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Northern Ireland 1
Northern Ireland
The Land of Castles, Legends & Myths
Beverly Cohn – Abroad

Part 2

n Part 1, which covered Days 1 and 2 of this amazing journey through Northern Ireland, we explored Carrickfergus Castle; had a fabulous meal at the beautiful French Rooms at Bushmills; visited Glenarm Castle, and had a fun tour with Andrew Morrow, the head gardener, whose father was the resident chauffeur for 50 years. We explored the ancient Giant's Causeway with its scientific, as well as mythological, explanations of its formation; wandered through the ruins of Dunluce Castle, ending Day 2 with a gourmet dinner at Deanes Meat Locker. Could Days 3 and 4 get any better? Read on and you'll see.


aerial view of the Hillsborough Castle
The sprawling Hillsborough Castle boasts elegantly appointed State Rooms available for receptions and dinners. Courtesy Photo

The next historic castle on our tour was Hillsborough Castle, located in County Down. Nestled on 96 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, this Georgian mansion was originally built in the 1770s and was renovated in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The castle boasts several elegantly appointed State Rooms, available for receptions and dinners – with a seating capacity ranging from 50 to 400.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
Hillsborough Castle has the distinction of being designated the official Northern Ireland residence of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of EdInburgh. Courtesy Photo

Former world leaders President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have an informal meeting in the Hillsborough Castle gardens. Courtesy Photo

Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge
Prince William and his wife, The Duchess of Cambridge,
are among the royals who have visited Hillsborough
Castle. Courtesy Photo

Queens, princes, princesses, and heads of government have walked these luscious grounds. One special area is the Granville Garden, the site of the largest rhododendron collection in Europe. It was created by Queen Elizabeth II's aunt, who was married to the Earl of Granville. Hillsborough Castle also has the distinction of being designated the official Northern Ireland residence of the Royal Family, as well as the Secretary of State of Northern Ireland, who is appointed by the British monarch and reports to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. There is an elegantly appointed Throne Room with an imposing throne. However, the Queen prefers to sit in a chair directly in front of the throne to receive guests. A guest book is placed on a nearby table and we all took the opportunity to leave a note for the Queen.

Castle Ward
The opening series of HBO's “Game of Thrones” was filmed at Castle Ward.
Courtesy Photo

Still on a high from our visit to this historic castle, we piled back into the van and headed for Castle Ward, a National Trust* property. This is the castle in which the opening series of "Game of Thrones" was filmed. We actually stood in the courtyard where the young prince was tossed out of the window by that nasty queen in one of the earliest episodes.

Temple Water garden
The Temple Water garden is considered the largest ornamental garden in Ireland, and dates back to the 18th century. Photo: Beverly Cohn

In looking at this 18th century house, situated on 820 acres, overlooking the iconic Strangford Lough, it is evident that there are two distinctly different the styles of architecture. As the legend goes, it seems that the Ward men married women of great wealth. One such couple could not agree on the style; she wanted Gothic, he wanted Classical. Hence, they compromised and the home was constructed and furnished to accommodate their specific preferences. A word about Strangford Lough: With its over 120 islands rich in wildfowl and marine life, it is considered Europe's most significant wildlife sanctuaries.

As was mentioned in Part 1, gardening is in the DNA of the Irish people as evidenced once again by Castle Ward's sprawling magnificent gardens. One particularly enchanting section is Temple Water, which is said to be the largest ornamental garden in Ireland, spanning from the early 18th century. Its beauty and tranquility is something to behold.

Mary Ward
A pioneer scientist, Mary Ward was the first woman
to use the giant telescope belonging to her cousin, the Earl of Rosse. Courtesy Photo

One ancestor of note is the extraordinary Mary Ward, who lived in the 19th century. She was a naturalist, astronomer, scientific pioneer, artist, and mother of eight children. Encouraged by her parents, she was the first woman to use the giant telescope owned by her cousin, the Earl of Rosse, at Birr Castle.** As a teenager, she possessed an advanced microscope, which she used with slides she made herself from slivers of ivory, as glass was difficult to access. A very accomplished woman, she earned respect from other scientists. Her book, "The World of Wonders," contains drawings of microscopic organisms as uncovered through the microscope. It became a coveted reference book, as did her multiple articles. Sadly, in what is thought to be the world's first traffic accident, while visiting her cousin, Mary fell out of a steam engine car and was crushed by the wheels.

