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Northern Ireland and UK Public Holidays for 2010

If you are planning a trip to Northern Ireland, please consider the list below of UK Public Holidays in Northern Ireland, England and Wales. A note on terminology. In the UK some holidays are called Bank Holidays. Some assume the name means that everything is closed, even banks but this is not always so. Bank Holidays are public holidays, so if you hear the name you will know what it means. Here are the public holidays for 2010:

Northern Ireland 2010 Public Holidays

Friday, 1 January 2010 – New Year’s Day

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 – St Patrick’s Day

Friday, 2 April 2010 – Good Friday

Monday, 5 April 2010 – Easter Monday

Monday, 3 May 2010 – May Day Bank Holiday

Monday, 31 May 2010 – Spring Bank Holiday

Monday, 12 July 2010 – Bank Holiday in Lieu of Battle of the Boyne 2010

Monday, 30 August 2010 – Summer Bank Holiday

Monday, 27 December 2010 – Bank Holiday in place of Christmas Day

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 – Bank Holiday in place of Boxing Day / St. Stephen’s Day

NOTE: 27th December and 28th December become Bank Holidays in place of 25th December and 26th December which fall at the weekend.

England and Wales 2010 Public Holidays

Friday, 1 January 2010 – New Year’s Day

Friday, 2 April 2010 – Good Friday

Monday, 5 April 2010 – Easter Monday

Monday, 3 May 2010 – May Day Bank Holiday

Monday, 31 May 2010 – Spring Bank Holiday

Monday, 30 August 2010 – Summer Bank Holiday

Monday, 27 December 2010 – Bank Holiday in place of Christmas Day

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 – Bank Holiday in place of Boxing Day

NOTE: 27th December and 28th December become Bank Holidays in place of 25th December and 26th December which fall at the weekend.

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Kilbroney Forest Park-Cloughmore: Yet another scenic spot for you to relax!

Kilbroney Forest Park-Cloughmore

Kilbroney Forest Park is one of those green and pleasant places that make N. Ireland the beautiful place it is. Set on the side of Slieve Martin on the north side of Carlingford Lough it is a popular weekend and afternoon destination for families from near and not so near. It is an excellent place to wind down after a drive along the County Down coast, or to burn off the extra calories after a meal at Rostrevor.

How to Get to Kilbroney Forest Park-Cloughmore

Kilbroney is located just outside Rostrevor. If you are coming from Newry on the coastal A2 road, go through the town and on the edge of it on the east, north-east you will see a turning to the left and the relevant sign. If you are coming from the opposite direction, from Kilkeel on the A2, then just before you reach the town centre you will see the sign and turn right. Follow the little part road a few hundred meters ad to the left is the main car park.

What to Do in Kilbroney Forest Park-Cloughmore

Most people park the car in the main car park and then spend their time around there. There are play areas for children of different ages, tennis and playing fields. There is an arboretum. Kilbroney Park itself is on the edge of Rostrevor Forest, planted in 1931, which extends for 4,000 acres and there are many pleasant walks in the woods, by brooks of cool water. And there is a small cafe where you can have your traditional tea and scones but also more substantial meals. For those into caravanning, there is a caravan park.

If you have small children, then you will discover that they want to stay around the pay area. We visited the park on several occasions both as a family and with friends who also had small children and we happily spent several hours there.

Don’t Stop There

Most visitors are content to stay by the play area and the cafe and take short walks through the woods. But the best part still awaits you.

If you exit the main car park, the road on which you arrived continues up the hill. It is very narrow and fairly steep and soon becomes only a one way road. You can opt to drive it with your car. The drive takes you through Rostrevor Forest with its tall, mostly coniferous trees, thick enough to shut out much of light of the sun. After about five minutes of driving up the steep incline in the dark and densely wooded area, you will reach Cloughmore car park 230 meters above sea level, and usually with only one or two cars there. If you are feeling adventurous, you can choose to walk to Cloughmore car park, either by following the paved road or one of the paths up the hill. But be warned, it is more of a hike than a walk. From Cloughmore car park you get a lovely view of Rostrevor and Warrenpoint and the surrounding countryside. Just letting your eyes gaze over the landscape is relaxing.

