Standing on a hill in Armagh City, the twin spires of St Patricks Cathedral dominate the skyline and can be seen from quite a distance away. It was built in phases between 1840 and 1904 to serve as the Catholic cathedral for the Archdiocese of Armagh.
Much needed work took place in 1982 where some of the granite floors were lain with carpet and a huge cross was removed (to be replaced with an installation called “The Tree of Life”) which almost everyone hated. Further work took place in 2003 that met with a bit more acceptance but with a bill that reached £6,000,000 (yes thats 6 million) I think I could suggest much better things to be spending that kind of money on (but as we all know, Northern Ireland really loves its old relics of religious fervour). I reckon it would make a really nice natural history museum myself 🙂
Its not until recently that we actually discovered theres something of a hidden beach at Balintoy. We normally just drove down the hill into the car park and walked left along the shore, but it turns out theres a beautiful little cove halfway down the hill which you will find by taking a path that looks as if it belongs to someones house (its doesnt, but there is a house there).
I took these pictures very early one morning, having left Belfast about 430am. I visited the Dark Hedges first (the only way to get a photograph without people in it) and watched a stunning sunrise, all by myself. Brilliant.
You can see the sand is really quite red here, not something Ive seen very often on the beaches of NI.
Certainly worth getting up early for!
The second picture here was actually taken on a different day (and is of a sunset at Ballintoy and not a sunrise like these others). But such a great little spot it is.
Sitting comfortably as one of my all time favourite places in Northern Ireland, Downhill Demesne has such a wonderful atmosphere of lost elegance and abandonment. Maybe thats just because I tend to visit here in the depths of Winter (or at the very least late Autumn) but theres definitely something magical about the place for me. I jumped on the first train from Belfast yesterday morning arriving at Castlerock Station at 750am (the Sun hadnt yet risen) and I walked along the empty streets of Castlerock town (waves crashing on the beach in a dark blue oncoming dawn) making my way across the Black Glen and up into Downhill.
By now the Sun had just poked its head above the horizon illuminating the temple with a warm orange glow.
Looking up towards the ominous shadow of Downhill House lurking at the end of the path from Mussenden Temple.
Dawn breaks above one of the faux fortified “castle” walls of Downhill House.
Upon entering the gate into what is left of the house I got a brilliant light show of sunbeams and shadows.
Most only venture up here to photograph the Temple but Ive always found the house just as photogenic. It has a monolithic presence on the skyline.
Behind the house sits the “mausoleum” not actually a tomb, just a rememberance monument. The winter morning sky gave it much more reverence.
One last shot of the Temple (taken from a less common angle) sitting as a coastal sentinel as it has done for 233 years.
Providing the back drop for the city of Belfast, Divis Mountain was the filming location for several scenes in the movie “Dracula Untold” and there’s certainly a lot of old history up here. On a clear day there are views of Strangford Lough, the Mournes, The Sperrins, as well as Scotland and Donegal. The area is covered with 1,500 acres of upland heath and blanket bog and its home to a wealth of flora and fauna and archaeological remains. There are several easy walks around the area too with wooden paths and tarmacked routes allowing almost anyone to enjoy the fresh air and greenery above Belfast.
After arriving at the car park youll see this welcome sign. Entrance is free.
There are 4 routes around the area. Ranging from an easy 1 mile amble, to something a bit more strenuous (4 miles).
None of the routes involve any real climbing apart from a stile or two.
Depending on the time of year, there’s some wonderful bursts of colour up here.
Which leads to fantastic views over the entire city.
So next time youre in Belfast for a day or two take a walk across the Divis & Black Mountain trails (theres a cafe for refreshments too – check opening times etc here: https://www.facebook.com/diviscoffeebarn/ )
Bangor Castle was built for the Hon Robert Edward Ward and his family in 1852. It is presently the headquarters of North Down Borough Council who use the mansions spectacular grand salon as the council chamber. The building is situated in the grounds of Castle Park alongside North Down Museum and is just a short walk from Bangors Walled Garden.
The castle can be hired reasonably cheaply for wedding services and is a popular venue for those seeking a non-religious event.
Picture taken Christmas 2015 (spot the tree).
Bangor Castle overlooks the town of Bangor and its really worth having a walk around it and Castle Park behind. The walled garden (about ten minutes walk away) has just been used in the brand new film by Ben Wheatley called High Rise.