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Displaying items by tag: Belfast Lough

Since Victorian times until about thirty years ago, Queens Parade in Bangor was a thriving seaside thoroughfare with shops, hotels, a cinema, and ice cream vendors all colourfully set in a row, attracting hundreds to that part of the town writes Betty Armstrong.

Sadly, most of the buildings have gone, many are derelict and only artistic type ‘pods’ on waste ground relieve the boredom. In 1989 on the seaward side, the Council built the marina replacing the open bay and the little beach at the bottom of Main Street with a 500-berth haven and associated facilities, a Coastguard station and beside it a boatyard.

But the siting of two huge retail complexes on the outskirts of the town has ruined business in the town centre. Now the Ards and North Down Council, after many proposed and discarded redevelopment plans, has appointed Bangor Marine as the developer to take forward a major £50m regeneration project of Queen’s Parade.

Bangor Marine PresentationAn artist's impression of views from the proposed apartments out over Bangor Marina
The proposed scheme is made up of; Marine Gardens Public Realm combining external events space, cafes, sheltered promenade and kiosks, beach, seafront lawns, children’s play area and water feature; a 70/80 bed hotel; a destination/cinema building; residential units; commercial/retail/restaurant space; office Space; a play zone; refurbishment of existing commercial properties; 200 space car park; and marketplace and courtyard squares.

Making the announcement the Department for Communities Permanent Secretary Tracy Meharg said: “This development and the £50m investment in Bangor will generate new jobs, new shops, new offices, new homes and make this area Bangor a place to see and visit. It will help to support a number of areas that we know are important to the vitality of our town centres, especially employment and tourism”.

The then Mayor Councillor Richard Smart said “The regeneration of Queen’s Parade is critical to the future of Bangor and to maximising the economic growth potential of the wider borough of Ards and North Down. With the appointment of Bangor Marine – a consortium made up of a number of leading companies including the Karl Group and Farrans – we are taking a very significant and exciting step forward”.

Aran Blackbourne, Managing Director of the Karl Group commented “The Bangor Marine team are delighted to have signed the Development Agreement to deliver this prestigious and life changing development for the people of Bangor and beyond”.

Published in Belfast Lough
Tagged under

Belfast used to turn its back on the River Lagan. Not anymore writes Betty Armstrong. Within the city much development, both commercial and urban, has taken place around the river – a weir, Belfast Harbour Marina, riverside walks, a new footbridge, many cultural events and maritime gatherings and farther upstream, improved towpaths, rowing, kayaking and angling. All this has resulted in a huge increase in the number of people using the waterway and consequently, an increase in incidents.

Lagan Search and Rescue is an acute water rescue and independent lifeboat charity serving the city. It is a voluntary emergency service set up in 2011 responding to incidents in and around the river 24/7, under the direction and control of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

A dedicated and highly trained group of volunteers make up the Lifeboat crew, Quayside Responders, Rescue swimmers and Flood Response unit. Last year members put in over 11000 hours on behalf of the Charity.

So if you’re over 18 and physically fit, have time to dedicate to the charity and would like to be part of a dynamic team, you can express interest here

Published in Rescue

Adverse weather with strong gusts in the lead up to this week’s racing threatened to spoil the day again for this week’s Charles Hurst Jaguar Land Rover sponsored Junior Icebreaker at Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough. Saturday morning however brought warm weather and light winds and a fleet of 18 junior sailors in their Topper dinghies were able to take to the water for their first training session followed by racing. 

The course was set close to the clubhouse, which lead to tricky conditions in the light and shifty winds that were blowing from the shore. Race 1 saw Daniel Palmer lead from start to finish with Katie Brow in second and last year’s overall winner Faye McCartan rounding off the podium.

The second race saw a big shift on the left side of the course favour all those who had ventured in that direction seeing Daniel Palmer once again take line honours from Charlie O’Malley with Hannah Archer in third and Katie Brow staying in contention overall in fourth.

The third and final race was started in lighter winds but this time both sides of the course were even. Daniel Palmer made it a hat trick of first places but had to work this time to overtake Katie Brow who led at the first mark. Charlie O’Malley was third in this breakaway group and these three now lead the series overall.

