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Kathy Curran's top 10 hidden attractions


Historic: letter from the Somme

Historic: letter from the Somme

Geddes' windows

Geddes' windows

The Titanic Pall

The Titanic Pall


Historic: letter from the Somme

1. Al-Hidaya Plaque, Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church: Charles Hamilton was born in Belfast circa 1752 and, after studying oriental languages, became a talented translator and passionate orientalist.

While part of the East India Company, he was granted a five-year leave of absence to complete his translation of a commentary on Islamic law, called Al-Hidaya ("the guidance"). The vestibule of Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church is now the unlikely setting for the urn-shaped plaque, placed there by Hamilton's sisters in recognition of his work.

2. The Titanic Pall, St Anne's Cathedral

Textile artists Helen O'Hare and Wilma Kirkpatrick created this stunning memorial to the Titanic dead for the centenary of the disaster in 2012. The midnight blue pall is adorned with 1,517 hand-embroidered tiny gold crosses, together with a handful of Stars of David and crescents, representing each life lost.

3. Blood-spattered letter from the Somme, 5 Waring Street

The one-room Royal Ulster Rifles Museum contains some extraordinary items. Among the most affecting is a handwritten, bloodied set of instructions for burying the dead at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, issued to a young lieutenant, Harry Dolling, and donated to the museum by his widow.

4. Shankill graveyard watch-house

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The watch-house, on the boundary wall of Shankill graveyard, is a physical remnant of a small building erected in 1834. At the time of its construction, Ulstermen Burke and Hare were famously supplying bodies for medical research in Edinburgh by stealing corpses from gravesites. The watch-house was built as a response to their activities.

5. Geddes' stained-glass windows, Assembly Buildings, Fisherwick Place

The Assembly Buildings are home to magnificent and little-known stained glass art by distinguished Belfast-born artist Wilhelmina Geddes (1887-1955). Geddes was a prominent figure in the arts and crafts movement. Her Parables window in the Assembly Hall is considered to be among the most striking modern stained-glass figure works in the world.

6. Rita Duffy's artwork, Europa Hotel and Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

There are a number of artworks by ground-breaking Northern Irish artist Rita Duffy dotted around Belfast. Of particular interest are the painting McCracken's Jacket, which hangs in the foyer of the Europa Hotel, and the bronze-cast Hand of Ulster at the Public Records Office for Northern Ireland.

7. Roy Spence's Excelsior Cinema, Comber

Purpose-built in 1990, this small, plush, retro cinema is reminiscent of the 1950s. Maximum capacity is 28, but Roy is willing to put on a show for as few as two. There's no need to pay; he simply asks for donations, or you can leave him a bottle of red wine.

8. Con O'Neill Bridge, Abetta Parade, off Beersbridge Road

This small, cobblestone bridge is in what locals call "The Hollow", made famous by Van Morrison's hit song Brown-Eyed Girl. The musician grew up in this area and spent much of his childhood exploring here. The bridge itself is reputedly the oldest surviving structure in Belfast and is named after a 16th century Irishman who owned much of East Ulster.

9. Radio Museum, Grey Point Fort, Helen's Bay

This museum, by the shores of Belfast Lough, contains so much more than just radios: it is owner Sam Baird's private collection of 20th-century military souvenirs. Visitors are encouraged to try on helmets and uniforms and you can also have a go with a complete amateur radio kit that's up and running.

10. Lillian Bland plane, Lillian Bland Community Park, Glengormley

In Lillian Bland Community Park in Newtownabbey, you'll find a life-size stainless steel model of a biplane - the Mayfly - placed here in 2011 to commemorate the centenary of the 'Flying Feminist's' achievements. Eager to demonstrate that flying was not just for men, Lillian not only constructed her own biplane glider, but was also the first woman to fly in Ireland.

Secret Belfast - An Unusual Travel Guide by Kathy Curran and Lorenza Bacino is published by Jonglez Travel Guides, priced £13.99. It will be officially launched at Waterstones, Fountain Street, Belfast on Thursday, June 21 at 6.30pm

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