Hey, don’t knock Lisburn. Well, I suppose you can if you want, I live there and I do it often enough. Lisburn is probably the third largest settlement in Northern Ireland, Belfast would be the largest and Londonderry/Derry probably takes the gong for the second largest. It’s undergone a large-scale transformation in the last ten years or so, a lot of the local facilities have been modernised or rebuilt, and there has been a considerable amount of money invested in the area. Although providing plenty of jobs in the local area, Lisburn’s other primary role is as a commuter town for Belfast, which is less than ten miles away. It takes less than 20 minutes to get to Belfast, but try it between 9am and 10 am in the morning, and coming back between 5pm and 6pm, you’ll notice just how many people work in the capital that live in Lisburn. TRAVEL IN LISBURN Lisburn is well served for travel – it takes less than half an hour by road to get the international airport, and good quality main roads surround the town itself. As I mentioned before, it’s less than 10 miles from Belfast, that’s down the motorway, but you can easily join other major roads and motorways to easily get to other major towns in the province. There is also a train station on the corner of Bachelor’s Walk and Railway Street. It’s one of the major stops on the line, and from here you can get to any station on the rail network. It costs £3.30 to get to Belfast (full fare). Senior Citizens can get to Dublin by rail for free. Lisburn also has a bus station, located in Smithfield Square behind Bow Street, the major shopping area. It’s not the most advanced station, with only a few shelters to keep you dry if it rains, but there are currently plans to develop and build a new station beside the current one. Not only can you get a bus province wide at this station, you can also get a “Busy Bus”. These are smaller bu ses that run set routes around different parts of the town every hour. They can pick you up or set you down almost anywhere, and the prices are very reasonable. Living quite close to the town, I would either drive in, or walk, so I don’t often make use of this facility, but it is useful for older people or those without cars. PARKING IN LISBURN If you’re bringing your car into Lisburn, you should have no problem getting in parked. During the daytime in the week, if you circle the town once or twice, you should be able to park it in the street, where you can have an hour’s parking for free. If you intend to stay longer, you can park it in a number or places round the town – the council run car parks are 50p per hour, there is a privately run car park almost dead in the town centre for 70p an hour, a multi-storey also very near the centre for 70p an hour, and the Bow Street Mall car park, which costs 40p for the first two hours, £1 for up to three hours, then £3 an hour after than. As I’m never likely to stay in town for more than an hour or two, if I can’t get parked on the street, I park in the Bow Street Mall car park – not too far out of the way, and nice and cheap as well. SHOPPING IN LISBURN It might not be the biggest shopping area in the world, but Lisburn has a modern and functional shopping area. You’ll find most of the big names here – Woolworth’s, Tescos, Iceland, Burtons, Topshop, Electronics Boutique, Eason’s (think of an Irish version of WH Smith). The shops are all functional, but the selection isn’t a patch on Belfast, especially for clothes – the male section of Top Shop closed last summer, and whilst we have two local menswear shops, McCall’s and Chittick's, these are aimed at older men. The shops in Lisburn are also smaller versions of their Belfast counterparts, whilst Belfast can also offer the likes of Virgin Megastores and other larger chain stores. Lisburn maintains an odd mix of local business and some major chain stores – we still have some family businesses that have been going for 50 or more years, although increasingly these are finding in more and more difficult to compete with the prices of the large chains stores. Lisburn has a large indoor shopping complex – the Bow Street Mall. Open for about 10 years now, it has a set of chain stores, like Game and the Early Learning Centre, as well as some smaller, local businesses. There’s a very pleasant little café upstairs, although this tends to be a little rowdy as soon as all the schools pile into town at 3.30pm. If you head out of Lisburn, you’ll find the Sprucefield complex. A huge out-of-town shopping complex, it has the largest Mark’s and Spencer’s in Ireland, as well as MFI, Texas, JJB Sports, McDonald’s, PC World and Curry’s. You could spend a day shopping out there if you wanted. LEISURE IN LISBURN This has been improved greatly in recent years. Lisburn hadn’t had a cinema in about thirty years until four years ago when we got a 14-screen cinema. It’s a high quality cinema, the prices are on a par with the other cinema in Belfast, the seats are comfortable and as it’s based slightly out of town, it has a large free car park. It’s a whole lot easier than having to arrange a trip to Belfast to go to the cinema. Lisburn also has a large