ulster folk and transport museum guide

Ulster Folk and Transport Museum information

The Ulster Transport Museum is a sister to the Ulster Folk Museum. The two are not related in terms of subject matter but rather administratively; the two together make up the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. You can buy one ticket for both museums, or two individual tickets one for each.

The Transport Museum is located on the north side of the main A2 road (the Folk Museum is on the south side) and contains an extraordinary collection of old cars, buses, trains and even airplanes. It is actually one of the largest of its kind in Europe and is definitely worth a visit.

Our visit to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

We visited the Transport Museum straight after the Folk on a very cold March Sunday. Having spent two hours in the mostly open air Folk museum we were indeed glad to be indoors enjoying some warmth and cover from the elements.


Trains, trains, trains

The first and possibly most fascinating part is the railway collection. The first rail connection on the island became operative in December 1834 between Dublin and Dun Laoghaire. By 1930 it was estimated that no part of Northern Ireland was further than 10 miles from a railway line. Such expansion of rail communication helped the flow of imports and exports and brought Northern Ireland closer to world markets.

The largest locomotive on display is the Maeve, one of a class of three. It is not only the largest in the museum, but the largest locomotive operated on the island. One of the smallest is a two man track inspection vehicle that was used on a daily basis to inspect the condition of the tracks.

You will find section fascinating and if you have children they will absolutely love the opportunity to climb onto the old but wonderfully restored locomotives.

ulste-folk-and-transport-museum-railcafe A Loco-Snack at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

We had a cup of tea and a bun in a very cute café in the middle of the train exhibition. The café looked like a train station but instead of train tickets was selling snacks and beverages. Very charming indeed!


Road Transport for Every Taste and Budget

The road transport covers wheeled vehicles ranging from bicycles to carriages to cars. Apart from the exhibits the museum has abundant information on how the introduction and use of such vehicles affected the social conditions in Northern Ireland. Perhaps pride of place belongs to the De Lorean DMC-12 sports car famous as the time machine car in the series Back to the Future. Designed by the famous Italian designer Giorgetto Giougiaro the 2000 or so production models were built in Northern Ireland in 1981-82 mostly for the American market.


If you ask my husband, however, the most important exhibit is a beautifully restored red Hillman Imp. Why would a Hillman Imp hold such prominence? Because back in 1968 when my husband was born, my father-in-law bought the estate version of this sporty little car known as the Hillman Husky, and kept it in excellent running condition for the next 33 years!

ulster-transport-museum-history-of-flight The General Transport Galleries

The third section of the museum contains other forms of transport used through the ages. We especially enjoyed the rich collection of carriages of which I liked most the openness and elegant simplicity of the Victoria carriage. Not to be missed are the exhibits of the history of the Titanic which was built in Belfast in 1912 by Harlald and Wolff heavy industries, and the section on the history of flight.

A Must See

The Transport Museum is definitely one of the best museums in Northern Ireland. It combines ample space with beautifully restored transport machines of all types and sizes well arranged and with plenty of information to substantiate the importance of each exhibit. Children will love it, while the fact that it is mostly in enclosed areas means you can enjoy a visit whatever the weather, even on a very cold March Sunday.

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Ulster folk and transport museum Review

What is the Ulster folk and transport museum and Where it is

Northern Ireland has several museums, but the Folk and Transport Museum. is one of the most enticing ones and great to teach children how was life in the not-so-distant past.

They are actually two museums located close to each other. This page will cover the Folk Museum spread over 170 acres and is complete with a church, bank, police station, school and plenty of houses.

You can buy tickets for the Folk Museum alone, or for the Folk and Transport combined, thus saving you some money.

Located east of Belfast on the A2 they are easily reachable by car or train through the Cultra station.

Do make sure to watch our slideshow at the end of the page.

