From fried eels to rope making, heritage days have something for all
They're the hidden gems which give our towns and countryside their distinctive character, and this weekend more than 400 historic buildings across Northern Ireland will throw open their doors to the public.
Old favourites like Florence Court and Ballywalter Park will open for European Heritage Weekend on today and tomorrow along with a host of special events such as walking tours, historical re-enactments and even an evening of vintage comedy.
You can dine on fried eels and soda at the Crosskeys Inn; tie the knot at a wedding festival in Bushmills; learn about rope making at Carrickfergus Castle; have a go at handweaving; tour Derry's shirt factories, or learn about how Irish linens were created for the film and theatre industry, as part of a colourful programme that this year focuses on industrial heritage.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan says that with all events free of charge and many which are family friendly, everyone can take the opportunity to walk back in time.
"With more than 400 properties and events, this year's offering is more varied than ever, reflecting the depth and diversity of our built heritage. From older buildings such as St Nicholas' Parish Church in Carrickfergus, dating back to 1180, to the new Strule Arts Centre in Omagh, there is something for everyone, young and old, on your doorstep and further afield," he said.
"Amongst the 31 new offerings this year, and to tie in with the industrial heritage theme, is a tour of Steensons Jewellery workshop in Glenarm and a behind the scenes tour of Theatrical Linens, to see how Irish linens are used to make costumes for the stars.
"The weekend is going from strength to strength each year, with a record 75,000 people turning out last year. While all events are free, some require pre-booking. To avoid disappointment check out http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/ehod now."
Above we've highlighted some of the most exciting new additions to this weekend's programme.
Crosskeys Inn eel supper
Grange Road, Toomebridge
Dating from 1654, the oldest thatched pub in Ulster. Share the delights of eel fishing with fresh eels fried with freshly baked soda bread. There will be traditional music, refreshments, storytelling and a talk about eel fishing. Eel supper requires booking: telephone 028 7965 0694 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Both days: Eel supper 3-5pm. Tours at 4pm, 5pm and 6pm (45-60 mins)
Steensons Jewellery workshop tour
Seaview Hall, 17 New Road, Glenarm
Steensons Jewellers in Glenarm, which has supplied some of the most breathtaking pieces in HBO's Game Of Thrones drama, is opening its workshop for guided tours, a fantastic opportunity to discover how this highly skilled craft combines tradition with cutting-edge technologies. For bookings, contact Brona or Jolene on 028 2884 1445 or email email@example.com
Opening times: Sat 9am-5pm, tours at 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3pm
The dancehall at the BOX
The Promenade, Portstewart
Step back to the time of the province's dance halls. Hear the stories of those who danced all night to the sounds of the big bands. Watch dances and join in.
Sat 3-7pm Drop-in event, suitable for all ages
Traditional rope makers, Carrickfergus Castle
Demonstrating how rope was produced in the 18th century for the many sailing ships that navigated the oceans, telling the story and demonstrating the methods used, using a rope jack and traveller. Rope making is brought back to life by costumed demonstrators.
Old Barracks Boho
Boho Road, Carngreen, Enniskillen
The Old Police Constabulary was in use from 1860 until 1937. View paintings by artist Jeremy Henderson. The house still has original features like the jail and old doors, stone walls and shelf.
Carlisle Memorial Church
Carlisle Circus, Belfast
Carlisle Memorial Church, 1872-75, was designed by WH Lynn and built by James Carlisle, a local linen merchant. It became the Methodist Cathedral but was deconsecrated in 1982. Belfast Buildings Trust is working on a phased regeneration, with roof repair completed in 2015.