Friday, 7 December 2018

Are you a fan of Van Morrison?

Today his new album "The Prophet Speaks" is out. 

Vanatics are the most dedicated fans of Belfast's poetic, enigmatic, musical genius.
The 50th anniversary of the release of his most critically acclaimed album - Astral Weeks - has triggered a new wave of interest in how the city of Sir Van Morrison influenced his songwriting.
Lynn Corken leads a walking tour around the streets of east Belfast where Sir Van grew up - she says he is "the soundtrack to my life".
She has met Van enthusiasts from Britain, America and Australia who've come to see their hero's home city.
The locations on Lynn's tour include Hyndford Street where Sir Van was born on 31 August 1945.
There she plays the song named after the street, where the singer recounts how "you could feel the silence at half past eleven on long summer nights".
People nod, smile, even close their eyes as they take in the lyrics and imagine a young Van Morrison at home and contemplating his future.
Among the numerous nearby places mentioned in On Hyndford Street is "the Beechie River".
You can find it just around the corner at the Hollow, a childhood haunt of Van Morrison, which has been given a facelift in recent years.
In one of Sir Van's biggest hits - Brown-Eyed Girl - he is "down in the Hollow, playing the new game".

The Hollow is where two rivers join to form the River Connswater.
It's now part of the Connswater community greenway and is right beside Elmgrove Primary School, where Sir Van was a pupil.
With her tour group in the Hollow, Lynn explains that the jaunty pop song Brown Eyed Girl came in 1967 and the album that followed a year later was a huge contrast.
'Morrison's poetic vision'
Astral Weeks fuses jazz, blues and folk and initially was not a major commercial success.
But as time has gone on, critics have come to regard it as Sir Van's masterpiece.
BBC Radio Ulster presenter Ralph McLean believes it is "the best record ever made".

He is one of few people to have interviewed Sir Van a number of times.
"Astral Weeks is an incredible record - a singular poetic vision," he says.
"It's a unique piece of work - it's like nothing else ever made."
Ralph notes that it reflects "a strong sense of Belfast" and he points out that Sir Van once said "there are two stories in music - leaving and going home".
"Astral Weeks is about yearning," he says.
"Throughout his whole career, Van Morrison is on a journey - the man's a seeker."
He believes that it is the musician's jazz roots that help to explain why he is still turning out album after album, more than 50 years after his breakthrough.
"I think first and foremost, Van is a jazzer," explains Ralph.
"He's in the moment - he wants to be moving onto the next thing.
"That's a jazz idea - it's all about the art you're making now."
Tree-lined Cyprus Avenue
Thousands of people still see him play live every year.
But two of his most special live performances were surely the concerts in 2015 to mark his 70th birthday in Cyprus Avenue in east Belfast - a street made famous by having a song named after it on Astral Weeks.
It is this wide, tree-lined avenue where Lynn's tour finishes.
Remarkably, 12 years before Astral Weeks was written, it was on Cyprus Avenue that her father proposed to her mother.
It's perhaps no wonder that the whole family are huge Van fans.
"I just love the symmetry of it, the circle of life," she muses.
"For my parents, this was a magical place as well and they grew up just a few streets from Van Morrison."
The Vanatics who've listened to her give them the life and times of their hero describe him in similar ways - a "genius", a "poet", an "artistic ambassador" for Belfast - and the east of the city in particular.

However one of the facts not many know is that Van owned the house across the fields from our Whitethorn Cottages.
 He very much kept it secret, although he could be seen driving the area but we all respected his privacy. The house is now on the market for any of you who are interested. 
We hope that Belfast will make the most of his legendary legacy as the musical magic of Sir Van Morrison will enchant millions for many decades to come. Enjoy. 


Thursday, 27 September 2018

Well worth a visit when you stay with us.

Bangor Castle Victorian Walled Garden, located in the tranquil grounds of Castle Park, is popular with visitors of all ages.


The Ward family designed the Bangor Castle Walled Garden in the 1840s. It was previously closed to the public and was considered by many as a secret garden. The local council restored this beautiful garden and it was officially opened as a visitor attraction in April 2009.

