Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

On the Van Morrison trail through Belfast icon's past

Van Morrison returns to east Belfast for his first tourist trail, which features many places he sings about
Van Morrison returns to east Belfast for his first tourist trail, which features many places he sings about
Connswater River

Van Morrison has become Belfast's newest tourist attraction.

For the city's biggest musical star, whose songs have put Belfast on the map around the world, now has a map all of his own to help fans find the places he sings about in his home town.

>>Scroll down to see the full map<<

Names which are known right across the world including Cyprus Avenue; The Hollow on the Beersbridge Road, and Hyndford Street where he grew up, are just a few of the locations featured on the Van Morrison trail.

The self-guided trail called Mystic Of The East has been launched just hours before Van returns to his roots by playing concerts at his old school at Orangefield as part of the EastSide Arts Festival.

Speaking at The Hollow, which inspired Van to write his best known song Brown Eyed Girl, the singer said: "The Hollow, Orangefield, Hyndford Street, Cyprus Avenue, North Road, St Donard's Church and the Connswater River all bring back happy memories of my years in the east."

The trail, developed as part of the £35m Connswater Community Greenway project, is a 3.5km journey through his past.

The trail points fans to many of the places which are referenced in his lyrics and the accompanying map lets visitors listen to 12 song extracts at various key places thanks to the miracle of modern technology.

Using what's known as a QR reader, which can be downloaded free from an app store to a phone or tablet, the visitor can play the segments of the 12 songs at the relevant locations.

Van's friend and former Monarchs showband colleague George Jones said the new trail was an invaluable bonus for Morrison fans.

He added: "Reading the trail takes me back to times spent in Orangefield by the Beechie River. It's great the way the trail and the songs capture those memories and the landmarks which were an integral part of our childhood."

Morrison, who is fiercely protective of his privacy, has returned in recent years from America to base himself for most of his time in Northern Ireland, where his mother Violet still lives.

The trail is one of the first projects which he has approved to share his past with his fans, some of whom have been travelling from America for concerts which he has been staging in Northern Ireland.

Similar tourist trails have been produced in the past for other east Belfast luminaries like CS Lewis and George Best.

But tourist chiefs believe the Morrison trail will be the biggest draw of all.

The project manager of the Connswater Greenway Team, Wendy Langham, said Belfast owed much to Morrison.

The Van Morrison tour map of Belfast
The Van Morrison tour map of Belfast

She added: "We are delighted to be able to recognise and celebrate his contribution to the city and the area. Many people ask us for information about Van's music and his links to east Belfast.

"It is great that we have now the trail to give to his fans and we know it will be extremely popular with visitors and residents alike."

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