Tight racing in the chasing pack was led by Romy Maguire ahead of Rex Claney in fifth place and Isobel Nixon in sixth.

Three of the entries were using the smaller 4.2 sail. This group is led by Hannah Bell with Charlotte Cairns second and Desi Gillespie in third. Even with the smaller sails this group were in the mix beating some of the sailors with full rigs.

The Junior Icebreaker takes place on Saturdays in October and November. Young sailors take to the water for training from a group of dedicated coaches. Training is followed by racing which is taken by these sailors as seriously as the adults in the main series on Sunday.

Published in Belfast Lough

An enormous cruiseship Celebrity Reflection sails into Belfast this morning, bringing thousands of deep-pocketed North Americans to the city's visitor attractions, shops, pubs and restaurants, there are fears it could be the 'end of an era' for this type of tourism.

As The Irish News reports, it comes as the Dublin Port Company sticks to its guns and restricts the number of cruise ships entering its port from 2021 as it increases freight capacity container vessels post-Brexit.

And when cruise ships can't dock in Dublin, then Ireland as a whole could be wiped from tour itineraries - which will impact heavily on Belfast.

In what is known in the industry as a 'turnaround', the Celebrity Reflection dropped off 3,600 cruise tourists in Dublin yesterday while another 3,600 passengers flew into Dublin to begin their cruise, which has Belfast as its next stop today.

Dublin port sees freight (where volumes have swollen by 36 per cent in six years) as more lucrative than cruisers, and last month confirmed the number of tour vessels it will allow to berth will be slashed from 172 in 2019 to as few as 30 in just two years.

Click here to read more on the story.

Published in Cruise Liners

#tallships - The towering and magnificent masts of Tall Ships will grace Belfast city’s skyline once again as the Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival sails into town this May.

From Saturday 25 to Monday 27 May, Sailortown, Donegall Quay, Queen’s Quay and Titanic Quarter will come alive at 10am each day with an array of nautical fun and games, food stalls and demos, live music and a treasure trove of street shows and performers.

There will also be opportunities for landlubbers to have their own adventure on the high seas, sailing a kayak, paddle-boarding or even trying yoga on the Lagan.

John Greer, Director of Economic Development said: “Our Maritime Festival is always a great day out and a fantastic opportunity to get together with family and friends on the spectacular waterfront of the city, and this year we’re expanding into nearby Sailortown so there’s even more to see and do.

“Discover more about our city’s seafaring heritage or why not climb aboard some of the visiting Tall Ships and naval vessels that will be docked for the weekend. The spectacular Mexican naval vessel ‘Cuauhtémoc’ will be attending our festival which is really exciting.

“And don’t forget to check out the Maritime Mile – a trail that brings the Titanic Quarter’s maritime and industrial history to life, connecting attractions including the impressively restored naval warship HMS Caroline, one of the world’s largest lighthouse optics, The Great Light, sculptures and viewing points along the way.”

The Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival is organised by Belfast City Council, with support from event partners Tourism NI, Titanic Foundation Ltd and media partner Q Radio.

Orla Ross, Agency Sales Director at Q Radio, said: “We are delighted to be media partner for the Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival. This has become an unmissable event in the summer calendar for people all over Northern Ireland. We're looking forward to being there all weekend with our presenters who'll be hosting and broadcasting from this great event.”

Aine Kearney, Director of Business Support and Events at Tourism NI added: “Tourism NI is a proud supporter of the Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival 2019. The weekend long festival is a homegrown event celebrating Belfast’s unique maritime history and Titanic legacy providing a platform for visitors to explore and interact with the city.’’

Kerrie Sweeney, Chief Executive of Titanic Foundation, said: "We are delighted to sponsor this year’s Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival and are incredibly proud of the creative programme which showcases some of the very best in art and culture from local talent through commissions, installations and performances. It’s set to be a busy weekend along the Maritime Mile and we look forward to welcoming local residents and international visitors to celebrate our wonderful maritime heritage.”

Just beyond the Great Light on the Maritime Mile, is HMS Caroline, one of the finalists for the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019. Step on board and explore one of the last remaining ships from the First World War. Discover the Captain’s cabins, get hands on with interactive exhibits or walk along the ship’s historic decks.

