“ Upper Newtownards Road,Belfast „
On a cold, yet sunny, say i traveled to Stormont for a walk that I found in The Belfast Telegraph to carry out. Having never been to Stormont before I wasn't quite sure what i was letting myself in for.
Stormont is Northern Ireland's political equivalent to the Houses of West minster. Stormont is the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, currently headed by Rev. Ian Paisley, of the DUP, and his deputy Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein. The Parliament Buildings are known as Stormont because of there location in the Stormont area of Belfast.
The Stormont Buildings are set in acres of parkland and are really very grand when viewed from the entrance. The building is on the top of a hill following the tree lined avenues that lead up to the building. Once at the top of the hill and at the magnificent Assembly, the view gives you breath taking views over Belfast City Center and the surroundings. The view is a marvelous sight, and definitely worth the walk up the hill! No parking is permitted in the parliamentary grounds by members of the public for obvious reasons.
The park itself is undergoing regeneration and becoming a more prominent Tourist attraction. The grasslands are well tended to and wonderfully cut. The trees are well pruned and even it was the end of Winter when I went, the sign that the summer in the park was going to be superb was evident. With a large supply of buds on the trees and flowerbeds ready to be planted up. At the very entrance to the building, behind the dominating figure of James Carson, are 2 rows of old, Yew Trees that are a delight to see. These lead up t the famous steps where the likes of Bertie Ahern, Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams have all posed for photographs.
For the family there is a brilliant and interesting play park in memory of the late, Marjorie 'Mo' Mowlem, former secretary of state to Northern Ireland. The park offers an array of attractions including a slide, swings and adventure assault course. The park is set in the wood and is not too far from the main entrance. Dog walkers are not discouraged but advised to keep dogs on a lead and obviously any dog caught fouling the grasslands will be punished unless the mess is cleared up! So please do because it would be a crime if this beautiful park was spoiled by some unreasonable and selfish dog walkers.
Many paths are being constructed in the parkland's opening up the area to the public. This is great news because i am sure that by the time summer comes in 2008 they will all be in place. The draw back from my visit was the fact that many paths ended and without sufficient maps we had to return to the avenue to walk up to the entrance. Stormont is not a place you will get lost in easily.
On reaching the entrance to the building the public are permitted to enter and depending on the circumstances may enter the hallway. We could not enter the hallway and had to stay in the porch because a large media frenzy was occurring due to the resignation of Ian Paisley Junior. Despite this I found the security guards to be friendly and willing to inform us of the limited information he knew about the building.
When coming to Stormont it is best to park on the Newtonards Road near the Ulster Hospital and walk from their into the the park. Parking and the walk is all free which is brilliant news! On a summers day it would be brilliant to take a picnic to enjoy by the pond or on the grass. Also, guided tours are available of the parliamentary buildings, visit the Belfast City Council for more details.
For details on where to find Stormont i would recommend using the www.theaa.co.uk route planner to "Stormont Newtonards Road" because navigating Belfast City Center can often be very tricky depending on what direction you are coming from and how familiar you are.
Overall Stormont was a great trip out to with some superb history and architecture. It was nice to have a walk in the sunshine and enjoy the spectacular views that were available on such a wonderful day. Brilliant destination for tourists to enjoy a couple of hours in the fresh air and learn about Northern Ireland's History and see where a lot of it happened.
I would highly recommend a visit!