Loved-up Prince Harry charms his way around Northern Ireland
Prince Harry received a rapturous welcome on his first official visit to Northern Ireland yesterday as media speculation about his relationship with American actress Meghan Markle reached fever pitch.
The Ulster weather may have lived up to our low expectations but the people of the province - despite having little notice - flocked to Ballymena, Belfast and Hillsborough for the chance to give the prince a warm welcome.
- Prince Harry's walkabout a hit with public at Belfast's MAC
- Crowds brave rain at ambulance station for glimpse of Prince Harry
The 32 year-old is one of the most photographed men in the UK and anticipation that he might propose to his girlfriend of 14 months has only increased the public interest around him.
Earlier this week Meghan heightened the speculation the pair might be preparing to tie the knot by candidly telling magazine Vanity Fair that the couple are "really happy and in love", as well as reports last week that Prince Harry arranged a meeting between Meghan and his grandmother, the Queen.
In a brief escape from the London media fishbowl, Prince Harry touched down at Belfast City Airport yesterday morning and was whisked up the motorway to Ballymena where he officially opened the new £5.6m ambulance station and North Division Headquarters.
He met staff and crew at the facility, which answered some 15,000 emergency calls in the last financial year.
Despite the visit not being publicised in advance, and a strict 10.30am embargo on announcing it on social media, word spread the old-fashioned way and a crowd of wellwishers rapidly grew.
Harry made a point of making an unscheduled stop to greet his admirers before moving on to his next appointment in Belfast.
He visited the Mac Theatre in the bustling Cathedral Quarter to meet young people promoting cross-community links in an event organised by Co-operation Ireland. An even bigger crowd turned out at St Anne's Square as word spread that Prince Harry was in the city, and there were big smiles and selfies aplenty as he met locals, including Belfast's Lord Mayor, Nuala McAllister, and her baby son, Finn.
Harry's final stop was to lend some royal sparkle to the Secretary of State's annual Garden Party at Hillsborough Castle.
He was welcomed by James Brokenshire and schoolchildren before greeting some of the 2,000 guests, and later planted a tree.