To the Crest of Kilbroney Forest Park-Cloughmore

If you still have spare energy and time then there is still more to experience. You see, the view from the car park eastward and northward is blocked by the landmass of Slieve Martin with the result that you only see in the Rostrevor/Warrenpoint direction southward and westward. To experience the full delight of the landscape therefore, park your car and follow the clearly visible path towards the crest of the mountain. Walking the path should only take 10 to 15 minutes but if the day is cold you will feel it much more up there. Once there you will see a massive boulder, Cloughmore, an Irish name which simply means, “big stone”. It is pronounced KLO-H-MOR. The huge stone weighs about 30-40 tons and some believe it was transported all the way from Scotland!

Once on the crest of the mountain you can enjoy a nearly 360 degree view. You can see the whole of Carlingford Lough from Newry to the open Irish Sea. You can see Carlingford and the surrounding hills. And to the north and west you can see the Mourne Mountains and the lovely coastline.

Northern Ireland offers many vantage points which afford excellent views. Kilbroney Forest Park is one of them. It is not the most famous or sought after but it is one of exceeding natural beauty. On a clear day it can form an excellent conclusion to a County Down coastal tour.

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Bushmills and Causeway Steam Railroad Trains

The Giants Causeway and Bushmills Railway is a restored railway, one of few steam railroad trains in Northern Ireland. It carries people from Bushmills to Giants Causeway and back. British steam trains are a popular attraction for families with children and not only. This one is no exception. It drives through scenic areas of the Antrim Coast and can be a highlight of a tour of the area especially if you have small children or want to take a brake from hectic sight seeing and do something slightly more relaxing.

HistorySteam railroad trains were known in Ireland from about 1834, the first train line in the Causeway area was launched in 1883 and was an extension of the Ballycastle to Ballymena railway. It had a three feet narrow gauge lines. The key person behind the construction of the line was William Traill, a train enthusiast who believed in the potential of a line along the coast. Much of the work was done by the German company Siemens, a leader in electric locomotives. The first trains to run the line were electric but soon steam railroad trains were doing most of the work. W. Traill built a generator at the Walkmill Falls for the specific purpose of supplying electricity for electric trains. The building still stands today though it no longer generates electricity. Though the first trains were electric, steam engines were soon doing the bulk of the work. The railway operated until 1949. The current operations were re-launched in 2002 and since then the railcars have been providing a pleasant train ride to locals and tourists alike.

A VisitThe train runs from Bushmills to Giants Causeway. There is a free parking area in Bushmills. There is a small charge for parking in Giants Causeway but it is refundable upon the purchase of a ticket. The reason for the charge is that Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland’s foremost attraction, is located only a few hundred yards away and to park there is not cheap. To prevent Causeway visitors parking at the Railway parking area the operators have introduced a charge. So if you are planning to use the Railway you can park here and the charge will be refunded. If you are not plan to use the Railway, don’t park here. Not only is it unfair on the Railway operators, but parking wardens make their way there and will give a parking ticket and a hefty fine to those parked without a ticket.

The ride itself is only two miles long and takes less than half an hour. Trains run daily in July and August and on special days at other times. Trains used today are mostly steam operated. Though the ride is short it does go through some of the most scenic part of Northern Ireland so it is worth a visit. If you take the train you will have a chance to go through some of the sand dunes on the coast, cross the river Bush and go past a popular golf course. Alongside the track there is a walkway and bicycle way. When it comes to steam engine train rides the Causeway and Bushmills railway is as good as most so plan to visit when you tour the Antrim coast.

Model TrainA recent addition to the Bushmills Railway is a model train line with a steam train that makes the Railway even more attractive.

For more information, running times and days visit the official website by clicking here

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Slemish Mountain

Slemish Mountain is a peculiarly shaped mountain in Northern Ireland near the city of Ballymena. It rises to a height of nearly 1,500 feet (450 meters). Geologists tell us that it is the remains of an extinct volcano. The top of the mountain has very rugged and steep slopes in contrast to the lower gentler slopes and the flat land beneath it and this makes it stand out and visible from many miles.