Sailortown’s St Joseph’s Church will house a special Maritime Heritage exhibition telling the stories of Sailortown's seamen in WW1. On Saturday 25 May, Barrow Square will host an afternoon of Belfast based Rock, Rhythm and Blues.

Getting to and from the festival couldn’t be easier – walk or cycle along the quaysides from Sailortown, Clarendon Dock to HMS Caroline. Additional cycle parking will be available across all sites.

Alternatively, hop on the Metro Glider from the city centre bringing you directly into the heart of Titanic Quarter or come by train to Yorkgate Station or Titanic Halt. There is no dedicated car parking for the event, but festival-goers are encouraged to use city centre car parks, those within Titanic Quarter or the NCP at Corporation Street.

For more event information and how to make the most of your visit to the Maritime Festival website here

Published in Tall Ships

An event which was once a major highlight of the Belfast Lough programme in times past found a new and very active lease of life when Bangor Town Regatta was re-introduced as a major biennial event in July 2018. The developing RC 35 class - with boats from Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales - provided the backbone of a fleet which pushed towards the hundred mark, and a useful variety of excellent sailing conditions in superb weather put the seal of success on an event well–tailored for contemporary needs.

The outline programme for next year’s BTR from Thursday 25th to Sunday 28th June 2020 was unveiled at a launching in Royal Ulster YC at the weekend, and Chairman Gavin Watson announced that RUYC, Quay Marinas who operate the town’s large award-winning marina complex, and the local authority, Ards & North Down Borough Council, will be teaming together to provide the successful formula with some additions which will add to a very complete package for today’s busy sailors.

With a launching attendance which included noted cruiser-racer skipper Jay Colville who is also Vice Chair of Sport NI, RUYC Flag Officers Nigel Hamilton (Vice Commodore) and Rear Commodore Maurice Butler provided further insight into a programme for the needs of today, a 9-race formula which will see the sailing and shoreside communities combine resources to maximise sport afloat and sociability ashore.

Published in Belfast Lough
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Artemis Technologies, a spin-off from America’s Cup team Artemis Racing, is to establish a new facility in Belfast Harbour, initially creating 35 jobs, in a bid to return commercial shipbuilding to the city.

The company led by double Olympic gold medalist, Iain Percy OBE, will use its expertise garnished at the highest echelons of world yacht racing to develop new green maritime technologies and build an ‘Autonomous Sailing Vessel’ (ASV). 

The ASV will be a zero-emissions 45-metre catamaran, that will require no fossil fuels, offer unlimited range, and has the potential to travel at 50 knots, with a cruising speed of 30 knots in any condition.

Artemis Technologies, Chief Executive, Iain Percy OBE, a veteran of four America’s Cup challenges, most recently as Team Manager and Tactician of Artemis Racing says the company has a clear vision: “We aim to lead in the decarbonisation of the maritime industry by building on our America’s Cup heritage and expertise in hydrofoils, wing sails and control systems to develop and manufacture green-powered commercial vessels, helping to ensure a sustainable maritime future. 

“The ASV has a variety of applications including City to City passenger transportation and will be the first in a series of commercial maritime products developed by Artemis Technologies in Belfast using the wind and innovative energy recovery systems.

“Through collaboration, research and innovation we plan to utilise Belfast’s rich maritime history and the region’s world-class expertise in aerospace and composite engineering to create the UK’s most advanced maritime manufacturing facility. 

“The Artemis Technologies’ team already consists of experts from the fields of motor sport, aerospace, yacht design, simulation, electronics and aerodynamics. We plan to share our expertise with Northern Ireland and work in collaboration with stakeholders to grow this sector by delivering innovative yet sustainable maritime products.

At today’s launch in the historic offices of Belfast Harbour, with Artemis Racing’s AC45f America’s Cup yacht moored in the channel outside, Iain Percy set the context and outlined the plans for Artemis Technologies. He said:

“Under a new international agreement, issued by the International Maritime Organisation, the global maritime sector has committed to cutting emissions by at least half by 2050.

“We believe, given our expertise and the strength of the skills base here in Northern Ireland, that we can position the region at the forefront of helping deliver these targets, by developing new green innovations to assist in the decarbonisation of maritime. 

