2021 is the Year of Homecoming, a year in which Northern Ireland can welcome the world to take part in a unique celebration of all that the country has to offer. With events across the country, 2021 gives us the opportunity to showcase our rich culture and heritage, great minds and innovators, food and drink, sports and entertainment, and of course our spectacular scenery.

If you are planning on visiting Northern Ireland during the Homecoming 2021 here are just some of the fantastic places you will not want to miss.

The Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges is an avenue of beech trees along Bregagh Road between Armoy and Stranocum in County Antrim. The trees form an atmospheric tunnel that has been used as a location in HBO's popular television series Game of Thrones, which has resulted in the avenue becoming a popular tourist attraction.

In about 1775 James Stuart built a new house, named Gracehill House after his wife Grace Lynd. Over 150 beech trees were planted along the entrance road to the estate, to create an imposing approach.

According to legend, the hedges are visited by a ghost called the Grey Lady, who travels the road and flits across it from tree to tree. She is claimed to be either the spirit of James Stuart's daughter (named "Cross Peggy") or one of the house's maids who died mysteriously, or a spirit from an abandoned graveyard beneath the fields, who on Halloween is joined on her visitation by other spirits from the graveyard.

The Dark Hedges were used as a filming location for the "King's Road" in the television series Game of Thrones. The trees have also been used in the 2017 Transformers film The Last Knight.

A tree preservation order was placed on the trees in 2004, to enable preservation and maintenance, and in 2009 the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust was set up. Of the 150 trees originally planted by the Stuart family, about 90 remained by 2016.

A survey in 2014 revealed that the trees are in various states of health and are at risk in bad weather. Two trees were destroyed, and one damaged, by Storm Gertrude in January 2016. Another tree came down in Storm Doris in February 2017. A tree toppled during Storm Hector in June 2018, and another came down during strong winds in January 2019.

As visitor numbers have increased, concern has been expressed over vehicular traffic damaging the trees' roots, as well as problems of graffiti.

The Woodland Trust has stated that high traffic levels might cause the trees, which are surface rooting, to last less than twenty years.

In 2017 the Department of Infrastructure announced plans to close the road to traffic, due to visitor numbers causing possible damage and degradation to the site. A ban on traffic using the road (between its junctions with Ballinlea Road and Ballykenver Road) came into place on 30 October 2017. Specified exemptions to the ban include emergency and agricultural vehicles in particular circumstances. Free parking is available at the local hotel.

The site is included in a list of the 12 best road trips in the UK and Ireland.

The Giants Causeway

The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the north coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles (4.8 km) northeast of the town of Bushmills.

It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 and a national nature reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant's Causeway was named the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom.

The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres (92 ft) thick in places.

Much of the Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site is owned and managed by the National Trust. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland, receiving over 998,000 visitors in 2019.

HMS Caroline

HMS Caroline is a decommissioned C-classlight cruiser of the Royal Navy that saw combat service in the First World War and served as an administrative centre in the Second World War. Caroline was launched and commissioned in 1914.

Caroline was the last remaining British First World War light cruiser in service, and she is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland still afloat. She is also one of only three surviving Royal Navy warships of the First World War, along with the 1915 monitor HMS M33 (in Portsmouth dockyard), and the Flower-class sloop HMS President, (formerly HMS Saxifrage) usually moored on the Thames at Blackfriars but as from February 2016, in Number 3 Basin, Chatham.

At the time of her decommissioning in 2011 she was the second-oldest ship in Royal Navy service, after HMS Victory.

She served as a static headquarters and training ship for the Royal Naval Reserve, based in Alexandra Dock, Belfast, for the later stages of her career. She was later converted into a museum ship.

From October 2016 she underwent inspection and repairs to her hull at Harland and Wolff and opened to the public on 1st July 2017 at Alexandra Dock in the Titanic Quarter in Belfast.

Floral Hall

One of Belfast’s best-loved but nearly forgotten buildings, the Floral Hall has a long and illustrious history as a place of entertainment and romance. Built in the mid-1930s it is a beautiful modernist dance hall. As the city’s pre-eminent entertainment venue for over thirty five years, loves, romances and marriages were born here. Generations danced here, or in later years, came to see Pink Floyd, or the roller discos. Public affection is strong and is rooted in this social history.

Situated on the slopes of Cave Hill overlooking Belfast Lough, the building is today sited within the grounds of Belfast Zoo. When it was constructed, it formed the centrepiece of the Bellvue Gardens. These had been laid out by Belfast Corporation at the terminus of the Belfast tram lines. They were to be a destination attraction and were a way of encouraging people to use the trams.