History

According to some early accounts St Patrick spent about six years near the mountain as a slave shepherd after he was captured during a raid on his homeland in the border between Scotland and England. The six years he spent here were a formative period in his Christian experience, strengthened his faith and played a role in his decision years later to return and bring Christianity to Ireland. Patrick escaped from captivity and traveled on foot and by boat back to England and Scotland. Today some still come to visit the mountain on March 17, St. Patrick’s day.

Hiking

There is a fascinating but steep walk popular with hikers. As with other hiking Ireland trails the views are fantastic. To get there take the A42 Carnlaugh road from Ballymena towards Carnlaugh/Glearm on the Antrim Coast (or vice versa). About 7 miles outside Ballymena and to the right of the road is the little village of Buckna. Just outside it is Carnstroan Lane which will take you to the car park at the foot of Mountain. The total distance of the hike is about 1.2 miles (nearly 2 km). It is not very long, but parts of it involve a steep ascend on rocky terrain so ensure you are fit to climb before you start. The return can be through a gentler path that will lead you to the car park. Provided you are fit you will enjoy the experience and the beauty of the surrounding nature, a true hiking Ireland experience. There is an information center and toilet facilities.

Because of the open terrain Slemish Mountain will give you some fantastic views of the surrounding areas and you will especially enjoy looking out towards the glens of Antrim and the ocean in the distance. Enjoy!

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Castle Espie

There are many castles in Northern Ireland but Castle Espie is not one of them. Despite the name Espie is not a castle. It is a wetlands wildfowl reserve, a place you can visit with your family and see a host of rare and beautiful bird species. It is run by the UK’s premier wildfowl wetlands trust the WWT.

The WWT

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust is a leading conservation organization. It was founded in 1946 by sir Peter Scott, a respected artist and naturalist. The Trust’s purpose is to save wetlands and their wildlife and raise awareness of issues that may affect their survival. It currently runs nine wetland visitor centres, six in England and one each in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The vision is to expand beyond the borders of the UK and help create a worldwide network of healthy and productive wetlands. For more information and support you can visit their website by clicking here.

Our Visit

Castle Espie is located on the shores of Strangford Lough, a large body of inland sea, a gulf that starts at Portaferry and extends all the way to Newtonwards. The area were Castle Espie is located used to be a limestone quarry and a farm. In 1990 it was officially opened as a wetlands wildfowl reserve.We visited on a sunny but cool spring day. When the sun was shinning bright the temperature was lovely and warm but when clouds covered the sun it was quite chilly. Nonetheless it was a lovely visit. The place was not crowded with only a few dozen visitors. The reserve holds a high percentage of the world’s population of Light-Bellied Brent Geese. It also has the largest collection of ducks, geese and swans in Ireland.

The main part of the reserve consists of a scenic path. It goes past a set of small lakes or ponds where many of the birds spend much of their time. The path then winds through a wooded area and goes close to the shore of Strangford Lough. There are lookout points where you can stop and looked out to the Lough, the natural habitat for many bird species. The whole experience can take anything from two to four or more hours, depending on how much you are into birds and bird watching. We are not bird watchers but before the visit took the time to read well through introductory guides into the fowl life. This means that when we were there we were able to give useful information to the children explaining about the different birds, their colors and their habits. This made the whole experience much more interesting and educational for them.

There is also a café and gift store on site as well as a small play area for children. The staff is very friendly and will be happy to answer any questions you have about the reserve and the habits of the birds.

How to Find Castle Espie

If you are coming from the Belfast direction follow the signs to Comber, about 10 miles south east of the city. From Comber take the A22 towards Killyleagh. The reserve is located 2.5 miles outside Comber on the Ballydrain road and is well signposted. Free parking is available. If you are coming from the southern areas of County Down just follow any of the roads that lead to Comber and then you will be able to find it easily.

