Our short time in Belfast was soon coming to an end but there were still a couple of places I wanted to see. In fact, there were way more than a couple but I knew that, realistically, I would have to be selective and save the rest for another visit.
I’ve always loved the Narnia books. I read them myself, then to my younger brother and sister and, eventually, to my own sons. Having discovered the CS Lewis was born in Belfast and there was a CS Lewis Square, I decided that I had to go there if possible.
The square is in east Belfast and I knew it would be a reasonable walk from our hotel. I didn’t want to take the main road route which would be noisy, busy and traffic filled, so I decided to go ‘off-piste’ and work out my own route following part of the Comber Greenway. This is a 7 mile traffic free route for cyclists and pedestrians which runs from Belfast to Comber along the old railway line which closed in 1950. I didn’t walk the whole 7 miles but a section of it. This made for an interesting and pleasant walk.
The square is very clearly marked and the first statue I saw was ‘The Searcher’ created by Northern Irish artist Ross Wilson. You can see the magical wardrobe through which Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy entered Narnia.
Once you are in the square, you will begin to start spotting characters from the Narnia stories. I wasn’t able to photograph all of the statues but I have included a selection. My favourite is the magnificent Aslan.
By now I was looking forward to coffee and I was pleased to see that the square had a café called ‘Jack’. CS Lewis was actually known as ‘Jack’ to his friends and family.
Feeling refreshed, although I had resisted the very tasty looking cakes, cookies etc, I decided to head back to Stormont taking a different route. It was interesting but not so scenic as the walk there!
On our last morning, I decided to visit Stormont. I had looked at the Parliament Building on a previous evening and taken the picture below but I really wanted to walk up the impressive avenue and investigate the grounds.
The Parliament Buildings, on the Stormont Estate, are home to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the legislative body for Northern Ireland established under the Belfast Agreement 1998 (Good Friday Agreement).
Built in 1921 at a cost of nearly £1.7 million, it was designed to house the newly formed Government of Northern Ireland and was officially opened on 16th November 1932 by the then Prince of Wales, on behalf of King George V.
The grounds include beautiful gardens, a variety of walks, fitness and adventure trails, a children’s playground, picnic and barbecue areas, historic buildings and hosts many events throughout the year.
It is one mile from these gates, at the bottom of Prince of Wales Avenue, to the front steps of the Stormont Parliament Building.
When it was being designed, it was decided to build the Parliament Buildings at the top of a main formal avenue, giving it a more imposing position. Originally, the avenue was going to be lined with elm trees, but this idea was dropped because of concerns about Dutch elm disease. Instead, three hundred lime trees were planted, in a way to give the illusion that the trees are giving way to allow a better view of Parliament Buildings. Most of these trees have survived.
I really enjoyed the view looking back down the avenue.
At the roundabout at the top of the Prince of Wales Avenue, is the statue of Lord Edward Carson. The bronze statue by L.S. Merrifield, was paid for by public subscription and was unveiled in June 1933. Unusually, the statue was put up whilst the subject was still alive. Carson was a politician and lawyer and the leader of the Irish Unionist Alliance and Ulster Unionist Party from 1910 until 1921.
I like to think the photo I took of the statue is quite dramatic!
I was just able to catch a glimpse of Stormont Castle through the trees. It is not open to the public, except when it opens its doors once a year during the European Heritage Open Day weekend.
There is so much to see in the Stormont Estate Grounds and below are a few images to give you a taste, including a wildflower area, a fairy house, a bomb crater from WW2 and a beautiful wood carving.
I do hope you have enjoyed this series of posts about Belfast and if I get the opportunity to visit the city again and to see more of Northern Ireland, I will definitely go without hesitation!
Is there anywhere you have visited that wasn’t on your ‘travel list’ and that has taken you by surprise?