Belfast Castle Beneath a Blanket of Snow
Upon Cave Hill, overlooking the entire city, sits Belfast Castle. While more a grand and ornate house than a Castle, it has some of the best views of the city and enjoys its status as one of Belfast’s premiere wedding venues. Founded by the Donegall family, the family fell into financial trouble before its completion and so it was down to the 8th Earl of Shaftesbury to complete the house. Just over 60 years later, the Earl’s son gifted the castle to the City of Belfast. The castle was designed by Charles Lanyon whose architectural influence can be seen throughout the city.
Beyond Charles Lanyon’s take on a Scottish baronial style castle, the building is home to a visitors centre, antiques shop and restaurant. The visitors centre explores the history of Cave Hill and those who settle here before the Donegall family. Discover the location’s historical importance, having been occupied since at least the Iron Age and probably earlier; it’s easy to see why. With views over all possible approaches; the location would have given previous occupants a sense of security in what was a world of uncertainty. The restaurant is also well worth a visit with its high quality food and friendly staff.
The most surprising part of the castle is the rural feel; you’re a stone’s throw from the city centre but up here it’s peaceful and calm. The castle’s gardens have a number of sculptures, plants and flowers of every colour, grassy fields and many trees which look like they’ve been enjoyed by many a child over the years. If the weather’s nice and you’re looking for a stroll; you could do a lot worse than Belfast Castle. The only shame here is that the castle is a little bare on the inside mostly due to its new found purpose as host to weddings, conferences and private dining. After playing its part in two world wars, the castle has rarely not been in use.
The selling point here is the castle’s position, that breathtaking view is a great way to begin or end a visit to Belfast; look out upon the whole city and either greet it or wish it fair well but soak it all in either way. The castlewill also give you that great lordly feel as you ascend up the hill or descend to the city below. While there’s not enough here for a day long stay (unless you’re here for a wedding of course), it’s definitely worth a stop while exploring the city. With no admission fees and so close to the city; there’s no reason not to go!
Words by John Temke. Image by NITB