Castle Espie is an excellent place to spend a morning or an afternoon or even a day at Castle Espie, especially if you have children or are into bird watching. What we would advise is that to make the visit more interesting for children read well about the birds that you are likely to see there so that you can tell them about it and make it more enjoyable for them, and you will know what you are looking for.

Contact Information

WWT Castle Espie Wetland Centre

78 Ballydrain Road, Comber, Co Down,

N Ireland BT23 6EA

T: 028 9187 4146

F: 028 9187 3857

E: info.castleespie@wwt.org.uk

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The Ballycopeland Windmill

The Ballycopeland Windmill is a windmill located just outside Millisle on the B172 road, south of Donaghadee in the Ards peninsula in County Down.

The windmill is a tall, white building that stands out clearly in the green, flat terrain surrounding it. It dates from the later half of the 18th century.

It was fully operational until 1915, run by the McGilton family. In 1915 it ceased operations and fell into decay. In 1935 it was bought by the government. It was extensively renovated and began working again in 1978. It is currently run by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Windmills were once common with over one hundred at one point in County Down alone. However, most are in ruins. Ballycopeland is thought to be the only operating windmill in Ireland today.

A Tower Mill

The Ballycopeland windmill is what we call a tower mill. While earlier and simpler windmills were known from the early Middle Ages, tower mills first began to be used around the 13th century.

A tower mill consists of a brick or stone tower with a roof or cap that can turn the sails into the wind for better performance. The advantage of the tower mill was, of course, that the sails could turn into the wind while the main structure itself was static. This arrangement allowed for better productivity and efficiency.

How does a windmill work

So how do windmills work? It depends what it is used for. But the general concept has remained unchanged for many centuries, even if the function and design have changed.

The concept is quite simple. The wind turns the sails in older windmills, or the blades in modern ones. This transfers the energy of the wind onto the sails which can then be channeled to different purposes.

In the Middle Ages the main task of mills was to grind wheat, corn and other grains. As the sails turned the energy would be transferred through a series of gears onto grinding stones turning them to grind the grains. This is the way the Ballycopeland windmill works.

At other times windmills were used to draw water from wells or rivers/brooks. Such windmills are scattered throughout Europe with large numbers in places like Holland, or the island of Crete. Their large numbers testify to their usefulness before the process of industralisation which introduced mechanical mills took off in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Modern windmills are much more compact than medieval ones and use blades instead of sails.

Through the turning blades the energy is channeled onto a generator at the back of the blades that generates electricity. With fossil fuels polluting the environment and questions being raised as to their future availability the windmill, first appearing in the early Middle Ages, appears set to continue to shape our landscapes.

The photos of windmills will give you an idea how the look and shape has evolved depending on the time and function of each construction.

ballycopeland-miller-house

Back to the Ballycopeland Windmill

Now that you know a little of how does a windmill work and how useful they have been to European and world civilization you may doubly ensure you visit Ballycopeland, this unique monument in Northern Ireland, and see a mill first hand.

The mill is open only in July and August and entry is free. At other times you can admire it from outside. Inside the mill is maintained as much as possible to look as it would have been in its heyday. There is a video explaining its function and processes. If you are lucky, you may even get the chance to grind some grains.

As a bonus, the miller’s house is also open for visiting. There is a visitor centre with audio visual presentations. All in all, a visit at the right time is well worth it.

How to Get There

Getting there is easy. Head to Newtonards, a town well visible in all Northern Ireland maps, located less than 10 miles east of Belfast. Then take the B172 and head eastwards and you will see the windmill just before you reach Millisle.

Contact Information

The Ballycopeland Windmill

Windmill Road

Millisle

Down

BT22 2DS

Website: www.ehsni.gov.uk

Email: ethna.walker@doeni.gov.uk

Tel: (028) 9054 6552

Photo Credits: M & P Photography

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Binders Cove – An ancient hiding place

Binders Cove also known as Finnis Souterrain is a place of interest that was recently added to the growing list of places to visit in Northern Ireland. It is located just outside the village of Finnis near Dromara.

What is it?