Under the terms of National Trust ownership, Castle Ward is a hotbed of events open to the public including: Mother's Day; St. Patrick's Day; Spring Guided Walk; Craft Demonstrations; Pet Nose Day; Historical Cream Tea; Dog Agility; Jazz in the Gardens; Summer Garden Fete; and Pirates Picnic. There is also Clear Sky Kids Summer Activity Camp, and the Full Moon Twilight Boat Trip.

By the way, in case you ever wondered about the origin of the phrase "upper crust," our guide explained that when bread was toasted, servants scraped off the bottom burnt part, with the unburned portion reserved for the royals. So from now on when you hear the phrase "upper crust," think bread.

the Titanic Exhibit building, Belfast
The awesome Titanic Exhibit building houses the world’s largest collection of everything "Titanic." Photo: Beverly Cohn

White Star Line Titanic Poster
The Titanic Exhibit is an emotional retelling of the most profound sea disaster in history. Courtesy Photo

replica of the Titanic's stairway, as recreated in James Cameron's film 'Titanic'
A replica of the great ship's iconic stairway, as recreated in James Cameron's classic film, "Titanic." Photo: Beverly Cohn

No trip to Northern Ireland would be complete without a visit to the very imposing Titanic Exhibit, which houses the world's largest collection of everything Titanic.

the building of the Titanic at the  Harland and Wolf Shipyard
From 1909-1912, Harland & Wolf Shipyard employed over 3,000 men to build the ship. Courtesy Photo

It is located in the exact slipway where she was built in Belfast at the Harland & Wolf Shipyard from 1909-1912. The company employed over 3,000 men to build the ship, which was hailed as "the new wonder of the world." With a crowd of 100,000 people watching, this mighty, but doomed vessel set sail on April 10, 1912 from the Thompson Graving Dock – the largest in the world. The launch took only 62 seconds.

painting of the Titanic sinking
Approximately 11 stories high, 882 feet, 8 inches in length, and weighing over 45,000 tons,Titanic disappeared into the freezing sea in an agonizing 2 hours and 40 minutes. Courtesy Photo

The Titanic Exhibit is an emotional retelling of the most profound sea disaster in history. Its story is told through the Exhibit's nine galleries, which contain photos, talking heads of people from that time, films, re-creations of the different staterooms, and interactive touch screens that take you to the bottom of the ocean. You can hear a voice say: "We are stopped and surrounded by ice." The massive ship hit the iceberg at 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912. Approximately 11 stories high, 882 feet, 8 inches in length, and weighing over 45,000 tons, Titanic disappeared into the freezing sea in 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Each gallery will give you a visceral, emotional experience related to specific events. The nine galleries are: Boomtown Belfast; The Shipyard Ride; The Launch of Titanic; The Fit-Out; Maiden Voyage; The Sinking; The Aftermath; Myths & Realty; Visit & Explore the Wreck. The Titanic Exhibit is a moving experience; so do allow lots of time to explore each of the galleries.


Lord and Lady Dunleath in front of their Ballywalter Park estate
Lord & Lady Dunleath greeted us in front of their breathtaking Ballywalter Park estate. Photo: Beverly Cohn

Fortified with a traditional Irish breakfast served in the restaurant of the Malmaison Hotel, we once more climbed into our comfortable van. Since we are creatures of habit, it's no surprise that each journalist sat in the same seat every day. After the haunting Titantic experience, we were especially looking forward to being hosted for lunch by Lord and Lady Dunleath (Vibse) in their extraordinary Ballywalter Park home. We were warmly greeted by the royal couple and were immediately treated to a welcoming glass of champagne, after which they gave us a walking tour of their stately home.

With twelve bedrooms and bathrooms, the castle also serves as a hotel and is used for conferences as well. The fees range from 280£ for a double room, to 150£ for a single, while a five-course dinner costs 140£. However, they are not set up for weddings at the moment. As in Hillsborough Castle, famous people have visited this beautifully restored mansion including: the British Royal Family, the Danish Crown Prince, and Jeremy Irons. The Dunleaths have one live-in housekeeper, and hire additional help as needed. The major source of their income, which sustains the home, comes from their dairy farm, which houses 450 cows.

the Ballywalter dining room
The lavish Ballywalter dining room where we were treated like royalty and for a few hours, basked in the beauty of this opulent setting. Photo: Beverly Cohn

As we were being shown around the castle, I had the opportunity to talk to Lady Dunleath who was "not to the manor born." I asked her how they met. It seems that she was a food historian specializing in the evolution of food, specifically as it pertained to the history of bread, starting with medieval times. Lord Dunleah's home was being used to film her television series so the Danish-born Vibse was at the castle over a long period of time. I asked her if it was love at first sight and she answered: "It was business at first sight." Lord Dunleath was leaving on a trip and asked her if she would look after the estate while he travelled. She answered, "Yes." "The rest is history," said Lady Dunleath with a smile. Both were married once before so the wonderful song by Frank Sinatra "The Second Time Around" seems quite appropriate.

