Titanic Belfast

Excerpt from the book Travels through History : Northern Ireland and Scotland  Belfast and the Causeway Coast has been rated best region in the world to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet. In September 2017, Scotland was voted the most beautiful country in the world by a respected travel company, Rough Guides.

Titanic Belfast stands 126 feet high, the same height as Titanic’s hull. The interior of the eight-storey building provides 130,000 square feet of space. Its centrepiece is a series of interpretive galleries exploring aspects of the building, design, sinking and legacy of Titanic. On the top floor of the museum is Belfast’s largest conference and reception space, the Titanic Suite, a banqueting facility capable of seating 750 people. A reproduction of the original staircase on the Titanic, made famous by the James Cameron film Titanic in 1997, is located in this conference centre. The construction of the building cost £77 million with an additional £24 million spent on pre-planning and public realm enhancements.

Once inside, the visitors all go the same way, through the various galleries that first provide the background of Belfast the city at the time Titanic was constructed, followed by the various phases of the Titanic’s life, starting with the construction of the vessel, the launch, the fit-out, the maiden voyage, the sinking, and then the aftermath.

The first gallery recreates scenes from Belfast at the time of Titanic’s construction in 1909–11. It illustrates the city’s major industries, including amazing statistics about linen. In 1825, James Kay of Preston in Lancashire invented a method of “wet spinning” which passed the flax through warm water and enabled a much finer yarn to be spun. By the late 1820s several “wet” spinning mills using water-power had been built in Ulster. By 1850 there were 62 mills in the region, employing 19,000 workers and by 1871 there were 78 mills with a workforce of 43,000. People flocked into Belfast to work in the new spinning mills. Belfast more than quadrupled in size between 1841 and 1901. It’s easy to see why Belfast was known as ‘Linenopolis’ during this time.

The Giant’s Causeway

Excerpt from the book Travels through History : Northern Ireland and Scotland  Belfast and the Causeway Coast has been rated best region in the world to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet. In September 2017, Scotland was voted the most beautiful country in the world by a respected travel company, Rough Guides

In 1693 the wider world first became aware of The Giant’s Causeway when Sir Richard Bulkeley, a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, presented a paper on this unique geographical feature to The Royal Society. Even then, it was four years before an artist was sent to the area to provide evidence of this ‘curiosity’ on the north-east tip of Ireland.

It may seem remarkable to visitors such as myself that there were people in the late 1690s who put forward an argument that The Causeway had been created either by men with chisels and picks or by the efforts of a long-dead giant. When I looked at the Giant’s Causeway I had seen many pictures of it before, so it was completely new yet somewhat familiar, but in the 17th Century nothing like it had been seen before. Therefore, the visitor’s imagination could run wild.

In 1740 another artist, Miss Susanna Drury, popularised the Giant’s Causeway for the first time. Her views of the area are landmarks both in Irish topographical painting and in European scientific illustration. The groups of fashionably-dressed figures in Susanna Drury’s paintings show that, even in 1740, the Giant’s Causeway had become a tourist attraction. Soon it became part of The Grand Tour amongst the social elites of the time and its popularity began to increase, a trend that has continued to this day. Even though there were many visitors to the Giant’s Causeway in the period 1740 – 1770, no one could conclusively prove how the feature was created. Then in 1771, a Frenchman by the name of Demarest, announced the origin of the causeway was because of volcanic action.

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