Bellvue Pleasure Gardens played host to band performances, open-air dancing, concert parties, amusements and fireworks. They made such an impression that they were described as a”unique possession amongst the municipal corporations of the British Isles” and soon became known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. In 1933 the Corporation added a small zoological collection, again hoping to increase use of the trams.

The first proposal to build a dance hall on the Bellvue site was made in 1933. Plans were drawn up and costed at £21,900 but the plan was abandoned for cost reasons. Within a year a dance hall was back on the agenda. Designed by D.W. Boyd, Floral Hall was built and furnished by the firm of J. & R. Taggart at a cost of £14,520.

Opened on May 4th 1936, with its blue and gold interior colour scheme, tangerine entrance hall, and seating capacity for 1000 people, the Floral Hall quickly become a hugely popular venue. Over 130,000 people used the building in 1947 alone. It continued to be a popular venue into the 1960s when show bands frequented the building on a weekly basis. People travelled from all over Northern Ireland to dance in the Floral Hall.

Work began on the new zoo site in 1974, by which time the Floral Hall had become a tired building. A decline in the popularity of dance halls in general, as well as the impact of “The Troubles,” meant that visitor numbers fell sharply. Proposals were raised to convert the Floral Hall into a restaurant and wedding venue in 1973 but it was never taken forward. The building subsequently closed shortly thereafter. Despite its key location, the building has been closed to the public since, being used occasionally as a store room for animal feed. Whilst needing considerable work it is easy to imagine the atmosphere of a Big Band on stage and the dance floor filled with revellers as you walk through the ticket booths into the main arena.

BBT has been in negotiations with Belfast City Council about the possibility of restoring Floral Hall to its former glory. Plans have progressed and Council is keen to see the building restored. Discussions are now centred on the possibility of providing a wedding and conference facility alongside an education facility for the zoo that would help with regeneration in north Belfast. In advance of this, the Trust is launching an oral history project to gather and document the memories associated with Floral Hall and to capture the public’s affection for the building.

Barrys Amusements

Barry's Amusements is an amusement park in Northern Ireland. It is situated in the centre of Portrush, County Antrim, on the north coast. It is a popular family attraction for visitors to the area.

In 1925, travelling members of the Chipperfield and Trufelli circus families were invited by the local railway company to permanently locate in Portrush on a site beside the railway station.

The name 'Barry's' is based on an early supplier (Barr). Barry's maintains a mixture of traditional and modern amusements.

Barry's has a long-standing reputation of providing jobs for teenagers in the local area; rides are operated by older members of staff but the ride attendants are mostly school going teenagers.

Enniskillen Castle

Enniskillen Castle is situated in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. It was originally built in the 16th century and now houses the Fermanagh County Museum and the regimental museum of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards.

The first Enniskillen castle was built on this site by Hugh Maguire in 1428. It featured greatly in Irish rebellions against English rule in the 16th century. It was besieged by Captain John Dowdall's troops at the start of 1594 and fell on 2 February after a short siege, when the occupants were massacred after they surrendered. The castle was again under siege later that year but was relieved. The fortress finally fell to the irish in 1595. The castle remained in Irish hands until it fell to the crown's Irish ally, Niall Garve O'Donnell in the summer of 1602. Captain William Cole remodelled and refurbished the castle adding the riverside tower at the south, known as the Watergate, in 1609. The castle was remodelled as "Castle Barracks" as part of the response to a threat of a French invasion in 1796. Castle Barracks became the home of the 27th Regiment of Foot in 1853. The regiment moved to purpose-built facilities at St Lucia Barracks, Omagh in 1875 and evolved, after amalgamation, to become the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 1881.

The barracks continued to be used by other regiments and, from November 1939, they became to home of the North Irish Horse, a Territorial Army unit. The barracks were decommissioned in 1950 and were converted for use as council depot. The castle was subsequently opened to the public as a heritage centre.

The Castle provided the main defence for the west end of the town and guarded the Sligo road. It consists of two sections, a central tower keep and a curtain wall which was strengthened with small turrets called Bartizans. The design of the castle has strong Scottish influences. This can be particularly seen in the Watergate, which features two corbelled circular tourelles which were built about 1609. It is a State Care Historic Monument.

The castle is now home to the Fermanagh County Museum, which focuses on the county's history, culture and natural history. Exhibits include the area's prehistory, natural history, traditional rural life, local crafts and Belleek Pottery, and history of the castle. It also contains information on the Maguire family. The castle also houses the Inniskillings Museum, which is the regimental museum of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards.

Enniskillen has been named as one of the most welcoming places in the UK for a second year, courtesy of Booking.com's Traveller Review Awards 2021.

