European Heritage Open Days are only around the corner. The time of year when buildings through open their doors and allow the public in for free to see inside buildings that are often out of bounds to casual observers.
Last year, Littl’un and I took in a tour of Linen Hall Library, explored Freemason’s Hall in
Cornmarket Arthur Square (and enjoyed a really cheap cup of tea with an amazing view), and wandered around the oldest church in Belfast, First Presbyterian (non-subscribing) in Rosemary Street.
This year there are numerous tours around Belfast: looking at the hidden history underneath Belfast’s streets; an architectural treasure hunt (organised by PLACE); tours of the newly restored Central Library; a walking tour around Victorian and Edwardian buildings by Young and MacKenzie architects (who designed Crescent Arts Centre); touring BBC Broadcasting House; as well as a look inside Stormont Castle (home of the NI Executive) and Parliament Buildings (home of the NI Assembly).
First Church of Christ, Scientist (University Avenue/Rugby Road) was designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, the architect behind Portmerion which served as the backdrop for the original Prisoner series. Previous visitors rate it highly.
The rebuilt Lyric Theatre is offering three tours of its expanded premises – booking essential.
One novel addition to the normal schedule is a private home at 47A Ravenhill Road describing itself as ‘a family home build to a modest budget in a rational modernist idiom referenced to vernacular form’. Telephone pre-booking essential.
Many of Lisburn’s city-centre churches are open on Saturday (with the majority paradoxically closed to visitors on Sunday). C J Lowry’s jewellery shop at the junction of Market Square and the top of Bridge Street has recently been restored.
Armagh County Museum, Court House, Gaol, Public Library (treasure hunt for children), Observatory and Planetarium are all open,
along with the Charles Lanyon-designed Tourist Information Centre on English Street – CANCELLED and the ‘flamboyant’ Gospel Hall on Mall West (which started out life in 1884 as a Masonic Hall).
Tours of the Maze / Long Kesh site are being organised on the Saturday. Pre-booking essential.
Some National Trust properties are open too – waiving their normal entrance charges.
Copies of the EHOD brochure are available in local libraries as well as some arts venues. You also download the sections for Belfast, County Antrim, County Armagh, County Down, County Fermanagh, County Londonderry and County Tyrone.
This year, EHOD are also promising some free audio tours to download covering Belfast, the walled city of Derry and the Causeway Coastal Route. Warning: I didn’t have much success unzipping them on a Mac. You may have more luck on a PC.
Something for everyone … including the thousand or more delegates at Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis which will be in Belfast over the same weekend.