Already the company has received the backing and collaborative support from stakeholders including Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour, Stena Line, Bombardier, Harland and Wolff, Queen’s University, Ulster University, Belfast Met, NIACE, Creative Composites and Catalyst Inc; and is the lead applicant on a UK Research and Innovation, Strength in Places funding call.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, said: “I am delighted to attend the launch of Artemis Technologies in Belfast Harbour and support their ambition to research and develop a zero-emissions shipbuilding facility.

"It’s fantastic news that the company has chosen Belfast to build a 45 metre passenger vessel using a design based on the America's Cup catamaran yacht. To begin there will be 35 high-skilled jobs created but a clear ambition to expand rapidly.

"Building on Belfast’s rich history of shipbuilding and combined with our current world-class expertise in technology and engineering, Artemis will collaborate with local universities and the aerospace sector to help kick-start a modern, shipbuilding resurgence in the city.

"This is brilliant news for Belfast and another example of a world-class company choosing Northern Ireland as the best place to invest, innovate and grow a world-class workforce."

Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive of Belfast Harbour, said: “Belfast Harbour is delighted to support such a hi-tech project which complements our plans to further develop Belfast Harbour as an innovation hub.

“Artemis represents another diverse addition to the 700-plus firms already within the Harbour Estate. This growing community offers high-calibre employment and opportunities which are critical for the economic wellbeing of both Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole.” 

Dave Thompson, General Manager of Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering said: “The locating of Artemis’ centre in Northern Ireland is a great endorsement of the technological capability of the region. Artemis is developing products that have the potential to revolutionise sustainable maritime transportation.

“The technologies required to support these developments correspond well with the capabilities and aspirations of our local supply chain. The ASV, and its precursor, will draw on aspects of aerospace, automotive, marine and electrical engineering, in addition to AI, control systems and data security. 

“There are a number of innovative advanced engineering firms in Northern Ireland already operating in these areas and they welcome the unique opportunity to work with Artemis. 

“Local knowledge providers such as NIACE, QUB and UU are relishing the opportunity to collaborate with the company’s technical team on numerous advanced development activities.”

Donal Lyons, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee said: “I’d like to welcome Artemis Technologies to Belfast - its vision for green innovative growth will, I am certain, capture the imagination of all our citizens. I’m delighted to see further investment that brings jobs creation and a boost to the local economy.

“Artemis is one of the success stories from the council’s City for Investment Service which provides a ‘soft landing’ for businesses to tap into council networks and get marketing, employability and skills support. 

“Through the Belfast Agenda and our proposal for a City Region Deal, Belfast City Council is committed to accelerating innovation and research whilst enhancing the skills and employability of its people. Not only will Artemis Technologies help deliver these objectives, but its presence will inspire young people that such world-leading technology is being developed on their doorstep and they can play a part.”

Published in Belfast Lough
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#RNLI - Last Wednesday evening (8 August), two men enjoying an evening’s fishing on their speedboat near Groomsport in Co Down hit rocks and lost their propeller.

Bangor RNLI were quickly called to the scene for what was described as “a textbook tow-in” on the part of the volunteer lifeboat crew helmed by John Bell.

Thanks to their skill, it wasn’t long until they were able to hand the rescued vessel over to the Bangor Coastguard Rescue Team and make their way back to Bangor to enjoy what remained of their evening.

More recently, volunteer crew from Bangor launched to a report of a person in the water on the Carrickfergus side of Belfast Lough yesterday, Monday 13 August.

On arrival, however, the crew determined that it was just a cluster of helium-filled balloons, and returned to base.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Over 500 sailors and 100 keelboats and dinghies relished in the champagne sailing conditions served up in Belfast Lough by joint host yacht clubs Royal Ulster and Ballyholme in the first Bangor Town Regatta.

The new event is already booked again in the calendar for late June/early July 2020 and the success of this weekend's racing can only grow the numbers of competitors for a format that is already working well in the Scottish Series and Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

The pick of the racing could be said to have been in Class 2's IRC fleet comprising mainly of the RC35 class but there was close racing across the board and many of the classes weren't finalised until the very last race.

Class 1 saw just four entries from Scotland and Hong Kong against the pride of Strangford Lough. Jamie McWilliam's mainly ex pat crew in Signal 8 were hard worked with relatively short windward leeward courses to contend with and ended up second to Jonathan Anderson's Elgran Senior from Clyde Cruising Club.