Ulster Tower

Ulster Tower 100

1921 - 2021

The Ulster Tower is Northern Ireland's national war memorial. It was one of the first Memorials to be erected on the Western Front and commemorates the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division and all those from Ulster who served in the First World War. The memorial was officially opened on 19th November 1921 and is a very close copy of Helen's Tower which stands in the grounds of the Clandeboye Estate, near Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland. Many of the men of the Ulster Division trained in the estate before moving to England and then France early in 1916.

The Division attacked the Schwaben Redoubt, which is near the Ulster Tower, on 1 July 1916. The Schwaben Redoubt was a little to the north-east of where the tower stands, and was a triangle of trenches with a frontage of 300 yards, a fearsome strongpoint with commanding views. It is also located close to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

The front lines were at the edge of Thiepval Wood which lies to the south-west of the road between the Thiepval Memorial and the Ulster Tower. Troops of the 109th Brigade crossed about 400 yards of no man's land, and kept on going. They entered the Schwaben Redoubt, and advanced on towards Stuff Redoubt, gaining in all around a mile, though not without losses. To their left, the 108th Brigade were successful in advancing near Thiepval, but less so nearer the River Ancre.

The 107th Brigade supported them, but although men of the 36th Division held out for the day the Germans mounted counterattacks, and as their stocks of bombs and ammunition dwindled, many fell back with small parties remaining in the German front lines. The casualties suffered by the 36th Division on 1 July totalled over 5,000.

At the entrance to the tower is a plaque commemorating the names of the nine men of the Division who won the Victoria Cross during the Somme. There is also a memorial here commemorating the part played by members of the Orange Order during the battle. The inscription on this memorial reads:

"This Memorial is Dedicated to the Men and Women of the Orange Institution Worldwide, who at the call of King and country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of man by the path of duty and self sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in Freedom. Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten."

The memorial tower was designed by architects Albert Leigh Abbott and J.A. Bowden.

It was unveiled by Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson at a ceremony on 19 November 1921. The Tower was dedicated by the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, the Primate of the Church of Ireland, and the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland. It stands 70 feet high with an avenue of trees marking the boundary of its grounds. These trees were planted by survivors of the 36th (Ulster) Division.

CS Lewis Square

C.S. Lewis Square is one of Northern Ireland’s most exciting new public spaces and is part of the Connswater Community Greenway in East Belfast celebrating Belfast born author, C.S. Lewis.

Completed in November 2016, C.S. Lewis Square features over 300 trees and 7 statues inspired by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Irish artist Maurice Harron.

The Connswater Community Greenway is a 16km path connecting people and places along the course of the Connswater, Knock and Loop rivers. The project was developed by EastSide Partnership and delivered in conjunction with Belfast City Council.

Mussenden Temple

Mussenden Temple is a small circular building located on cliffs near Castlerock in County Londonderry, high above the Atlantic Ocean on the north-western coast of Northern Ireland.

Perched on the cliffs overlooking Downhill Strand, it was once possible to drive a carriage around the temple: however, coastal erosion has brought the edge closer to the building. The temple was built in 1785 and forms part of the Downhill Demesne. The demesne was formerly part of the estate of Frederick, 4th Earl of Bristol, who served as the Church of Ireland Lord Bishop of Derry from 1768 until 1803. It was Lord Bristol – popularly known as "the Earl-Bishop" – who had the "temple" built. Constructed as a library and modelled from the Temple of Vesta in the Forum Romanum in Rome, it is dedicated to the memory of Bishop Lord Bristol's cousin Frideswide Mussenden.

Over the years the erosion of the cliff face at Downhill has brought Mussenden Temple ever closer to the edge, and in 1997 The National Trust carried out cliff stabilisation work to prevent the loss of the building.

The inscription around the building reads:

"Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis

e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem."

"Tis pleasant, safely to behold from shore

The troubled sailor, and hear the tempests roar."

The quotation is from Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, 2.1–2.

Named in honour of his niece, whom he referred to as his "cher cousin", Mrs. Frideswide Mussenden, whose beauty he greatly admired, this was the Bishop's library. Its walls were once lined with bookcases. A fire was kept burning constantly in the basement. This and its enclosed flue meant that, even in this very exposed location, the books never got damp.

"I intend to build a Grecian temple in Frideswide's honour...I intend to build it on the edge of a cliff. It will give employment to the poor, to the district and employment." The Earl Bishop was clearly heart broken when Frideswide died. His notes on the building state that it was based on Bramante's Tempietto on Rome's Janiculum hill, which itself based on the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli near Rome. The building was probably the work of Micheal Shanahan who accompanied the Earl Bishop on one of his many visits to Italy.

