Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Vote for the seven wonders of Northern Ireland

Lough Neagh
Culloden Hotel in Cultra
Lagan Towpath

This is your chance to tell us your favourite wonder of Northern Ireland.

Every day this week we will be running five entries — each chosen by a well-known personality from the province — on what makes this place 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 them remarkable, such as their humour, their sense of community or their 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 which will be published at a later date.

To register your vote go to belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sevenwonderspoll



'There's now a thriving arts and culture area'

CATHEDRAL QUARTER, BELFAST

Martin Lynch is one of Northern Ireland's most acclaimed playwrights, with successes ranging from 'A History of the Troubles According to Me Da' to co-writing the George Best musical, 'Dancing Shoes'. Here he talks about his choice: Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.

I was born and brought up in Moffat Street near where the Yorkgate shopping centre now stands. As a young boy I remember running through the cobbled streets of what is now the Cathedral Quarter.

We used to collect orange boxes from Woolworths in High Street or a fruit shop in Rosemary Street, take them home and chop them up for firewood which we would then sell around the locality.

In the 1980s and 90s there was only one public house, the Duke of York, in what is now the Cathedral Quarter, and Nick's Warehouse restaurant had just opened.

In my work with the Community Arts Forum I had travelled to other cultural quarters in various parts of the UK and I wrote a paper which I sent to the Department of the Environment suggesting the creation of a similar arts and cultural area in Belfast.

Thankfully that suggestion has been acted upon and now we have a thriving cultural quarter.

Indeed, my present office is in a building shared with other arts organisations in the Cathedral Quarter.

It is now one of the most popular areas of the city, full of entertainment and home to several cultural festivals each year.

And it also has another pub, the John Hewitt, run by the Unemployed Centre, which means that I can salve my social conscience and indulge my debauchery in one fell swoop.

'I like nothing better than a dander in the hotel's wandering gardens'

CULLODEN HOTEL

Sir James Galway (72), aka 'the man with the golden flute', is a virtuoso flautist who has carved out a glittering solo career after playing principal flute at the Berlin Philharmonic from 1969-75. Born in Belfast, he studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music in London and the Paris Conservatoire. He now lives in Switzerland with his wife Jeanne. He says about the Culloden Hotel:

I love the soda bread and the potato farls at breakfast - but most of all, when I come back home to Northern Ireland I enjoy a dander in the peace and quiet of the wandering garden of the Culloden Hotel at Cultra.

It is one of those beautiful places where I can relax after a tiring flight.

It's where my wife, Jeanne, and I can smell the flowers and stroll on the rolling lawns in solitude.

By the time we return to our room we are both in the mood for whatever concert I am about to perform that evening in the Waterfront Hall or at the Grand Opera House.

Especially after a hot bath. I have a huge bath at home in Switzerland and the only place I get one to compare with it is at the Culloden Hotel.

I bring my hi-fi set with me and listen to a bit of Beethoven or a Mahler symphony.

Then I know for sure I am back where I was born.

But don't forget that home for the past many years for me has been Lucerne.

And after a strenuous tour I get all my old flutes - dozens of them - out of the bank and have a session playing them all.

And, of course, I have a miniature Lambeg drum that was presented to me years ago by my late friend, conductor Billy Dunwoody and his 39th Old Boys Ensemble and that definitely reminds me of Belfast - especially when I invite the local children in to play it.



'I crave a connection with nature and fresh air'

LAGAN TOWPATH

Nicky Kinnaird (46) is the founder of the highly successful beauty company Space NK which operates out of London and New York.

Every time I go home I love to walk along the coast past Cultra, through Crawfordsburn to Bangor.

The moment you get off the plane, you smell the dampness in the air.

You have to appreciate the great outdoors in Northern Ireland and the connection with nature and the fresh sea air.

When you are away from it, you crave it.

Another of my favourite things is to go running along the Towpath by the Lagan past New Forge Lane and Shaw's Bridge. It gives me think-time. When I go running in Holland Park, London, it is simply not the same.

I love walking, running and physical exercise all year round in Northern Ireland. It is wonderful when the weather is cold and crisp and you are wrapped up for the run.

Another aspect of home that is different from London is the way everyone greets each other with a 'hello' or 'good morning'.

There is an old-fashioned friendliness you just don't find anywhere else.

'Where great people add to natural beauty'

ROSTREVOR

Former Irish President Mary McAleese (60) is a Belfast-born academic and lawyer whose two terms as president were given a historic seal by the visit of the Queen to the Republic earlier this year, the first by a British monarch since the formation of the state. Born in Belfast, she is married to Martin and they have three children.

The Troubles brought my family from Belfast over 30 years ago to live in Rostrevor, one of Ireland's most beautiful villages.

What better place to raise your children than in an area with more than its fair share of natural wonder: the sweeping mountains of Mourne, the shining expanse of Carlingford Lough and a 2,000-acre park right on your doorstep, so magical a place that CS Lewis chose it as the backdrop for his fantastical Chronicles Of Narnia.

Yet the lure of this village lies not just in its rich natural hinterland, for Rostrevor has been blessed with more than its fair share of good people, a community which has created a network of good neighbourliness devoid of sectarianism through even the darkest times of political strife in Northern Ireland.

Historically, Rostrevor and its environs have been steeped in a political belief system which finds its roots in the 18th century radical politics of Tom Dunn.

His belief in the ability to transcend differentiated faiths, a belief in liberty, equality and a common fraternity, defines a local people who turn their face to a positive future for this island, a future where the peacemakers prevail.

'I love the wonderful fish of Lough Neagh'

LOUGH NEAGH

Barry Douglas (51) is an internationally acclaimed classical pianist, conductor and founder of Camerata Ireland. He divides his time between Paris and Lurgan. He was awarded an OBE in 2002 for services to music.

The place that sums up Northern Ireland for me is Lough Neagh as we have a house nearby and my sons are now getting into fishing there.

We love the strange and wonderful fish you find there, although my interest in the fish begins when it appears in the restaurant!

But musically, despite the fact Ireland and Northern Ireland are not well funded and do not have academies, when you see what we achieve in regards to rock, jazz, traditional and classical music, it is quite amazing.

We all know who has gained fame and success but there is something about the Northern Irish character - a kind of driven quality that may be the Scottish influence - that in spite of past conflict produces culture and music.

In these six counties there is something in the genes which creates a passion for everything that is artistic.

Although I am involved with classical music and return each summer for the Clandeboye Festival, I have played with The Chieftains in the past. I regret that I'm not here often enough to go to many traditional concerts.

On that scene, I think flautist Eimear McKeown is brilliant and Jonathan Toman is a wonderful guitarist.

To register your vote go to belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sevenwonderspoll

Read more from the Seven Wonders section

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