Bangor town Regatta2Above and below Signal 8

Bangor town Regatta2

Bangor town Regatta2El Gran Senor

Bangor town Regatta2

The RC35 Class saw Pat Kelly's J109 Storm surge forwards from Day 1 when they had two bullets. Apart from an OCS in Race 4 alongside 4 other boats, Storm continued to set the pace until the final morning when an unusual poor last two races saw Debbie Aitken's First 36.7 Animal from RNCYC squeeze past by one point to win the overall trophy followed by Storm and then John Stamp's Corby 33 Jacob VII in third. The mix of makes of boat shows the success of this class with tight arcing throughout the weekend.

Bangor town Regatta2The start of the RC35 class at Bangor town Regatta

Bangor town Regatta2

Bangor town Regatta2Above and below: Pat Kelly's Storm

Bangor town Regatta2

Bangor town Regatta2Rockabill V

Class 3 was more of a local (almost Larne) family affair with Rory Fekkes' FN'GR8 sailing out of Carrickfergus SC mixing it up with Peter Doig and his crew in their J92 from East Antrim YC. Other Belfast Lough competitor's Steve Atkinson's Bad and John Minnis' Final Call kept them honest.

Bangor town Regatta2Rory Fekkes' FN'GR8

Bangor town Regatta2

The Quarter Tonners in Class 4 decided to race as IRC handicaps for Bangor Town Regatta causing much consternation before the event when some boats found that they suddenly gave others much more time than they expected. One benefit was Garth and Miles Lindsay's Jonathan Star who won the class by 5 points. Alan Morrison and John Simms Starflash showed great speed when the wind freshened especially on Day 1 whilst David Milne's Manzanita came third enjoying the flatter waters of Day 2 and 3.

Bangor town Regatta2

Class 5 - NHC Unrestricted - saw a large mix of boats from Pure 6, a custom sportsboat, to a Sun Odyssey 42. Four Sigmas made up much of the racing led by Miss Behavin who won the British/ Class Championship at the same venue 2 years ago. Recent Irish champion Squawk tried to make it a battle winning the first two races on a breezy Day 1 which also saw Miss Behavin's genoa tack eye shear off at the end of the first race and a DNC in Race 2. Such is the camaraderie amongst the Sigma family that Squawk's owner Paul Prentice took the Miss Behavin part to a friendly stainless steel welder 30 miles away to get the part fixed in time for Day 2. The intricacies of the NHC handicap system saw Micheal and Chris Johnston's Impulse beat Squawk for second place whilst Pure 6 enjoyed the lighter flatter conditions of the final day to win both races and take third place on countback.

NHC Restricted in Class 8 saw the smallest keelboat Shara from Donaghadee SC against some of the largest in Jo and Doug Rennie's Oceanis 43 and Roger and Suzie Clegg's Sigma 38 Ocean Tramp. The latter lead for most of the series and if they had been 1 second faster on Race 8, could have been the overall winner. Instead, they shared 5.5 points on the penultimate race with Gerry and John Bell and Bryan Lawther's MerryJack, allowing the smaller Sigma 33 of Terry Fair to also come equal with them, this time on overall points but take the overall win on countback.

The Waverley class also competed on Saturday and Sunday around the RUYC buoys with 6 of the historic class in action. Martin and Victoria Dews won in Merrilies from Michael Stephens in Waverley and Jimmy McKee in Nigel.

Full results here 

Bangor town Regatta2Bangor town Regatta2Bangor town Regatta2Bangor town Regatta2

Bangor town Regatta2

Irish RS400 and RS200 National Championships

Bangor Town Regatta also hosted the Irish RS400 and RS200 National Championships with 18 RS 200's and 26 RS400's hosted at Ballyholme over Friday to Sunday. The RS200 class was won by Julian Bradley and Helen Cafferata from Royal Cork's Adam Power and Jack Young. Julian and Helen now sail out of Wembley SC and although Julian is from Northern Ireland, they didn't qualify for the Irish Championships due to their RS membership giving the win to the Cork duo. County Antrim's Jocelyn Hill came third with new crew Jenny Lewis.