Now part of The National Trust property of Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne, the grounds encompassing Mussenden Temple, and its manor house (Downhill Castle) are open to the public all year, from dawn to dusk. The "Temple" offers views westwards over Downhill Strand towards Magilligan Point and on across to Inishowen in County Donegal; and to the east, Castlerock beach towards Portstewart, Portrush and Fair Head.

The temple obtained a licence to hold civil wedding ceremonies in 2007.

The nearest station is Castlerock railway station.


The SS Nomadic is a former tender of the White Star Line, launched on 25 April 1911 in Belfast now on display in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. She was built to transfer passengers and mail to and from RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic, and is the only surviving White Star Line vessel in existence today.

Nomadic was one of two vessels commissioned by the White Star Line in 1910 to tender for their new ocean liners RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic, which were too large to dock in Cherbourg harbour. She and her running mate SS Traffic ferried passengers, their baggage, mail and ship's supplies to and from large ocean liners moored offshore. It is the only surviving vessel designed by Thomas Andrews who also designed the RMS Titanic.

The keel of Nomadic was laid down in the Harland and Wolff shipyards, Belfast in 1910 (yard number 422). She was built on slipway No. 1 alongside RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic, which were constructed on slipways 2 and 3, of the Arrol Gantry, respectively. She was launched on 25 April 1911 and delivered to the White Star Line on 27 May, following sea trials.

The ship is 230 feet (70 m) long overall and 37 feet (11 m) wide, with a gross registered tonnage of 1,273 tons. Propulsion was provided by two single-ended coal-fired boilers and two compound steam engines, each driving two triple-bladed propellers of 7 feet (2.1 m) in diameter, which gave a service speed of 12 knots (14 mph; 22 km/h).

Nomadic is of steel construction, with steel frames, beams, bulkheads and riveted hull plating. She had four working decks with various hold spaces beneath. She could carry up to 1,000 passengers when fully loaded.

Passenger accommodation consisted of lower and upper deck passenger lounges and open deck areas on the bridge and flying bridge decks. The vessel was divided into first and second class passenger areas, with first class passengers enjoying the fore areas of the ship. A small area in the aft end of the lower deck was assigned for overspill of third-class passengers from SS Traffic.

Internally, Nomadic was fitted out to a similar standard as the liners Olympic and Titanic, which she was built to serve. As such, she had more luxuries than most tenders of her day, with cushioned benches, tables, porcelain water fountains, sex-specific bathrooms and a buffet bar. She contained ornate decorative joinery and plasterwork, particularly in the first class lounges of the ship.

Nomadic was built in the United Kingdom, but as she was operated in French coastal waters by a French crew, she had a number of peculiarities, such as imperial and metric draft marks on opposing sides of the hull.

Nomadic arrived in Cherbourg on 3 June 1911 to begin her tendering duties for the White Star Line. On 10 April 1912 she transported 274 passengers to RMS Titanic for the liner's maiden voyage, including New York millionaire John Jacob Astor IV with his new wife Madeleine, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife, couturière, Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, American journalist and United States Army officer Archibald Butt, Denver millionairess Margaret Brown, and mining tycoon Benjamin Guggenheim.

During World War I and until 1919, Nomadic was requisitioned by the French government, and she saw service as an auxiliary minesweeper, also ferrying American troops to and from the harbour in Brest (France). After the war, she returned to her tendering duties, but in 1927 she was sold and continued to tender under the ownership of the Compagnie Cherbourgeoise de Transbordement.

Following the 1934 merger of White Star and Cunard Line and the opening of the enlarged port at Cherbourg, Nomadic ceased her tendering duties. She was sold to the Société Cherbourgeoise de Sauvetage et de Remorquage (SCSR or Cherbourg Tow & Rescue Society) and renamed Ingenieur Minard.

During World War II, Nomadic again saw service; on 18 June 1940 she took part in the evacuation of Cherbourg. She was subsequently requisitioned by the Royal Navy and based in Portsmouth harbour; she operated as an accommodation ship.

During the war, Cherbourg port was heavily damaged, so large ocean liners could no longer dock there. Nomadic was saved from the shipbreakers and again returned to tendering duties for the SCSR from Cherbourg. She served the ocean liners of the day, such as Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. She finally retired from these duties on 4 November 1968.

