Banks Of The River Lagan – Near Queens Bridge In Belfast
Banks Of The River Lagan   Near Queens Bridge In Belfast

Image by infomatique
The River Lagan is a major river in Northern Ireland which runs 40 miles (60 km) from the Slieve Croob mountain in County Down to Belfast where it enters Belfast Lough, an inlet of the Irish Sea. The River Lagan forms much of the border between County Antrim and County Down. It rises as a tiny fast moving stream off the Transmitter road near to the summit of Slieve Croob. From here it continues on its journey to Belfast through Dromara and Dromore. On the lower slopes of the mountain it is joined by another branch from Legananny (Cratlieve) Mountain, just opposite Slieve Croob. At Dromara, about four miles from its source, its height above the sea is 390 ft (119m). As the river continues on its journey to Belfast it turns east to Magheralin into a broad plain between the Antrim plateau and the plateau of Down.

The river drains approximately 609 square km of agricultural land and flows over 70 km from the Mourne Mountains to the Stranmillis Weir, from which point on it is estuarine. The catchment consists mainly of enriched agricultural grassland in the upper parts, with a lower section draining urban Belfast and Lisburn. There is one significant tributary, the Ravernet River, and there are several minor tributaries, including the Carryduff River, the River Farset and the Blackstaff River. Water quality is generally fair though there are localised problems and occasional pollution incidents, mainly due to effluents from farms.

In 1989 the Laganside Corporation was established by the Government to redevelop the areas surrounding the Lagan in Belfast. Major developments of the Laganside Corporation along the river include the regeneration of the city’s former Gasworks, the Odyssey entertainment and leisure development and the Lanyon Place development which includes the Waterfront Hall, in many ways the flagship of the corporation.

One of the earliest and most important undertakings of the Corporation was the Lagan Weir. Completed in 1994 at a cost of £14m, the weir controls the level of water upstream. One of the main functions of the weir was to put an end to the appearance of unsightly mud flats at low tide. This was mostly successful, but mud flats are still evident on the river. The weir is a series of massive steel barriers which are raised as the tide retreats so as to keep the river at an artificially constant level. This, improvements to the sewerage system and massive dredging of the river by mechanical excavators has led to a marked improvement in water quality and the environment around the river.

Belfast – Donegall Quay
Belfast   Donegall Quay

Image by infomatique
The buildings and structures of Belfast comprise many styles of architecture ranging from Edwardian through to state-of-the-art modern buildings like the Waterfront Hall. The city’s beautiful Edwardian buildings are notable for their display of large numbers of sculptures. Many of Belfast’s Victorian landmarks, including the main Lanyon Building at Queens University in 1849, were designed by Sir Charles Lanyon.

The City Hall, was finished in 1906 and was built to reflect Belfast’s City status, granted by Queen Victoria in 1888. The Dome is 53 metres (173 ft) high. Figures above the door are “Hibernia encouraging and promoting the Commerce and Arts of the City”. Among the city’s grandest buildings are two former banks: Ulster Bank (1860), in Waring Street and Northern Bank (1769), in nearby Donegall Street. The Royal Courts of Justice in Chichester Street are home to Northern Ireland’s Supreme Court. Some of Belfast’s oldest buildings still remain in the Cathedral Quarter area, which is currently undergoing redevelopment as the city’s main cultural and tourist area.

The world’s largest dry dock is located in the city, and the giant cranes (Samson and Goliath) of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, builders of the Titanic, can be seen from afar.

The four star Europa Hotel, located in the City Centre, was bombed twenty-seven times during the troubles and is among one of the most bombed hotels in Europe. Across the street, the ornately decorated Crown Liquor Saloon in Great Victoria Street is notable as being the only bar owned by the National Trust. The panels used in the restaurant on the first floor were meant for Brittanic, the sister ship of the Titanic. It was made internationally famous as the setting for the classic film, Odd Man Out, starring James Mason.

Belfast also contains the tallest building (as distinct from structure) on the island of Ireland. Windsor House stands at 80 metres (262 ft) and has twenty-three floors. Once completed, the Obel Tower will surpass Windsor House, although a taller building than this has been given planning permission in Dublin. In January 2007 plans were submitted to build the Aurora Tower on Great Victoria Street, which will be 37 storeys high. At 109m (358 ft) high it will house 290 luxury apartments and be 28m (92 ft) higher than the Obel Tower.

The Albert Clock stands at the end of High Street, and was designed by William J. Barre and built in memory of Queen Victoria’s Prince Consort, Prince Albert. The clock stands 35 m high, was built on land reclaimed from the river, and leans 1.25 m off the vertical. The Linen Hall Library in Donegall Square North is Belfast’s oldest library, founded in 1788 to acquire ‘philosophical apparatus and such productions of nature and art as are calculated to enlarge knowledge’.

St George’s Market, built between 1890 and 1896, is Belfast’s last surviving Victorian covered market. It was restored at a cost of £4.5 million in 1997, and hosts regular Friday and Saturday markets.

Near the Market is Saint Malachy’s Catholic Church. Built between 1841 and 1844, it is built in the Tudor Revival style and is unique in Ireland. It is also one of only two buildings remaining in Belfast which was constructed with hand-made bricks. Hamilton Street is a Georgian terrace in the Markets Area, originally built in the 1830s, which was restored in 1988 by Hearth.

Belfast has several venues for performing arts. The Grand Opera House was completed in 1895 was bombed several times during the Troubles but has been restored to its former glory. The Ulster Hall (1859-1862) was originally designed for grand dances but is now used primarily as a concert and sporting venue. Lloyd George, Parnell and Patrick Pearse all attended political rallies there. It holds 13 paintings of Belfast History. The Mulholland organ costing 3000 guineas was donated and named after a local wealthy industrialist. The Waterfront Hall was opened in 1997 as part of the redevelopment of the Laganside and already has become an icon of modern Belfast.

The Victoria Square in now completed.