I'm a reader and a writer and wish I could do more of both.
Published February 17th 2013
The Botanic Gardens in Belfast are a welcome respite from the bustle of the city at any time of year. In the summer months, the expansive lawns are filled with tourists and families enjoying picnics and hoping for sunshine. But the great thing about the gardens is that even when the weather is less than favourable, there are plenty of indoor options to entertain and enthral both young and old alike.
When I was a child, my favourite attraction in the gardens was the Tropical Ravine. And it still gets my vote even for its name; I mean, who wouldn't want to visit a Tropical Ravine? Open for a few hours every afternoon, it was constructed under the reign of Queen Victoria, when Belfast was at the height of its industrial boom. Entering the long red-brick building, visitors find themselves on a balcony with the sunken ravine below them, which allows for close-up views of leaves and flowers that we wouldn't normally be able to see.
The main attraction of the Botanic Gardens is undoubtedly the majestic Palm House, whose stunning curvilinear cast iron frame pre-dates that of Kew Gardens in London. Not only is it a good place to warm up on a chilly day, you never know what you might stumble across. On a recent visit, for example, I was privileged to see (and smell) the Amorphophallus Titanum (or 'Corpse Flower') which booms for 48 hours every few years, and emits a smell akin to that of rotting flesh.
The Botanic Gardens are a must for any visitor to Belfast. They are conveniently located beside the bustling University Quarter and are also home to the largest museum in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Museum.
The Botanical Gardens are open from sunrise to sunset and entry is free.