you get closer it and all its glory comes into view, it really is a site to behold and also It is a very rare piece of architecture. It is a curvilinear iron and glass structure and is one of the best kept and oldest examples of this in the whole world. When I think of how much it has withstood through the years it is awe inspiring , a simple glass house, designed to perfection, withstanding change, industrialisation and terror in a city that has had its ups and downs and it is still around today in all its glory, it is our heritage, our history and it is beautiful. Neil and I even chose this spot for our wedding photographs. Next time you pass the palm house, stop and have a look at how amazing it really is, both inside and out.
So back to my walking tour. The tour took us from the spirit of Belfast to the Jaffe fountain, around to the beacon of hope, the big fish, the Albert clock, transport house and the cathedral quarter. I had an amazing time with all the lovely ladies who came along on the tour and I was so happy to have imparted some of my belfast related wisdom to them. The tour tells you all about the places we visit, how and why they came to be. I talk about the royal connection to our city, Finn Mc cool, time capsules, Belfast red light district and farting. All very exciting and fun things to discuss.
I really enjoyed the tour and I will be holding another one in the summer looking at the same spots and I have also begun to put together a Titanic bloggers tour and a tour of the murals of Belfast ( they are under constructions!)
I am not a tour guide but I do love meeting new people and taking them out to take some photos, to learn and engage with our beautiful city. So if anyone fancies joining in on the next tour let me know and I will get organising some more dates. I have had lots of people asking about how much it is to come along and they are free. I am not doing the tours for any financial gain. I am doing them to meet new bloggers and instagrammers, to learn more about the city I love and to generally just have some fun.