Nomadic lay idle for five years but was subsequently bought by a private individual, Yvon Vincent, saving her from scrap once again. She was extensively converted into a floating restaurant and function vessel, and in October 1974 was relocated to the Seine in Paris. A depiction of Nomadic was briefly seen alongside the Titanic in Cherbourg in James Cameron's 1997 film Titanic. By 1999, the business was in financial difficulties and Nomadic was seized by the Paris harbour authorities in 2002. The authorities removed some of Nomadic's superstructure to tow her below the Seine's bridges. On 1 April 2002 she was towed out of Paris to Le Havre.

Following Vincent's death in March 2005, the authorities sought to dispose of the vessel and attempted to find a buyer for Nomadic, if no buyer was found, she risked being sold for scrap value. On learning of her fate, heritage and maritime enthusiasts (including the French Titanic Society, Belfast Industrial Heritage, Belfast Titanic Society and the Save Nomadic appeal) began campaigns to raise funds to buy the vessel. These campaigns were well supported by the public, particularly in Northern Ireland, but were unable to raise sufficient funds to meet Nomadic's reserve price.

The campaigns, however, gained political and governmental support, and on 26 January 2006, the Northern Ireland government Department for Social Development bought the vessel at auction.

SS Nomadic left Le Havre to return to Belfast on 12 July 2006, and arrived close to where she was built, on 18 July 2006. The vessel was welcomed back by the Department for Social Development Minister, David Hanson MP and the Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Belfast, Councillor Ruth Patterson and a number of well-wishers. Nomadic arrived "piggy backed" on a marine transportation barge, which had been contracted by the department.

A study by Belfast City Council estimated the cost of restoring Nomadic at £7 million. The NCS has subsequently secured funding in excess of £6.5 million; major benefactors include the UK Heritage Lottery fund, EU Peace III fund, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Belfast City Council and Ulster Garden Villages.

In August 2008, Nomadic was considered by National Historic Ships and was entered into the National Register of Historic Vessels as part of the National Historic Fleet. This recognises Nomadic's historic significance as the register includes a list of vessels, including Cutty Sark, Mary Rose and the Royal Yacht Britannia.

In August 2009 Nomadic was moved to Hamilton Graving Dock, on Queen's Road, Belfast. This dry dock, itself a piece of maritime heritage, was partly refurbished in a joint partnership between the Belfast Harbour Commission and Titanic Quarter Ltd. The dock is believed to be where Nomadic was originally fitted out and has now been leased as a permanent location for Nomadic.

By late 2009 the NCS had sufficient funding to begin major conservation and restoration works. In February 2010, major works commenced with external blasting and priming of the steel hull, preventing further deterioration of the steelwork.

In February 2011, Harland and Wolff were appointed by the NCS to undertake steelwork restoration and repair, rekindling a 100-year link with the ship's original builders. The value of the contract was £2 million and included re-creation of the missing bridge and flying bridge decks, hull repairs and painting of the vessel in her original White Star Line livery. These works were completed in February 2012. The ship is still not fully restored, most notably the forward mast and subsequent rigging is still missing, although it is to be installed at a later date.

The final phase of restoration works includes conservation and restoration of the luxurious interior, featuring plaster panelling and ornate joinery. Original SS Nomadic timber panelling was purchased from a French museum by the Nomadic Preservation Society, using funds raised during the Save Nomadic appeal. The panelling has since been loaned to the NCS for sympathetic restoration and reinstatement back on board the vessel. This phase of works also includes restoration works to the historic Hamilton Graving Dock and pump house, converting the dock area and ship into a tourist attraction.

RISE (sculpture)

RISE is the official name given to the public art sculpture located at Broadway Roundabout in Belfast. However, it has been given unofficial, colloquial titles such as the "Balls of the Falls", "the Testes on the Westes" and "the Westicles". These names have been derived by both the sculptures location on Broadway Junction (located above the A12 Westlink and in close proximity to the Falls Road) and in reference to its shape made from two, spherical, metal structures.

The RISE sculpture was designed by Wolfgang Buttress and consists of a geodesic sphere suspended inside a larger, 30 m (98 ft) diameter sphere and stands at an overall height of 37.5 m (123 ft). Geodesic refers to the shortest path between two points on a curve so that in the case of the RISE sculpture, adjacent connections on each of the spheres are connected using straight bars, thereby minimising the distance between two points. At 3om wide and 37.5m tall, RISE is the biggest public art sculpture in Belfast.

RISE was commissioned by Belfast City Council and built in 2011 as part of a multimillion-pound road improvement programme. It now sits atop of the A12 Westlink Underpass where, according to a 2009 NI assembly report, sees approximately 80,000 cars on average flow past it each day.

