To observe one of the most stunning examples of architecture surrounded by majestic grounds and woodlands, one of the most magnificent views in Northern Ireland, and to witness Northern Ireland’s legislative body in action, look no further than the Stormont Estate and Parliament Buildings.
Stormont Estate and Parliament Buildings is located east of Belfast in County Down, Northern Ireland and is owned and managed by the Department of Finance and Personnel. Stormont Estate features countless acres of protected woodlands, family parks and a children’s playground, a tree nursery, and environmental education programs. On contrast, the Parliament Buildings are the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the legislative body of Northern Ireland.
Though the majority of the land is comprised of the multitude of ecological conservation projects, the main draw to the area is the Parliament Building and a chance to witness the legislative committees at work.
Work on the Parliament Building began in 1922 and was officially opened on 16th November 1932. Many changes were made to the building’s original plans along the way and progress was slowed after the stock market crash of 1929. Regardless, it wasn’t long before the then Prince of Wales was officially opening the building on behalf of King George V.
During WWII, the building was used for Royal Air Force operations and supposedly “hidden.” The attempt to camouflage the building’s Portland stone with a theoretically “removable” paint, using cow manure among other ingredients, proved a mistake. After the war, it took seven years to remove the paint that unfortunately and permanently scarred the building’s surface.
A Visit to Stormont
Today, a visit to the Stormont Estate and Parliament Buildings is a pleasure for everyone in the family. Begin your visit with a trip down the mile-long Prince of Wales Avenue and observe the trees that line the drive. All 305 trees you see are the originals planted in 1929, a testament to the Estate’s commitment to horticultural conservation. The property contains a children’s playground and family parks for all day entertainment, walking and fitness trails, and a chance to observe both wildlife and wildflowers of the area.
After an afternoon surrounded by nature, head over to the Parliament Building for a free guided tour. This tour will start at the main entrance and lead you through the Great Hall, the Assembly and Senate Chambers, the Committee Room, and the library. If the committees are in session, you will have the opportunity to listen in for an experience you can’t get anywhere else. Visiting the small souvenir and coffee shop, viewing the tombs of Lord Craigavon (Northern Ireland’s first prime minister) and his wife, and sitting in an MLA’s seat yourself completes your day at the Stormont Parliament Buildings.
From a mile away the magnificence of the Stormont Estate presents itself lined with rows of red twig limes. This spectacular entrance is only a sampling of what you will find at the end of the drive. Well-maintained grounds and gardens, an obvious appreciation for nature conservation, and breath-taking views of Belfast are worth the trip alone. Add in a one-of-a-kind political excursion and you’ve got the makings of a memorable day in Northern Ireland.