Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Seven Wonders: Five more for the top seven

Cloughey Beach
Mourne Mountains

This is your chance to tell us your favourite wonder of Northern Ireland. Every day this week we will be featuring five entries - each chosen by a well-known personality - on what makes this place we call home so unique.

It may be our scenic wonders, such as the Mountains of Mourne, the Antrim Glens, Fermanagh's lakeland or the Antrim Coast Road.

Or it may be a trait among the people of Northern Ireland that makes us remarkable, such as our humour, our sense of community or love of home.

On Friday, once you have read all 25 submissions by our advocates, send us your choice of which one you regard as the greatest wonder of Northern Ireland.

Your votes will then be considered alongside the choices of a panel of judges to provide the definitive Seven Wonders of Northern Ireland.

These will then be published by us at a later date.

To register your vote, visit belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sevenwonderspoll.

'Splendid isolation that gives me sense of calm'

CLOUGHEY BEACH, CO DOWN

Terry Bradley (46) is a Northern Irish artist whose distinctive paintings sell for five-figure sums. He lives in Bangor.

Northern Ireland's wonder of the world is the beach in Cloughey.

I like to venture out on Cloughey at seven in the morning, when nobody is about.

It's a white sand beach about two-thirds of a mile long.

I love it in winter when it is deserted. The peninsula is full of arty types who comment on the quality of the light, yet my studio is blacked out.

I do the research for my portraits in Las Vegas and Paris, and then I need isolation.

I step into that world then I step out and as I walk along Cloughey beach I let my mind wander in a kind of meditation.

When you go out into other worlds that are full-on with colour and excitement, you need to chill out by walking on the beach.

I gain a sense of calm here and always walk with the dog or by myself. Strangely, people overlook the beach and drive past.

'Where birds sing music of God's own Heaven'

DEVENISH TOWER

Father Brian D'Arcy (65) is a Fermanagh native and broadcaster and the priest superior in charge of Enniskillen Monastery.

In the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries Ireland was more wooded than anywhere on these islands and the main form of transport was the River Shannon and Lough Erne.

You could come in at Limerick, cross the heart of Ireland and exit in Donegal, which is what the Vikings did.

After the time of St Patrick the monks founded monasteries on these watery motorways, where people could see them.

The Devenish monastic site contains the most perfect round tower in Northern Ireland among its wonderful ruins. The spiritual prayers of the monks have left a sense of calm in this place.

When I want to escape I go to Innishdavar, a small island which is especially beautiful in May when it is carpeted with bluebells. You can hear the cuckoo and rarer species of birds trilling and singing the magical music of God's own Heaven.

'Percy French's song captures the spirituality perfectly'

MOUNTAINS OF MOURNE

Barry McGuigan (50) became world featherweight champion in 1985 and is now a commentator, analyst and manager.

I won my first Irish title in Limerick in 1977 and in 1978 I became a senior boxer, winning the Ulster and Irish titles, and was picked for the Northern Ireland team for the Commonwealth Games.

We trained in Newcastle and I had my first experience of Slieve Donard.

I was enthralled by how fantastic it was.

We stayed at the Slieve Donard Hotel, ran on the beach and golf course in the morning, did circuit training on the lawns and on our active recovery days - basically days off - we would walk up the mountain.

We did our sparring in Downpatrick.

I fell in love with the mountain at the beginning and return all the time.

It is not a daunting climb as the challenge depends on your pace and route.

You can walk to it from Newcastle, which is a more gentle approach.

I normally storm up the mountain in about one hour and 45 minutes.

Slieve Donard has the most beautiful colours and halfway up you can dangle your feet in the freezing cold stream water to refresh yourself then put your boots back on for the final steep climb alongside the Mourne wall that was built back in the 1900s.

I enjoy the last bit. At the top there is a stunning view.

It is a great spiritual walk, you feel relaxed and in the right place - home.

Percy French's lyric about the Mountains of Mourne sweeping down to the sea is right.

'We have admirable cultural courage'

HUMAN INTERACTION

Rita Duffy is a renowned Northern Irish artist who has exhibited in shows from Zagreb to Washington. Her work is widely collected by individuals and institutions. She is based in London and Dublin.

From a psychological point of view, I love the fact that no matter how divided, stereotyped or cliched Northern Irish people can be, I still manage to find people who confound those stereotypes.

In spite of the sometimes racist, bureaucratic, thrawn, fundamentalist and negative aspects of the Northern Irish personality, I always find someone who surprises me.

If you look at Government agencies, for example, they may be bureaucratic but there is always someone who does not conform, and that is the pearl in our oyster.

In daily life that aspect is represented by the person who says "Are you all right, love?" or "Are you getting?"

Human interaction is what matters. I meet Polish people in Belfast, Africans in London and Portuguese people in Fermanagh; nationalities and ideologies have become irrelevant.

When working on art projects, I often encounter people who insist on supporting my creative idea by using lateral thinking.

When I created the mural for International Women's Day earlier this year, I showed Betty Carlisle the sketch and we talked about the inspiration of the Last Supper.

She said: "It's very Catholic", but then she said: "I don't care, we're doing it". That is cultural courage.

'Unique setting that is envy of many cities'

SCENIC GEOGRAPHY OF BELFAST

Ian McElhinney is one of Northern Ireland's best known stage and TV actors with many credits including Hornblower. He lives in Belfast.

For me, the scenic geography of Belfast is what makes it unique.

With people throwing bombs and the city's dereliction over the past 30 years, it has been easy to ignore the city's setting. Yet there is not another major city in these islands to match it.

We have the beautiful lough shore on both sides leading to the Donaghadee lighthouse in one direction and Carrickfergus on the other, and the whole city is surrounded by hills.

Belfast has good transport links, shops, clubs, restaurants and theatres.

Yet within 15 to 20 minutes, there is beautiful countryside - you can hit the Glens along the wonderful coast road, or head towards the Ards peninsula.

There are also half-a-dozen stately homes, such as Castle Ward, within easy reach.

When I walk the dog, I have a choice of two parks near where I live, Ormeau Park and the Ulidia playing fields. There's also Belvoir Park, one of the most beautiful urban parklands in the UK or Ireland.

My favourite road into Belfast takes in Lambeg Church where my father was a minister, then leads you down a winding, leafy road across the bridge towards Drumbeg Lychgate Church, then past Malone Park and Lady Dixon's into Belfast.

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