The globe-shaped, white and silver steel sculpture is a representation of a new sun rising to celebrate a new chapter in the history of Belfast.[8] The inner sphere represents the sun rising over the bogs and the outer sphere represents the sun's halo, while the angled, steel supports are to represent the reeds of the bog meadows that extended more widely across the area before it was developed. Due to the Belfast's history of conflict and the location of the Westlink separating some of Belfast's unionist and nationalist communities, the sculpturer noted that it was important to design a sculpture that could be viewed in its 'roundness' from any angle and therefore any political or religious persuasion.

The sculptor encouraged input from local people living near the landmark sculpture, including the holding of creative workshops with groups from the Donegall Road and St James' areas of Belfast. This sculpture was favoured above others because of how it represents Belfast's positive outlook for a peaceful future. It was also favoured for its shape, which has neither a front or back but can be viewed equally from all angles.

Belfast City Council coordinated the plans for the new sculpture with strong support and funding from the Department for Social Development (Regeneration Directorate) and the National Lottery, through the Big Lottery Fund, through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland as well as advice and assistance from Department for Regional Development Roads Service.

Construction of the piece was challenging. The steel was fabricated by M Hasson and Sons Ltd in Rasharkin. GRAHAM Construction were appointed Principal Contractor and supervised the on site erection.

Work on RISE was due to begin in August 2009 and end in October 2009. However, due to delays the completion date was changed to March 2011. It was finally completed in September 2011, nearly two years behind the original schedule.

The artwork is made of two geodesic spheres supported on slender stanchions. The engineers, Price & Myers, made extensive use of the work done by Buckminster Fuller in the 1950s. The outer sphere has a geodesic frequency of 8. It required 1920 tubes to be bolted together. Tensigrity – another concept developed by Buckminster Fuller – is used to hold the inner sphere in position.

Buttress was selected after intense competition from more than 40 artists from the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and internationally.

There had been a previous competition and previous winner: Trillian by Ed Carpenter. However, plans were scrapped amid escalating steel costs, which threatened to raise the price of the sculpture, originally agreed at £400,000, to £600,000.

Originally, the sculpture concept was estimated at a cost of £400,000. This final cost was reported in the region of £486,000, with £330,000 coming from the Department for Social Development, £100,000 coming from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and £56,000 being supplied by Belfast City Council itself.

In October 2009 school children and senior citizens from across Belfast worked with New Belfast Community Arts Initiative, local writers and the artist, Buttress, to look at plans for RISE, and to learn more about creative expression through workshops. The workshops were designed to give people an insight into the process involved in creating the sculpture, to give an opportunity to reflect on what it symbolises for Belfast, and to offer their own creative insights in response.

For the most part, the RISE sculpture has been widely accepted. Others may express discontent over spending on arts. However, the realisation is that the £500,000 for the sculpture represented a cash-injection into the economy providing wages to local suppliers, fabricators and builders.

Glenarm Castle

Glenarm Castle, Glenarm, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, is the ancestral home of the Earls of Antrim.

There has been a castle at Glenarm since the 13th century, where it resides at the heart of one of Northern Ireland's oldest estates. It was owned by John Bisset who acquired lands between Larne and Ballycastle from Hugh de Lacy, the Earl of Ulster. Bisset made Glenarm his capital, and by 1260 there was a castle, which stood at the centre of the present village, with a kitchen garden, an orchard and a mill, as well as woods and meadows. The old village courthouse still incorporates some of its walls, indeed an immured skeleton was discovered there in the 1970s. In 1495 Con O'Donnell of Tirconnell marched on ‘MacEoin of the Glens’ (as the Bisset chieftain was called), ‘for he had been told that MacEoin had the finest wife, steed and hound in his neighbourhood. O'Donnell had sent messengers for the steed but was refused it so he made no delay, but surmounting the difficulties of every passage he arrived at night at MacEoin's house without giving any warning of his designs. He captured MacEoin and made himself master of his wife his steed and his hound'. The last MacEoin Bisset was killed fighting the O'Donnells in 1522. Their lands were then seized by the MacDonnells, their former partners, who occupied the Bisset's castle until they built the new one.

The present castle was built by Sir Randal MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim, in 1636, and it has remained in the family since its construction. It is currently owned by Randal, Viscount Dunluce, the son of Alexander McDonnell, 9th Earl of Antrim. The McDonnells have been in Glenarm for nearly 600 years and the Estate has been in the family for 400 years.

The Castle's Walled Garden is open to the public between May and September and hosts many events. In July of every year the grounds are the site of a world-class Highland Games. The Dalriada Festival is also held at Glenarm Castle and within the local village, which celebrates sport, music and fine food from all over Scotland and Ireland. The castle also hosts traditional Ulster Scots cultural events. As part of the Dalriada Festival, Glenarm Castle has started to host large outdoor concerts. As of 2012, it has welcomed artists like General Fiasco, The Priests, Duke Special, Ronan Keating, Sharon Corr, Brian Houston, David Phelps and the likes.

