Tall Ships 2015: Belfast goes Dutch as three-master cruises in for sailing spectacular
If you were taking a walk along the shore last night you may have noticed the romantic sight of huge masts and sails making their stately way down Belfast Lough.
The evocative scene was provided by the Eendracht, Holland's largest three-masted schooner and one of the first of the A Class of Tall Ships arriving for the sailing festival next week.
She is one of the biggest vessels coming for the Tall Ships Races 2015 at 60m long and 13m across.
Her masts rise 120ft in the air.
But looks can be deceiving - as she was only built in 1989 and not the 19th century, the crew don't have to climb the rigging as all sailing can be done from the deck.
The elegant schooner turned more than a few heads when she passed by Whitehead, Carrickfergus and Whiteabbey yesterday on her way into the heart of the city.
Up to 80 vessels are expected in Belfast over the coming days, including 20 square riggers, so the sight of ships in full sail will become a familiar one over the next week.
Belfast businesses are getting on board with the Tall Ships Festival headed to our shores for the third time, from next Thursday.
Around half-a-million people are expected to hit the docks for family festivities over the four days before wishing the fleet well when it sails out of Belfast Lough next Sunday.
The festival is expected to bring a £10m boost for the city. As well as the ships, many of which will be open to the public, subject to occasional operational restrictions, there will be plenty to do and see on land, with a packed entertainments programme, headed by teenage pop sensations Bailey McConnell and Emma Horan, as well as a host of local talent.
There'll also be funfairs, street theatre, interactive activities, food markets, a fireworks display on Saturday night and a flypast by the Red Arrows on Sunday morning.
On Friday Hugh Black, president of the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce, will judge the Tall Ships window dressing competition, so expect to see nautical themes at the front of businesses and shops in the city over the coming days.
Belfast Lord Mayor Arder Carson said: "It is great to see premises across the city getting 'on board' with maritime themes and window dressing - all helping to build the excitement for the arrival of Tall Ships in a few days' time.
"The buzz across all parts of Belfast is so positive and we're all looking forward to rolling out the welcome mat to thousands of visitors.
"This is yet another example of Belfast being host city to world class events and promoting our city to an international audience.
"Our key message to those attending the event and enjoying the festival atmosphere is to plan their route and use public transport or the park and ride facilities."
Meanwhile, at City Hall there will be maritime-themed tours and film presentations on the big screen.
Movies being shown include Lifeboat, Swallows And Amazons, Master And Commander, The African Queen and Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl.
Translink is also laying on special services to get people to and from the Tall Ships.
For more information on events taking place for the event visit www.tallshipsbelfast.com