Binder’s Cove is a souterrain. “Souterrain” literally means “underground place” in French. It is used by archaeologists to describe underground constructions from ancient times. Binder’s Cove is an ancient hiding and storage place. It consists of an underground corridor about 100 feet long (30 meters), 3 feet wide (1 meter) and 5 feet tall (1.5 meters). On the side of the corridor are two smaller corridors extending about 20 feet (6 meters). The inside is covered with stone masonry which gives it a feeling of durability and permanence.

Souterrain

Binder’s Cove was built probably in the 9th century, one of many souterrains in Ireland. Their primary purpose appears to have been defensive. This was the time when Viking raids were at a height and monasteries and rich farmhouses were a target. Furthermore, local chieftains would often raid each other’s territory. In such times of uncertainty and insecurity souterrains offered a hiding place from attack. Well concealed and with the entrance hidden it was hoped that invaders would not see them.

Apart from functioning as hiding places, they were probably also used for the storage of valuables. Being hidden they offered a higher level of security. There is also a possibility that they were used for storing foods.

Recent Discovery

Binders Cove was discovered in the 18th century. For two hundred years it remained in a state of disrepair and attracted little interest from locals or visitors. Then a few years ago some of the locals approached Banbridge District Council recommending that Binder’s Cove be opened to the public since there are very few souterrains that are open to the public. The Council agreed. The stonework inside the cove was repaired and strengthened and solar panels were added outside to provide electrical light for the visitors. In this way, modern technology was added to this ancient monument and the result is a more pleasant experience for the visitor in an ecologically friendly way.

How to Get There

Take the B7 road that leads from Rathfriland to Ballynahinch past Dromara. Less than two miles south of Dromara on the B7 is the village of Finnis. From Finnis take the Carrigagh Road, signposted towards Legananny Dolmen. Follow the road for about 2.5 miles and on the left is a small lay-by with a sign about Binders Cove.

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Belfast Zoo: Northern Ireland’s main Zoo

Belfast Zoo: To Visit or Not to Visit? This is the Question!

If you are coming from far away, and this is your first visit to Northern Ireland, then Belfast Zoo will probably not be on your main “to do” list.

However, if you have plenty of time, or if you simply have small children and want to take them to a place of interest even if not packed with history, then give the zoo some serious consideration. You might end up loving the place. It is, after all, one of the better known Belfast attractions, one of more loved of Belfast tours.

Easily Accessible

The zoo is surprisingly easy and quick to get to. For your GPS navigation system, the address is:Antrim Road, Belfast,BT36 7PN.

  • If you are coming from the south county Down, then you can whiz through Belfast on the M1/A12/M2 in no time, provided you pre-plan your trip to avoid the rush hour traffic.
  • If you are coming from the east it is even easier on the M3/M2 motorways.
  • If you are coming from the west, you don’t even have to go through Belfast, the zoo is on the north-west side of the city and is well signposted.
  • If you are in Belfast and you want to go by bus,from the City Centre you can ride Metro buses no.s 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e, 1f, (1g) and 2a all stop at the Zoo.
  • The Single fare is £2.50 for adults, £1.25 for children. The stop you want is called Bellvue Stop.

    It doesn’t harm to tell the driver you are going to the zoo. Bus drivers can be very friendly and obliging. Don’t forget to say “Thank you, driver!” when you get off. I find it charming!

    Our Visit

    We visited the Belfast zoo several times, the most recent one being on a lovely spring day with a group of homeschoolers, thus taking advantage of the group rates. Rule number one is bring good walking shoes, water and plenty of extra energy. Most zoos require some walking but the Belfast one is unusual in that it is built on the side of a cliff, Cave Hill, so not only will you be walking, but you will be hiking up and down steep paths.

    Top Tip

    If you have toddlers or babies do bring a pushchair (stroller, buggy, pram,whatever you call it). If you have an older toddler who is normally past the stroller age, well, do bring a stroller nonetheless. You will need it. Otherwise, you would be kicking yourself. Or rather, dragging yourself upwards heavily laden with your precious cargo.

    Allow Plenty of Time

    The zoo is fair sized so allow plenty of time, at least half a day, or better still, make it a day trip. Children love the outdoor and if there are several in the group as was the case with us, they will want to see every animal and mimic them and linger longer.

