Gardens & Prison Cells: Two Faces of Belfast

The “Troubles” in Belfast are far behind. Sunny botanical gardens, lots of beer and traditional Irish music and some of the friendliest people I have ever met — this is Belfast today.


For the last two and a half days Katherine and I have been walking all over the city and, wouldn’t you know it, I am already two days behind in my blog. Too much beer to drink and music to hear. Sometimes life gets in the way of blogs.

The photos are from the Botanical Gardens, one of my favorite places in Belfast. The one above and the two below were taken in the Tropical Ravine, a building from the mid 19th Century with a lush collection of plants more evocative of Bali than Belfast.



The last two were taken in the Rose Garden as it desperately hangs on to the last petals of summer in the first frosty gusts of autumn.



After a day of sunshine, flowers and cheer, it was time for a bit of doom and gloom.


We started off our second day in Belfast with a visit to the Victorian era prison on Crumlin Road. Until it closed in 1996, it housed political figures, suffragettes, even children, as well as the usual criminals.


The weather matched the mood and history of the place — dark and rainy. The highlight, if you could call it that, was the execution chamber where condemned prisoners were hanged. I’m not being sarcastic — seeing the condemned prisoners cells and the gallows was fascinating. I’m glad we made the visit. But it is sobering. I don’t remember if photos were allowed, but it seemed disrespectful to take photos of such a grisly place where so many men were executed (seventeen). The last execution was in 1961.

From there we wandered around in the afternoon going from one bar to another looking for traditional Irish music to satisfy Katherine’s jones for the music (I like it, but I’m not obsessive like Katherine). Not much luck finding anything in the afternoon or early evening — Friday is not the day for Irish music unless you want to hang around until late. We finally headed to the Dirty Onion for a late session of traditional music. It was so loud — Friday night, young men, young women, you get the picture — so we left after about 30 minutes and headed back to our spacious accommodations at L’Acadamie in the Queens Quarter.

Don_Mankin_headshotDon Mankin is a travel writer, business author, psychologist, organizational consultant and executive coach. He is the author of “Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean: A Guide to 50 Extraordinary Adventures for the Seasoned Traveler.” To check out his blog, visit

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