The garden is divided into four different sections, each with its own horticultural personality. It also boasts two unique pieces of sculpture inspired by North Down's maritime history.

The garden won the Royal Horticultural Society Award for Permanent Landscaping in its first year of opening. Formal tours can be arranged by appointment.

The gardens are generally open from the end of March to the end of October. 

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Come stay with us and explore Belfast

We are just 10 miles from Belfast city centre in the heart of The North Down countryside. 5 mins to the beach , 14 golf clubs within a ten mile radius. 


This weekend there is the BBC Music concert and the Tall Ships and from the 6 th June it's Belfast Book Festival. Or why not visit HMS Caroline. 


Sunday, 6 May 2018

Bank Holiday Weekend

We have been promised sunshine here this weekend so what's on our and about so we can take advantage and enjoy every second here's some ideas for you.  

In Holywood on Monday they will be dancing around the Maypole. 


Top street artists from around the world and from Belfast too, give more than 120 performances over the May Day Bank Holiday Weekend. The emphasis is on comedy - the more physical and surreal, the better. As well as this, the Festival now stages shows in the Summer in Belfast.


Or in Connswater Shopping Centre you can try the Game of Thrones Iron Throne out for yourself, see how it feels to sit in it. 


Or if you fancy a drive down the Ards Pennisula there's the bluebells to see in Mount Stewart or why not drive on to Portaferry and visit the Aquarium and try some food and hospitality in the Poryaferry Hotel. 

And Belfast will be buzzing when the Belfast Marathon starts at 9am Bank Holiday Monday. 

The city is set to be transformed into one huge race track as runners of varying standards descend on Belfast for the big event.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Visit Scrabo Tower

Would you live to see inside Scrabo Tower? Love Heritage NI and the @NationalTrustNI have announced the re-opening of the Ards landmark, Scrabo Tower. The historical building will open it's doors on Thur 3 May and open Thurs to Sun until Sept. Great to see the building open again to the public.


Scrabo Tower is located to the west of Newtownards in County Down, Northern Ireland. Built in the 1850s as a memorial to the Marquess of Londonderry it was originally and formally known as the 'Londonderry Monument'


 at the top of Scrabo Hill near Newtownards is Scrabo Country Park and boasts incredible views over Strangford Lough and the surrounding countryside. There are plenty of paths through the fine beech woodlands of Killynether Wood and around the disused quarries allowing visitors many opportunities to enjoy the quiet and peaceful countryside.

Universal Pictures filmed several scenes of the new Dracula Untold film at Scrabo Country Park & Killynether Wood. This was one of many of the locations used for filming across Northern Ireland.

You never know who you might meet, you might recognise these two enjoying the venue. 

Starting on Thursday 3rd May 2018 until Sunday 9th September 2018, Scrabo Tower will be open every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 16:00 (last entry 15:30)

Additional opening on bank Holidays: Monday 7th & 28th May

Saturday, 24 March 2018

On this weekend Belfast Food Festival

What more do I need to say. It's in the Cathedral Quarter @ The Mac in Belfast. 
Meet the Makers and best people involved in food & drink produce in NI. 
Taste, sample and purchase the best produce. 
The sun is shining here, and there's no better place to be right now. Go


Friday, 22 September 2017

This weekend, today & tonight.

Culture Night Belfast 2017

The biggest evening in Belfast's cultural calendar returns to transform the spaces and places of the city centre and beyond on Friday 22 September with a packed programme of events including tasters, tours, talks, trails, demonstrations, activities and gigs.


All Culture Night events are free. Most events will take place between 1pm - 10pm in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, but many venues will be opening earlier and closing later.


85,000 people enjoyed Culture Night Belfast in 2016, and this year they're spreading the fun further across the city including at locations such as Belfast City Hall, Belfast Harbour and The Big Fish beside the River Lagan.   


For the full programme of events, visit www.culturenightbelfast.com or view the events guide.