Exploring Northern Ireland
Jessica Juckes, International Training Programme Assistant
I spent last weekend in and around Belfast, sampling some of the sites that ITP fellows will get to know when visiting our new UK Partner, National Museums Northern Ireland.
On Saturday, I took a coastal tour of the Antrim coast, stopping at:
Carrickfergus Castle (a Norman Castle from 1177, which is one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland)
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (a National Trust site with a beautiful 1km coastal walk and a very high rope bridge that used to be used for salmon fishing)
The Giant’s Causeway (Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site, also looked after by the National Trust)
The landscape along the coast is truly stunning and we were blessed with a blue sky all day!
The Giant’s Causeway is an amazing feat of nature, comprising 40,000 tessellating hexagonal basalt columns formed by volcanic and geological activity. Legend says that it was formed by the Irish giant Finn McCool, who was fighting Scottish giant Benandonner! The National Trust opened a new visitor centre in 2012, which mirrors the tubular basalt hexagons of the Causeway and cuts impressively into the landscape so as to be hidden from the coastline. Visitors can learn more about the Causeway in the museum and by borrowing an audio guide, with a choice of general or geology-focused tours.
On Sunday, I explored Belfast city further. In the morning, I sought shelter from the rain in the Palm House in the Botanic Gardens, visited the Ulster Museum again to have a closer look at its art collection, and ate at St George’s Victorian covered market. In the afternoon, I walked around the Falls and Shankill Road areas in West Belfast, communities that suffered in the Troubles and still currently have Peace Line walls dividing the traditionally Republican and Loyalist neighbourhoods. Some walls have already come down or been altered and those remaining are scheduled to be removed by 2023. I then visited the MAC Belfast (Metropolitan Arts Centre) to see their current Gilbert & George exhibition.
I was totally captivated by this amazing city and can’t wait to return for the Museums Association conference in October!