In the RS400 class, there was some very close racing with Paul McMahon from Howth leading until the last race with Sue Monson as crew. Sue is a regular Ballyholme visitor and RYANI and ISA coach as well as sister of navigator Rosco Monson who just completed the Volvo Round the World Race aboard Team AkzoNobel. Unfortunately, it didn't help them navigate the final race when a 5th place saw them equal on points with regular RS400 winners Alex Barry and Richard Leonard who then claimed the Irish National title again on countback. Carrickfergus's Chris Penney and Jessica Rutherford came third. The RS400 class now has a large number of very competitive sailors with Olympians, Figaro sailors and Round Britain record holders amongst it and "pleasantly" surprised to see how strong the Irish fleet has become over the last few years with more regular competition.

Bangor town Regatta2Bangor town Regatta2Bangor town Regatta2Bangor town Regatta2Bangor town Regatta2Bangor town Regatta2

 Of course, the aim of Bangor Town Regatta has also to see the festival of keelboat and dinghy racing return to Bangor with great social evenings every night at both clubs and lots of friendships renewed with the influx from Scotland, Ireland and Hong Kong. Jo Rennie also entertained a party of Italians aboard "Three Sheets" who come from Andora YC which "twinned" with Ballyholme Yacht Club in recent years. The final evening saw the bars run out of rum, ice and glasses - always a great sign of success. 

The prize giving was hosted this afternoon quickly after racing and thanks given to the hard work of Event Chair Jim Coffey and his race management teams from both clubs. Lots of organisation has gone into the inaugural event and lessons learnt for the next version - all competitors were asked for their views into how to grow it and encourage their fellow sailors along.

Also thanked was Principal Race Officer Robin Gray home fresh from his involvement in the Volvo Ocean Race, and Race Officers Angela Gilmore from Killyleagh YC and Tom Rusbridge who came all the way from Birmingham to run the RS200 and RS400 course.

Photos were taken with sponsor Damian Fusco of Fusco Cars and Bangor Fuels. Photos courtesy of Andrew Gallagher.

Bangor town Regatta2Jay Colville, Forty Licks, 3rd IRC 1

Bangor town Regatta2Jamie McWilliam, Signal 8, 2nd IRC 1Bangor town Regatta2Jonathan Anderson, ElGran Senior, winner IRC 1

Bangor town Regatta2John Stamp & crewman, 3rd IRC 2Bangor town Regatta2Rory Fekkes collecting for Pat Kelly, Storm, 2nd IRC 2Bangor town Regatta2Debbie Aitken & crewman, Animal, winner IRC 2 and RC35 Class

Bangor town Regatta2Steve Atkinson, Bad, 3rd IRC 3Bangor town Regatta2Peter Doig, Jack, 2nd IRC 3Bangor town Regatta2Rory Fekkes, FN'GR8, winner IRC 3

Bangor town Regatta2David Milne, Manzanita, 3rd IRC 4

Bangor town Regatta2Alan Morrison, Starflash, 2nd IRC 4

Bangor town Regatta2Kat Lindsay, Jonathan Star, winner IRC 4

Bangor town Regatta2Patrick Stocker, Pure 6, 3rd NHC 5

Bangor town Regatta2Chris Johnston, Impulz, 2nd NHC 5Bangor town Regatta2Alice Manderson, Miss Behavin, winner NHC 5

Bangor town Regatta2Chris Stewart, Evita, 3rd NHC Restricted 8

Bangor town Regatta2Roger Clegg, Ocean Tramp, 2nd NHC Restricted 8Bangor town Regatta2Holly Fair, Cariad, winner NHC Restricted 8

Bangor town Regatta2Jimmy McKee, Nigel, 3rd WaverleyBangor town Regatta2Mike Stephens, Waverley, 2nd Waverley

Bangor town Regatta2Martin & Victoria Dews, Merrilies, winner WaverleyBangor town Regatta2Robin Gray PROBangor town Regatta2Tom Rusbridge RO RS Nationals course

Published in Belfast Lough
Tagged under

Belfast Lough's offering as a maritime heritage destination has been given a major boost today as two iconic attractions – the Great Light and Titanic Walkway – officially opened to the public in Titanic Quarter. 

The opening event was also selected to launch The European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 in Northern Ireland.

