From Castles to City Hall
Not just bricks and mortar
Castles to concert halls, our buildings are still making history.
Northern Ireland has some of the finest castles on this island. The earliest are a Norman legacy, but fortified homes continued well into the 17th century.
Through centuries of war, siege and expansion, Carrickfergus Castle was Ireland's most formidable stronghold. It still looks battle-ready today and is one of our most striking monuments, whether approached by land, sea or air. Other towering examples include Greencastle Royal Castle and Dundrum Castle on the strategically important south Down coastline, Harry Avery's Castle, once a stronghold of the Gaelic O'Neills in Tyrone.
Definitely worth a visit is Enniskillen Castle, a former stronghold of the Maguire Chieftains, then a Plantation Castle and later a military barrcks - and now home to the fascinating Fermanagh County Museum and Inniskilling Museum. For the ultimate cliffhanger, Dunluce Castle clings precariously above the north Atlantic. Once the headquarters of the MacDonnell Clan, its magical setting is said to have inspired C.S. Lewis and was included in BBC Countryfile Magazine's top 10 romantic ruins in Britain.
Our western counties have numerous 17th century, defended stone Planter homes. These include Springhill (which has an intriguing family link to RMS Titanic), Bellaghy Bawn, Benburb Castle, Castle Caulfield, and Fermanagh sites such as Tully Castle, Monea Castle and Castle Balfour. Much of Derry City dates from this era, including its encircling walls – completely intact and never breached – and the impressive St. Columb's Cathedral, the first of its kind to be built after the Reformation.
Northern Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries had contrasting ways of life. From sumptuous manors epitomised by the likes of Ardress House, Castle Ward and Hillsborough Castle, to humble cottages. 17 US presidents have Ulster roots and many of their ancestral homes are preserved, including the Grant Ancestral Homestead in Tyrone. The Ulster Folk Museum, Cultra has also collected and restored traditional farm and village buildings. Armagh City is testament to Georgian elegance, and as Ireland's ecclesiastical capital, boasts two beautiful cathedrals, both dedicated to St. Patrick.
During the Victorian Period, this part of Ireland was at its peak as an industrial power. Belfast in particular flaunted its wealth through splendid buildings, among them City Hall, built on profits from the gasworks, Queen's University and the adjoining Botanic Gardens, Malone House, Belfast Castle, the Albert Memorial Clock, and even the ornate Crown Liquor Saloon – perhaps the finest Victorian 'gin palace'' in these islands. Take a guided architectural tour and learn the stories behind the stonework.