Thursday, 26 October 2017

BANGOR



In 2013 news reports carried the revelation that the town of Bangor had been named the sexiest place in the UK.  This was based on research by the Lovehoney website into where in the country people were spending the most on spicing up their love lives.  The research uncovered the startling statistic that the good folk of Bangor were spending 6.7 times the national average on erotic products.

Bangor lies on the southern shore of the Belfast Lough, just 12 miles from the capital of Northern Ireland.  The town’s history goes back to at least 558, when Bangor Abbey was founded by St Comgall, and the town went on to become a great centre of learning.  It was in Victorian times that the town became a popular seaside resort, with Charles Dickens among the first to take to the beach there, during a lecture tour of Ireland in 1858.  In 1937 an outdoor pool named the “Pickie Pool” was built, complete with diving boards.  Sadly, unlike many such pools from the period, this one fell into disrepair and was demolished in the 1980s, to be replaced by the Pickie Fun Park. 

During the latter part of the 20th century the town suffered a number of tragedies relating to The Troubles.  There were a number of bomb attacks, including an incendiary bomb attack on the main shopping centre by paramilitaries in 1974.  In 1975 a female Royal Ulster Constabulary officer was killed while on foot patrol in the High Street, the first to be murdered on duty.  Things were still tense in the 1990s, with two bomb explosions on Main Street, one in 1992 and another a year later, the latter causing £2 million of damage and injuring four RUC officers.

Happily, things have been quieter since, and the regeneration which saw the end of the Pickie Pool also spawned the Bangor Marina which, along with the usual facilities for leisure craft, also boasts hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and cinemas, as well as a leisure centre, golf and tennis.  The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and is nearby, while other attractions in the town include the North Down Museum, which tells the history of the area since the Bronze Age, and the Castle Park, incorporating the Bangor Castle Walled Garden, designed by the Ward family.

For a list of events in Bangor follow this link.


File:Bangor marina and harbour - geograph.org.uk - 980296.jpg
Photo by Ross, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, 20 October 2017

MILLISLE AND DONAGHADEE



Millisle makes a good spot for a nice safe swim for families, with the beach forming a natural lagoon and a large open-air pool alongside.  There are also rockpools to explore and a picnic area and playground at the back of the beach.  Just inland is the Ballycopeland Windmill, built around the late 18th/early 19th century and restored to full working order after a period of disuse.  There is a small visitor centre at the windmill.

Donaghadee is a harbour town with a long history and seafaring tradition.  The Normans left their mark in the form of a motte which is a main feature of the townscape, now topped by a 19th century building formerly used to store explosives.  In 1662 a sea crossing from Donaghadee to Portpatrick in Scotland was established, a distance of just 22 miles, making it the shortest distance between Ireland and Scotland.  The town’s port was the most important in Northern Ireland before being overtaken by Belfast. The harbour, which was started in at least the 17th century, was enhanced by the addition of a lighthouse.  Construction of the lighthouse with its limestone tower was started in 1836 and it was the first lighthouse in Ireland to be lit by electricity.  Though the sea crossing is no longer used, the town is a popular destination for visitors who want to enjoy the leisure facilities such as angling or walking along the shore enjoying the views across to Scotland.  Donaghadee boasts a pub, GraceNeill’s, which is reputedly the oldest in Ireland.    

In January 1953 the brave lifeboat men of Donaghadee were called out to the aid of a ferry called MV Princess Victoria which had left Stranraer, emerging from the relative safety of Loch Ryan to find itself confronted with severe gales.  This awful weather was part of the same disastrous weather system which was responsible for the flooding and loss of life in other parts of the UK, notably the east coast.  Initially the captain was going to return the vessel to Stranraer, but after being hit by a large wave he changed his mind and headed for Northern Ireland.  The subsequent nightmare journey culminated in the Princess Victoria going under just five miles from the County Down coast.  The crew of the Sir Samuel Kelly from Donaghadee were able to save the lives of 34 of the passengers, all bar ten of the survivors.  The 135 people who lost their lives included Maynard Sinclair, the deputy prime minister of Northern Ireland.


File:Boat and tackle, Donaghadee - geograph.org.uk - 935175.jpg
Photo by Ross, via Wikimedia Commons