    The Bird Park

    The Bird Park is one of the areas that has recently been refurbished. It contains a number of rare and even some endangered species. You will love the bright and vibrant colors and the constant chirping.

    Rainforest House

    The Rainforest House is a walk through exhibition of tropical life. The temperature is kept constantly at 27 C and humidity is high. A nice place to walk through if you begin to feel cold.

    The Bears

    The part I enjoyed the most was the Bear enclosure towards the top of the hill and zoo. The enclosure is spacious and contains a large artificial pool in which the bears love to swim. On a hot day, you may feel like jumping in as well, but thankfully there are large glass panels preventing would be swimmers from taking a swim with the bears (though the Andean bears are usually quite harmless).

    Feeding time

    Make sure to jot down the animal feeding times and be there for the spectacle. The feeding of the sea lions, monkeys and the penguins are the most laugh-enticing.

    Playground and picnic area

    The Lake Side is near the entrance of the Belfast zoo though we left it for last to sit and relax after a long day. There is a lake walk, one of the most popular attractions. Walk it and look out for the pink flamingos and other exotic birds that roam around. There is a very handy play area and picnic tables to sit and relax or have something to eat.

    We chose to stop here last after the tiring walk around the zoo. It is extremely relaxing and the children loved running around in the spacious grounds. If you are lucky, you might see the lemurs walking around . They are friendly and will let you come to within a few meters/yards before they move away. In our case, they came as we were about to leave, and we had to change our plans. The children were so excited to see them that they followed them tirelessly around.

    Food and Drink

    There are three cafes that serve food and drink, one, Mountain Tea House, strategically located at the top of the zoo. By the time you get there you will want a drink and you will want to sit down, rest and enjoy the view. You can also bring your own food and eat at the picnic tables at the Lake Side.

    The Verdict

    We did enjoy our visits. With older children you can take a self-guided educational tour, so we plan to do that in the future. In the meantime, the breeding time in spring where you can see all the baby animals, seems to be a good time to visit.

    Trivia

    • Did you know that in 2009 Belfast Zoo will celebrate its 75th birthday?
  • Belfast Zoo is home to more than 1,200 animals and 140 different species.
  • Opening times of Belfast Zoo

    Winter (October 1 to March 31)

  • Last admission is 2.30pm
  • Animal houses close at 3.30pm.
  • The Zoovenir Shop closes at 3pm and the Ark Café closes at 3.30pm. The Mountain Tea House and the confectionery kiosk are closed from October to March.

    Summer (April 1 to September 30)

  • 10am to 7pm
  • Last admission is 5pm,
  • Animal houses close at 6pm.
  • The Zoovenir Shop, Ark Café, Mountain Tea House and confectionery kiosk all close at 5.30pm.

    For more information, visit the Zoo’s official website

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The Argory – A Splendid Stately Home

The Argory is a stately home that is maintained and run by the National Trust Northern Ireland. It is located on the outskirts of Armagh in County Armagh. It is a fine example of neoclassical architecture. It dates from around 1820. However, additional work has been done over the years. The current look dates from about 1900 with the interior reflecting the tastes of the time.

The highlight exhibit is a cabinet barrel organ dating from 1824 and still in good working order. In the stable room you can see a harness room as well as old horse carriages. The home is surrounded by 320 acres of woodland, garden and walking trails. If the weather is nice you can explore the grounds. Even if the weather is misty make sure you have an umbrella to keep you dry and the walking experience will be equally enjoyable.

There are ample parking facilities, a children’s play area, a gift and second hand book store and the award winning Lady Ada’s tea room with home baked delights as its specialty.

As with other National Trust UK properties, it is in excellent state of preservation and well looked after. It offers a serene and idyllic environment for a walk or a picnic. There is an entry fee both to the grounds and to the home.

Contact Information

144 Derrycaw Road, Moy, Dungannon, Co. Armagh BT71 6NA

Telephone: 028 8778 4753

For the official website and pricing information click here.

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