At the conclusion of our castle tour, where we saw lavishly furnished rooms filled with historic treasures and paintings going back generations, we entered the glorious dining room. For a brief moment, I felt that I could very easily become "Lady of Something." The lunch was delicious, with the tomatoes fresh from the Ballywalter garden comprising the Dunleath Vitello Tomato with Walled Garden Salad. The lunch was crowned with a sinfully delicious chocolate fudge brownie and homemade coffee ice cream. Life doesn't get much better than this or, maybe it does. As much as we hated to tear ourselves away from this magical setting, it was time to move on to our next stop, which was Mount Stewart.

Mount Stewart and its gardens
With 18 unique gardens, Mount Stewart is ranked as one of the Top 10 Gardens in the World. Photo: Beverly Cohn

Restored and also owned by the National Trust, this splendid property, family home of the Marquesses of Londonderry, is a dreamland of meandering paths leading to a mosaic of exquisite gardens originally planted by Edith, Lady Londonderry. Today these enchanting gardens rank as one of the Top 10 Gardens in the World.

Neil Porteous, head gardener of this sprawling property, guided us through a few of the 18 distinctly unique gardens, commenting that, “Gardening is in the Irish DNA." Photo: Beverly Cohn

Neil Porteous, head gardener of this sprawling property, guided us through a few of the 18 distinctly unique gardens recreated from the diaries of Edith, Lady of Londonderry. Some of these iconic gardens include: Sunken Gardens; Lily Wood; Italian Garden; Peace Garden; Fountain Walk; Lake Walk; Walled Garden; Ladies Walk; Temple of the Woods; and Shamrock Garden. By the way, in case you're wondering about the origin of the shamrock being an Irish symbol, it seems that St. Patrick actually created the name and it represents the Holy TrinityThe Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.

Fun activities take place all year long at Mount Stewart, some of which include: a Rhododendron Ramble and Roast, Spring Guided Walk, Easter Egg Trail, Greyabbey Bay Walk, Pet Nose Day, and Jazz in the Gardens. Consult their website for dates and times.

What better way to end the final leg of our Northern Ireland experience than to have an exquisite dinner in The Great Room, one of the most beautiful restaurants in Belfast. Located in the Merchant Hotel, this stunning venue is said to be one of Northern Ireland's most extraordinary restaurants. With its original Victorian design, its glass cupola is Ireland's largest chandelier and the food matches the elegance in every way.

In closing, it should be noted that Belfast has suffered from its former reputation of being violent and dangerous because of "The Troubles," which spanned decades. However, today it is stable and a very safe, exciting tourist destination.

Profiterole Swans filled vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce at The Great Room
The food presentation matched the elegance of this splendid room as evidenced by this dessert – Profiterole Swans filled vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.
Courtesy Photo

*The National Trust is a UK conservation charity that protects historic places, such as castles, houses, gardens, mills, farmland, islands, nature preserves, etc. They hold leases on about 5,000 properties, which they rent out at a reduced price with the understanding that the tenant makes the property available to the public on a regular basis.

**An exclusive interview coming up with the 7th Earl of Rosse at Birr Castle (Brendan Parsons) who gave me private tour of his sprawling estate, followed by lunch with him and the Countess. Also coming up is an interview with the designer of Prince Charles' garden at Highgrove, a visit to the National Stud Farm, and my stay at two of the most exclusive hotels in the RepublicBallyfin and The K ClubThe Kildare Hotel, Spa & Country Club.

Hillsborough Castle
Main Street
Co. Down BT26 6AG

Castle Ward
Strangford, Downpatrick
Co. Down BT30 7LS

Titanic Belfast
1 Olympic Way
Queen's Road
Titanic Quarter
Belfast, Northern Ireland BT3 9EP

Related Articles:
Northern Ireland: The Land of Castles, Legends and Myths, Part 1; Magical, Mystical, Delightful, Enchanting Part 1/Part 2; Return to the Emerald Isle; Faces of Ireland; Aran Islands; Land of Smiling Irish Eyes; County Cork, Ireland: Remembering the Famine

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Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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