Summer Madness, Ireland's biggest Christian Festival, moved from its annual residence at the Kings Hall, Belfast, to Glenarm Castle in 2012. It is thought this festival will return to Glenarm on a yearly basis for the foreseeable future.

Glenarm Castle was used as a major location in Five Minutes of Heaven.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (locally pronounced carrick-a-reed) is a rope bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede (from Irish: Carraig a' Ráid, meaning 'rock of the casting'). It spans 20 metres (66 ft) and is 30 metres (98 ft) above the rocks below. The bridge is mainly a tourist attraction and is owned and maintained by the National Trust. In 2018, the bridge had 485,736 visitors. The bridge is open all year round (subject to weather) and people may cross it for a fee.

It is thought salmon fishermen have been building bridges to the island for over 350 years. It has taken many forms over the years. In the 1970s it had only one handrail and large gaps between the slats. A new bridge, tested up to ten tonnes, was built with the help of local climbers and abseilers in 2000. Another was built in 2004 and offered visitors and fishermen alike a much safer passage to the island. The current wire rope and Douglas fir bridge was made by Heyn Construction in Belfast and raised early in 2008 at a cost of over £16,000 There have been many instances where visitors, unable to face the walk back across the bridge, have had to be taken off the island by boat.

On 24 May 2017, a routine inspection revealed that the bridge's structural ropes had been damaged overnight in an act of vandalism. The National Trust announced that the bridge would be closed "for the foreseeable future". However, on the following day it was announced that structural engineers had completed repairs, and that the bridge had been reopened.

It is no longer used by fishermen during the salmon season, which used to last from June until September, as there are now very few salmon left. In the 1960s, almost 300 fish were caught each day, but by 2002, only 300 were caught over the whole season. The salmon come through the area to spawn in the River Bann and the River Bush.

There are views of Rathlin Island and Scotland from the area. The site and surrounding area is designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest for its unique geology, flora, and fauna. Underneath there are large caves, which once served as home for boat builders and as shelter during stormy weather.

Seamus Heaney describes the bridge in his 1978 poem A Postcard from North Antrim:

A lone figure is waving

From the thin line of a bridge

Of ropes and slates, slung

Dangerously out between

The cliff-top and the pillar rock.

Marble Arch Caves

The Marble Arch Caves are a series of natural limestone caves located near the village of Florencecourt in County Fermanagh. The caves are named after the nearby Marble Arch, a natural limestone arch at the upstream end of Cladagh Glen under which the Cladagh River flows. The caves are formed from three rivers draining off the northern slopes of Cuilcagh mountain, which combine underground to form the Cladagh. On the surface, the river emerges from the largest karst resurgence in Ireland, and one of the largest in the United Kingdom. At 11.5 kilometres (7.1 mi) the Marble Arch Caves form the longest known cave system in Northern Ireland, and the karst is considered to be among the finest in the British Isles.

The Marble Arch, Cladagh River resurgence and three large dolines on the plateau above the end of Cladagh Glen were all known well before underground exploration began; in fact the arch was a popular tourist attraction in the 19th century. As early as the 1730s, the Reverend William Henry described these features, as well as the sinks of the Owenbrean, Aghinrawn and Sruh Croppa rivers which he correctly surmised to be feeders of the system.

Without venturing far into the cave, Henry descended to the base of one of the dolines above the resurgence:

The arch over my head was 20 feet high, continued with a little landing for 100 yards to the other great pit, by the light of which I could observe the river flowing gently along...

— Rev. William Henry, A Natural History of the Parish of Killesher (1732)

The stream passages at the base of each shakehole were first explored by Édouard-Alfred Martel and Dublin naturalist Lyster Jameson in 1895. Using a canvas boat, and with candles and magnesium flares for light, Martel and Jameson found 300 metres (1,000 ft) of passages, including the junction where the three rivers (the Owenbrean and the combined Aghinrawn and Sruh Croppa) meet. They drew a map of the discoveries and line drawings depicting the expedition, noting the upstream conclusion by boat in the Grand Gallery, and on foot at Pool Chamber. Today, this route to Pool Chamber forms part of the walking section of the show cave.

Annually, around 60,000 people would take part in the guided tours exploring the fantastic Marble Arch Caves.