The Great Light gave Mew Island Lighthouse on the Copeland Islands its traditional revolving light and guided mariners to and from Belfast Lough until 2014. It is the world’s first and largest hyper-radial Fresnel lighthouse lens, installed in Tory Island Lighthouse in 1887 then reconfigured and moved to Mew Island in 1928.

The optic was removed from Mew Island in 2014 as the lighthouse was modernised and converted to solar power.

The Great Light project from Titanic Foundation, the charity committed to preserving Belfast’s maritime and industrial heritage, in partnership with the Commissioners of Irish Lights, will see the optic given a new role bringing to life the story of lighthouses, their technological developments, their light-keepers and their role in the maritime and industrial history of Belfast and beyond.

From Friday, 9 March, visitors will be able to walk the new 500 metre Titanic Walkway on Victoria Wharf, which connects the Titanic Slipways to HMS Caroline and the Thompson Dock, learning about the maritime and industrial heritage of the area on their way to the Great Light. This iconic waterfront walkway has been delivered by Titanic Quarter Limited.

The projects have been funded by Tourism NI, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Belfast City Council, Ulster Garden Villages and the Commissioners of Irish Lights.

Kerrie Sweeney, Chief Executive of Titanic Foundation, said: “At around 130 years old, weighing 10 tonnes and standing seven meters tall, the Great Light is a unique heritage object of national and international importance with links to our maritime and industrial past. We are delighted to have played a role in saving this fantastic artefact and preserving it in Titanic Quarter for everyone to enjoy.”

James Eyre, Commercial Director of Titanic Quarter, said: “We are delighted to see the completion of the Titanic Walkway and the Great Light. They both add new and exciting aspects to our world class public realm to be enjoyed by those that live, work and visit Titanic Quarter. The Titanic Walkway now provides a seamless connection between our maritime heritage assets from the heart of the city centre to HMS Caroline and the Thompson Dock. We are very grateful for the support and dedication from all of our partners, delivering these magnificent projects.”

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Nuala McAllister, said: “We’re delighted that support from our Local Investment Fund is allowing people to enjoy the Great Light. The theme for my year of office is ‘Global Belfast’ and important projects like this one are illuminating the very special visitor experience we offer to people, the world over. We made a commitment in The Belfast Agenda to protecting and enhancing our environment and built heritage, and as well as helping to deliver on that objective, this project will also enhance our ever growing visitor offer.”

Anna Carragher, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, the Great Light has been conserved and given new meaning as the beacon which connects the wealth of maritime and industrial heritage attractions on offer in Titanic Quarter. National Lottery funding has been crucial in transforming this area - HMS Caroline, the Nomadic and Titanic Hotel Belfast amongst those to have benefited –which now attracts both local and international visitors to learn about the former shipyard, its workers and the wider industrial development of the city.

“Today also marks the launch of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in Northern Ireland. The slogan for the year is Our Heritage: Where the past meets the future, and nowhere is this more fitting than here in Titanic Quarter. We are working with the Department for Communities Historic Environment Division, Tourism Northern Ireland, the Arts Council and the British Council to help leverage the potential of our cultural heritage in new and interesting ways.”

The Chairman of Ulster Garden Villages, Dr Tony Hopkins CBE said: “We were pleased to be able to fund this project and to help to save this important piece of maritime history. Lighthouses are among the most visible and interesting icons of our coastline. The “Great Light” located at Titanic Quarter will give citizens and tourists the opportunity to see the workings of a lighthouse up close and to learn about their history and importance as a navigational aid and a warning to shipping.”

Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights, the body which delivers an essential navigation service around the island of Ireland said: “Irish Lights has been serving the mariner around the island of Ireland, north and south, for over 200 years. Throughout the generations our engineers and lighthouse keepers have been at the forefront of continuous change and technological innovation. The Great Light is a fantastic example of the ingenuity and talent of past and current members of our staff.

“We are delighted to have had this opportunity to team up with designers, architects, historians and tourism interests to develop this amazing landmark project which brings the heritage and story of lighthouses right into the heart of Belfast, a community that has contributed so much to our maritime economy past and present. We are also delighted that today the Great Light not only becomes a stand-out attraction in its own right but also becomes part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland network, promoting lighthouse tourism, north and south.”

Published in Belfast Lough
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