Living and working in the busy and bustling communities that make up North Belfast it can be easy to forget the stunning beauty and rich history that surrounds us in the Belfast Hills. But all this week a brand new festival has been bringing the amazing scenery and heritage that sits right on our doorstep to life.
The first ever Belfast Hills Heritage Festival kicked off on Monday (July 2) and its organisers, the Belfast Hills Partnership, are hoping it will inspire people to become involved in the future protection of the unique rural environment of the hills.
The week-long programme of events, including a murder mystery night, walking tours, old-time bus runs and traditional activities, form part of the Partnership’s Landscape Partnership Scheme that seeks to foster greater social interaction among local communities.
Jo Boylan, Outreach Officer with the Partnership, said it’s a chance for people to reconnect with the hills.
“We all live under the shadow of the hills, you leave your house and they are sitting there in full view and once you go up the hill the whole city and beyond is there for you to see.
“Belfast is really lucky to have this and with the festival we want people to reconnect with the hills,” she said.
She said the the festival will recall how we lived and worked during the Great War, the roaring twenties, the hungry thirties and the wartime forties in the Belfast Hills.
There will be a free living history treasure hunt and fun day on Cave Hill, a Belfast Hills murder mystery supper night and a drive around the historic sights on a 1930s-style bus.
Events also include a Flying Machines and Secrets of the ‘Sentry’ bus and walking tour of Sentry Hill Museum and Carnmoney Hill where female flying ace Lillian Bland flew in the early 1900s.
Local historians also presented a journey of History In The Heart of the Hills at Belfast Castle.
“The entire heritage on offer relates directly to the communities in North Belfast – an area that is strongly associated with Cave Hill and Carnmoney Hill. We have lots of interesting stories for our ethnic communities too including the tales of Polish pilots in World War Two.
“We want to get local people up into the hills and show them what is on offer with a strong flavour of the historic value of the sights. So if it has been years since you visited the Belfast Hills or if you have never ventured there, this is definitely the time to do so.”
“We hope the festival will encourage people to become aware that this outdoor area is there to enjoy, cherish and protect.”
Funded by the Rural Development Programme and the Heritage Lottery Fund the festival has been attracting all ages, communities and ethnic groups to experience all that the Belfast Hills have to offer.
It also encourages communities to get healthy by walking in the great outdoors as well as learning about the industrial heritage and wildlife of the Belfast Hills.
For details go to www.belfasthills.org/events, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02890 603 466.