A few days ago I blogged about St Georges Market in Belfast that I always knew was there but did not realise it was a great place to visit (Belfast ‘born and bred’ )
Well, Stormont Estate, on the outskirts of East Belfast is another such place. For me, when growing up, Stormont was seen on the news, that is where we see our politicians being interviewed and a place I remember my parents attended a huge demonstration way back during the most troubled times in the 1970s. As a student doing my dissertation I was inside once to interview a politician who had kindly given up his time to answer my pretty mundane questions about politics and the media. Those were my experiences of Stormont.
Now I know it to be so much more… another gem of Belfast and well worth visiting.
Parliament Buildings, commonly known as Stormont or ‘The House on the Hill’ because of its location in the Stormont Estate, is the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly and previously of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. Until a few years ago, even though I had driven past it many hundreds of times, it had not dawned on me that the grounds are open for us all to enjoy, in fact 365 days a year!
The grounds are beautifully kept, 407 acres, a beautiful mixture of woodland, walking and fitness trails, children’s playgrounds, sculptures and even a dog park – a large enclosed area where dogs can be let off the lead to run and socialise with other dogs.
One of the most dramatic features of the estate is the long straight driveway leading to the House on the Hill. The Prince of Wales Avenue is flanked either side by double rows of red limes – 305 of them, planted in 1929, all of which survive until today. It never fails to impress me when I park at the gates and walk up that pristine driveway with the dogs on a sunny Sunday morning towards the House on the Hill. Yet it amazes me that this is yet another gem that passed me by as a child largely thanks to the many troubles that existed in our country at the time.