Friday, 18 October 2013

Northern Ireland Adventures: Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

Northern Irish countryside is beautiful. 

It's been a while but I'm back with a new instalment to my Northern Ireland Adventures series.

Me in what was a dressmakers house from the early 20th century.

It was back in mid August that Jonathan woke me one Sunday morning to tell me we were going to the Folk and Transport museum for the afternoon. It's been on my list of places to visit as we pass it regularly travelling between Bangor and Belfast so I was pretty excited! The museum is in two parts and to get to the other you have to cross a bridge to the other side. 

Victorian Pharmacy.

We decided to start with the folk part of the museum and we had the chance to look around their buildings, all from around Northern Ireland and depicting a range of periods from the late 18th century until the early 20th century. You start with a urban setting with several buildings from Ballycultra including a school, bank and shops. 

Ballycultra residential street.

As it was a Sunday it was quiet and not all the demonstrations were open which was a shame but I still enjoyed walking around these buildings taking in the musky smell of old wood and the places were practically tingling with history. As a huge history buff being able to walk into places like this, places that actually hold so much history literally takes my breath away. I feel privileged to generally live in a society that treasures its heritage. 

Me exploring an Orange Order hall.

Moving on from the urban area we explored the 60 acres which hold rural buildings including farmhouses, a blacksmith, an Orange Order hall and watermills. Walking along the dirt paths really helped with the atmosphere of the place as well as the various farm animals - including a HUGE bull we nicknamed Thor!


 We also got to meet some horses, donkeys, chickens and a sow with her newborn piglets! Being a big animal lover this really enhanced the atmosphere for me as you were able to go right up to the animals to say hi. It was also great for children, who may never meet animals like this in their day to day life. 

Making friends with the local horses. 

It was a bit of a trek but it being an overcast day meant we didn't get too hot and I managed the walk with my walking problems. I liked how everything was spread out so you could try and get a feel for the isolation these villages would have been in apart from trips to market towns. 

A widows single roomed cottage which she lived in so her son's family could have the farmhouse.

Most of the buildings were either working buildings like farms or watermills or were small lodgings that normal families would occupy. This really is a museum that celebrates the normal person. 

Once we made it back to the car we crossed over to the transport museum. This museum is in two parts with a short walk between each building. The first building we entered included the steam train collection. Ireland, like the rest of the UK were able to access the railway transport system very early in its development. Although routes were smaller than those on Britain they were vital in the development of Ireland's economy and trade position. Goods and people could travel the country with ease and speed opening up a new world to the everyday person. I enjoyed being able to climb aboard some of the trains and carriages as well as all the old posters and train time logs. 


We moved from the trains upstairs to enjoy their Titanic exhibition. Before the opening of the Titanic Museum last year in Belfast this used to be the only place to see artefacts and glean information about the doomed ship which was built in the Belfast shipyards. Despite going in thinking I knew alot about the ship I learned several new things and we enjoyed the interactive rivet game (Jonathan beat me!). The exhibition was on the small size, just one room, and it's made me more excited to eventually visit the Titanic Museum. It really is one of those events in history that's able to grasp your imagination full force. Downstairs held the museums collection of cars, including a DeLoren and an authentic 1960's bright orange Beetle. 
Action shot of Jonathan playing the rivet game!
Moving to the second part of the Transport Museum revealed the aviation history, this part of the museum felt a little neglected and lacked the detail of the previous building. I enjoyed seeing the various horse drawn carriages and cabs but there was little in this museum to really grab anyones attention in my opinion. Luckily it was almost closing so it was a good thing we didn't stay too long there. This, for me, was the only downfall for the museum and some serious thought and vision needs to be applied to that part, of course though I appreciate money for museums is a huge issue and funding changes requires alot of donations and government funding. However, it's something I can look forward to seeing in the future. 

Exploring the carriages.

I'm really looking forward to our next adventure, not sure where we'll be exploring next but it's sure to be fun!


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