By Brian English, Tour Guide, Belfast City Sightseeing
An insight into Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter
Belfast is buzzing was the slogan here two years ago! If that was the case then how could Belfast be described now that things are even better! Hop off at Stop # 7 – Donegall Street / Cathedral Quarter – Buy discounted online Belfast City Sightseeing tickets here
A leisurely walk around Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter in winter makes you think of so many things not altogether obvious about this city. The pubs are busy with visitors and locals alike. Customers milling about outside conversing in such a variety of languages in weather although cool not uncomfortably cold.
A short walk can soon seem more like a stroll back in time.
Blue plaques indicate the lives of the more famous! Those less famous, but equally important will have trodden the myriad of cobbled streets many times and through eras a lot harsher than the one we live in today. Secret metal cobbles hidden from all but the well informed with messages from bygone years, revealed only to those observant enough to spot them. The history of the city is portrayed in mosaics bronzes and pieces of modern art. Some recently introduced to make an already interesting part of the city peculiarly fascinating!
There are murals, no surprise as it’s Belfast! These though are non political murals portraying some of Irelands more talented characters; painters, writers, sports personalities, actors, singers and many of Ireland’s most well loved names.
It needn’t be a random walk through the area or the past as there are many deliberately designed walking trails that take in specific landmarks or related pieces of artwork. There is the laganside trail taking in most of the Co Antrim side of Belfast’s at one time incredibly bustling docks area with eleven pieces of fairly recent modern art to appreciate along the way with the stunning views of the hills that surround Belfast distracting your concentration!
Not to many cities have been blessed with as beautiful a backdrop as the Belfast hills. Belfast is such a beautifully situated city and will always remain a compact little city because of it’s positioning. It has a rich and interesting cultural and political history! In the past it was said that Belfast is a city walled by mountains, moated by the sea but undermined by history.
Now Belfast is at last taking advantage of such a rich cultural diversity! Now no matter when visitors choose to visit Belfast there is always something in the way of cultural entertainment especially here in Cathedral Quarter. Whether it be traditional Irish music or an Ulster Scots recital you don’t need to walk very far to find examples of this only recently accepted cultural diversity.
A short walk up skipper street takes you to the birthplace of the United Irishman. Crown entry just off High Street is where they were founded in 1791. There desire for religious equality very much in keeping with the morals and ideals of the twenty first century but for the late eighteenth century they were seen as radicals!
Attempts to suppress them violently would certainly make them more radical and by 1798 they were declaring an independent United Ireland. This coming from a group initially founded by eleven men; nine Presbyterian and two Anglican! This certainly dispels the theory that Irish Nationalism has only ever been solely linked with one religion.
That if anything was a slightly later development. The story of the United Irishman continues as you walk in and out through the entries and alleyways which have played such an important part in Belfast’s commercial and political development through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. You pass by the Assembly rooms where the United Irishman Henry joy McCracken was tried also where he was born executed and buried. His story is such that no matter what your politics you can’t help but be moved or at least intrigued!
This part of Belfast tells so many stories linked to the political and religious division that has plagued Belfast for centuries. However, it tells them in such a way as to make most re-examine long held beliefs and open up their minds if not to a different past then at least to a very different future.
This is just a taster of what’s on offer in Belfast’s seven quarters for those willing to explore some of not so hidden Belfast. Stop seven on the Belfast City Sightseeing tour route drops you right in the heart of Cathedral Quarter.