Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Sightseeing around Bangor

Bangor Castle (Town Hall), the museum courtyard cafe and the Walled garden

[Maryanne]Kyle is still away and I’m determined to balance life with a bit of sightseeing along with my chores. Last time we came to Bangor we focused on Belfast, just a short train ride away, and exploring by car some of the more distant sites of Northern Ireland. This time I figured it was time to give Bangor a go.

I was surprised to find how full of park land; beautiful promenades, and dense woodland, all available to amble around at will, and often with self-guided nature trails to ensure you get the most out of them as you wish. The local Town Hall is the old (1800’s) Castle and although you can’t go in, you can wander around and enjoy the grounds. Here I found a beautiful walled garden belonging to the original estate and now maintained by the local council. It was great, divided into 4 distinct areas and filled with flowers, herbs, vegetables and fruits; I don’t know too much about horticulture, but I spent hours exploring, sniffing and poking about in the garden. Also in the grounds is the North Down Museum (North Down being the district Bangor is in – part of County Down). The museum had a medley of folk history in the area (Viking, Christian, holiday making, and bee keeping to name a few), it also had the most tranquil courtyard café I’ve seen in a while, and I could not resist fortifying myself with a sweet potato and chili soup with homemade bread. All this lazy ambling unexpectedly filled a day (Doh!).

The following day I decided to venture out on the train just a few miles to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, which I’d mistakenly assumed to be a single museum but actually is two very separate ones (although they do offer a joint day ticket, there is no way you can do both in a day! Of course I didn’t know that when I purchased my ticket). I focused on the folk museum and I hadn’t done my homework at all. I was surprised to find they have recreated a village and a significant part of the surrounding countryside as it might have appeared around 1910 (a full 170 acres of museum). Some clever chap around 1950 noticed that things were changing rapidly and pushed to preserve, as a museum, the older ways of living. Since then, they’ve purchased a giant swath of land, and have slowly purchased (or been donated) old and ramshackle properties, not wanted, or targeted for demolition in many cases, and installed them (brick by brick in most cases) in their museum village. There are farms, mills, churches, meeting halls, schools, tenement rows, pubs, shops, even a cinema, etc – all as they would have appeared circa 1910s.. The homes depict life as it would have been for all walks of life - the poorest in country and town, through to some of the richest land owning gentry.

Folk Museum - a whole village and surrounds set-up as it might have been around 1910

Of course many of the buildings are much older (some from the 1600’s), and are furnished as they would have been in the early 1900’s. Some of the properties are staffed with characters in costume that seem happy to while away time by talking about the history and artifacts – just as I was happy to listen. I even got a 2nd soda bread making demonstration. So overwhelmed with what I was trying to fit in before closing, I didn’t dare stop for lunch, but I did pass the sweet shop and purchase some pineapple cubes to help me on my way. Another day blown, the balance of sightseeing and chores a little one sided, but life is good.

1 comment:

Mommy Dearest said...

Sounds perfect, Maryanne. The chores will forever be there, but these opportunities come only occasionally. Good you have your priorities straight!