leisure facility – recently the swimming pool in the centre of town was knocked down, and a larger pool, as well as a fun pool was built onto the same site as the leisure centre, which is near the cinema. The prices are reasonable - £3-4 for an hour and a half in the fun pool is great value, especially if you have a group of people going down the slides. The leisure centre also offers a full gym, as well as two halls for football or basketball, and a few squash courts. Opening just this summer, Lisburn has a brand new Civic Hall. There are a few theatres inside which are to be used for plays and comedy, as well as concerts. It has yet to really get off the ground, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. Lisburn also has the Linen Centre – a free museum detailing Lisburn’s involvement in the highly successful Linen industry in Ireland in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Though maybe only useful for an hour or two, admission is free and it is an informative exhibition. If you want a quiet walk, Lisburn has two main parks – Wallace Park is just outside the centre of the town, and is where the local cricket team play their home matches. There are three or four full size football pitches, a duck pond and a kids play park. It’s fallen a bit by the wayside in the last few years and is a bit of a dangerous place to go after dark. The same thing can be said about the Castle Gardens, on Castle Street. They too have been subjected to a lot of vandalism, so much so that the council no longer puts lights in them at Christmas time. Its main purpose is now as an underage drinking den. If it’s a quiet park you’re looking for, head into Belfast via the Malone road, and you’ll pass Lady Dixon’s Park – a large, sprawling, quiet and very beautiful park, with some lovely rose gardens, Japanese gardens and children’s park. On a summer’s day it’s absolutely packed, so get down early to get a space. PUBS IN LISBURN Lisburn has really never been good for pubs. They’re a bit dangerous to be honest – dirty, dingy and the type you don’t really go into unless invited in by a regular. Most people in Lisburn either head to local village Hillsborough (five minutes up the Dual Carriageway from Hillsborough), or go into Belfast, where there is a far better range of more welcoming pubs. My personal choice would b e Katy Daly’s, or the Limelight beside it – the Limelight is a favourite amongst students, for it’s regular student nights, good music and drinks promotions. More of a club than a pub, I frequent Katy Daly’s before the Limelight opens – run by the same people, it also has the same good mix of good music and good beer. EATING OUT IN LISBURN Until the cinema complex in Lisburn opened, Lisburn lacked any real restaurants. Pizzarelli’s in Bachelor’s Walk was the only real place to go, and I can recommend it, especially if you can make it there before six, when you can eat from their “Dine and Dash” menu, where all meals are under £5. The opening of the cinema saw a lot of restaurants open in the same complex, such as Harry Ramsden, Quincy’s, Pizza Hut and a Chinese restaurant. Pizza Hut is one of my favourite’s, the “all you can eat” buffet being the main reason, though I do adore Quincy’s – a great atmospheric restaurant with pleasant staff and prices. If you’re looking for a nice café during the day, I recommend Franklin’s near the multi-storey car park in Graham’s Gardens. Friendly service, excellent food and the food is always gorgeous – especially his Chicken Tikka. EVENTS IN LISBURN The council do organise some great events for the family in Lisburn. Each summer, you have the Lord Mayor’s Parade, a procession through the town, as well as the “Party in the Park”, a free concert in Wallace Park where local acts can play, as well as a few more famous acts the council bring over – for instance, last summer it was Bjorn Again headlining the gig. The council also has it’s own event each year to light the Christmas Tree lights, when the town is absolutely bunged, as well as a fireworks display in Wallace Park every Halloween. THE FUTURE FOR LISBURN Lisburn has a bright future – it has seen a remarkable change over the last ten years as some of the smaller business has moved out, and more of the nationally recognisable companies have moved in. Lisburn is still expanding – the site of the old swimming pool is bring redeveloped into a new bus station, apartments and shopping centre, to try and give the town a feel much like Covent Garden in London, with restaurants with tables on the street and some nightlife, which the town sorely lacks. The new Civic centre should also add some much-needed atmosphere into the town at night. Lisburn isn’t a bad place to live. No, it isn’t the most exciting place, but it certainly isn’t the worst. Close to Belfast, and all it’s shops and nightlife, yet providing all you could need close to hand, I am quite content to live in Lisburn – I’ve done so all my life, and can see myself staying here for a good while yet. If you’re looking for a day out, there’s enough to keep you occupied, though you’d get bored trying to find stuff to do for more than a day.