Belfast Zoological Gardens

Belfast Zoo (also known as Bellevue Zoo) is a zoo in Belfast. It is in a relatively secluded location on the northeastern slope of Cavehill, overlooking Belfast's Antrim Road, resulting in a uniquely tranquil environment for the animals that the zoo is frequently praised for.

The story of Belfast Zoo begins with the city's public transport system. At the beginning of the 20th century, passengers from Belfast were transported to the villages of Whitewell and Glengormley by horse-drawn trams belonging to the Belfast Street Tramway company and steam tramways from Cavehill and Whitewell.

In 1911, the tram line was taken over by Belfast Corporation, now Belfast City Council. The corporation decided to build a miniature railway, playground, and pleasure gardens. The area was named Bellevue, meaning 'good or pretty view'.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the gardens were a popular destination for day trips. In 1933, the corporation decided to install a representative zoological collection on the site. Then, in 1934, 12 acres (4.9 ha) on either side of the Grand Floral Staircase, a series of steps designed to reach the top of the hillside, were laid out as Bellevue Zoo.

It took 150 men to build the site and the steps can still be seen from Antrim Road today. The zoo was opened on 28 March 1934 by Sir Crawford McCullough, the then Lord Mayor of Belfast. The venture was supported by Councillor RJR Harcourt from Belfast Corporation and was partnered by George Chapman, an animal dealer and circus entrepreneur.

It cost £10,000 (approximately £700,000 in today's money) to build and a total of 284,713 people visited the zoo in its first year.

Belfast Zoo is one of the top fee-paying visitor attractions in Northern Ireland, receiving more than 300,000 visitors a year. Located in north Belfast, the zoo's 55-acre (22 ha) site is home to more than 1,200 animals and 140 species.

The majority of the animals in Belfast Zoo are in danger in their natural habitat. The zoo carries out important conservation work and takes part in over 90 European and international breeding programmes which help to ensure the survival of many species under threat.

The zoo is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).


Bangor is a seaside resort on Belfast’s doorstep. It has previously been named the most desirable place to live in Northern Ireland and is easily accessed by train and car.

Bangor is brimming with places to explore; Bangor castle, the Abbey, North Down Museum, Pickie Funpark and a picturesque marina, to name a few. As well as activities, such as karting, sailing and golfing, for those who like the great outdoors.

Bangor Castle is an impressive building that was built for the Hon Robert Edward Ward and his family in 1852. The building is situated in the grounds of Castle Park alongside North Down Museum and is just a short walk from Bangor Castle Walled Garden. Ards and North Down Borough Council presently use the building as their headquarters. Tours of the building are by arrangement only.

The Ward family designed the Castle Park Walled Garden in the 1840s. It was officially opened as a visitor attraction in April 2009. Before that it was considered by many as a secret garden. The Garden opens seasonally from April to October.

Bangor Abbey was founded by St Comgall in 558AD. The Abbey’s celebrated literary work, Bangor Antiphonary -a collection of hymns, prayers and poems - are now kept in the Ambrosian Library in Milan. The churchyard has many old and interesting gravestones including a memorial to the assistant surgeon of the Titanic, John Edward Simpson.

Pickie Fun Park provides an entertaining day out for all the family. Visitors can enjoy the Pickie Puffer steam train, giant Pickie pedal swans and an 18-hole nautical themed mini golf course. It is also the perfect vantage point to sit and enjoy the superb views over Bangor Marina and Belfast Lough.

Bangor's marina is one of the largest and has achieved Blue Flag Award status. The McKee Clock and Sunken Gardens are situated on Bangor’s marina. These two venues hold various events/festivals throughout the year. The maritime - inspired Sea Bangor Festival is one of the most popular events held in the summer.

History enthusiasts will love the North Down Museum where you can learn the story of the North Down area from the Bronze Age to the present day through a series of rooms. It also hosts free art exhibitions throughout the year.

The Clandeboye Estate, located a few miles from the town centre, is the largest plot of private land in the area. The Estate is extremely popular for weddings and events. Visitors can tour the estate's stunning gardens which are lead by the head gardener and can be tailored to suit all interests and seasons. In 2007 Lady Dufferin, who owns the Estate successfully launched Clandeboye yoghurt. The infamous Greek style yoghurt won three stars in the Great taste Awards as well as Gold in the Blas na hErieann Irish quality awards.

The town is also home to Northern Ireland’s only 50 metre swimming pool at Aurora Aquatic and Leisure complex, one of Bangor’s most popular attractions.

There are numerous notable people from Bangor including Gary Lightbody from the band Snow Patrol; Zoe Salmon a Blue Peter presenter; and Kelly Gallagher, the first athlete from Northern Ireland to compete in the Winter Paralympics.















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