One Museum, Three Parts

The Museum is divided into three parts:

  • The Folk Galleries give you a view into Northern Ireland’s history through imaginative and informative displays.
  • The main exhibit Ballycultra town, a reconstituted old village from the late 19th century though some of the buildings bought from all over the country and brought to the museum brick by brick are much older.
  • The rural area which covers about 60 acres with farms and farmhouses.
  • Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

    Our Visit to the Ballycultra open air museum

    We visited on a windy cold spring day. The “windy cold” part of the visit meant that there were few people around so we hand plenty of space and time to visit the exhibits.

    On the other hand, it made the visit somewhat more challenging. Since the Folk Museum is essentially open air, much of the time is spent outdoors walking from house to house to church to other buildings.

    If you are well dressed for the weather and in the company of adults you may cope well; but if you have little children with you (like we did) they are more likely to feel cold and tired and complain. So pick a sunny day to visit the Ulster Folk Museum and Transport Museum.

    The Galleries and The sweet shop.

    Cold weather aside, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. The Galleries are very informative and depending how much of an interest you take in social history you can easily spend there as long as two hours.

    The little corner shop had a lady in 19th century costume selling old-fashioned sweets from big, glass containers of the past century. There were antique postcards for sale too.

    Get some money with you, you don’t buy “hundred years old” sweets everyday!

    ulster-transport-and-folk-museum-the-church The Old Church

    In the outdoor Ballycultra town itself, one of the more interesting exhibits is the old church, an eye opener concerning the norms of days gone by were some people were more equal than others.

    The church had regular pews for the common mortals and special spacious and more comfortable cubicles for the families of those who could afford to pay a hefty rent for them.

    The Police Station and School

    The Police station had some fascinating information about the type of offenses it dealt with 150 years ago.

    The school with desks full of messages and love notes written by the students; not much has changed! In a corner, hoops and skipping ropes await the children of the old. In the wall, an old map of Europe and a blackboard that have heard hundreds of little voices reciting their times tables.


    The Houses and cottages of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

    You can enter the adobes and get an idea how people lived without the amenities we enjoy today.

    The little cottages of the poor people are almost bare. The big houses of the rich townspeople however, are lovely furnished with crochet coverings on antique beds, and even a butterfly and embalmed bird collection.

    The children enjoyed looking at the old-fashioned toys and the lovely baby cribs of the past. They even tried playing the old organ. It was hard to pump air with the foot pump while concentrating on notes reading. At they end, they declared they liked their house the best!

    Visit and you too, will suddenly feel more appreciative of the house you live in.

    ballycultra-our-hostess A House with a Landlady

    In one of the houses, ladies dressed in 19th century attire go about doing household work. The fireplace is burning and it bids us linger a bit longer.

    We begin chatting and they explain some of the traditional work that would be taking place in such homes on a daily basis. Simple things like preparing a meal required much work while washing up in the cold weather was certainly not the most pleasant of chores.

    Yet, the furniture looks so rustic and attractive. Nowadays you would pay a small fortune to have your home furnished in such a way.

    Care for a Snack?

    We say goodbye to the kind ladies and exit the house with the fireplace. The cold feels even colder now so we decide to skip the rural area of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, much as we would have liked to see it. The children are getting tired so it is probably time to eat. Had it been a gorgeous, sunny day, the dedicated picnic areas would be well used.

    On a cold day, however, the tearooms look particularly inviting. Gilford Tearoom in the reconstituted village offers hot and cold drinks and snacks.

    If you want something more elaborate you can try the Cultra Manor. In our case, the Gilford Tearoom was not yet opened and Cultra Manor was having a carvery day (every Sunday between 12:30-3:00) for which you are advised to prebook. Being vegeterians we decided to skip the carvery. Instead, we drove off the museum, picked something on one of the malls nearby and then headed back for the mostly indoor Transport Museum.

    All in all we have spent more than two hours in the Folk Museum and loved it. Had the weather been warmer or had our young children not been getting tired and cold we could have easily spent twice as long.

    Plan your visit to the Ulster Folk Museum and Transport Museum well, and you are sure to enjoy!