Belfast’s Victorian Gem Sparkles Again
The Tropical Ravine in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens reopened to the public this week following a £3.8m refurbishment. The major task, more than three years in the making and well worth the wait came about with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Belfast City Council who invested £1.5m in the project and a contribution from the Friends of Botanic Gardens.
The listed building has been restored to its former glory with Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister, officially reopening the Tropical Ravine by unveiling a plaque alongside HLF chair, Sir Peter Luff. The Tropical Ravine is a unique asset for Belfast and a fantastic addition to Northern Ireland’s tourism offering. The listed building which dates back to 1887 has been restored with many of its original Victorian features reinstated and preserved. The ravine has been split over two levels with an open reception area on the ground floor, and the building has been modernised to make it more energy efficient with new triple-glazed windows installed to retain heat and create the right environment for the tropical plants it is home to.
Visitors will now be able to learn about the conservation work and plant collection thanks to new interactive and digital exhibits. Accessibility has also been improved with the introduction of sensory facilities for sight and hearing-impaired visitors. Sir Peter Luff, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, welcomed the reopening: “The Tropical Ravine is a true heritage treasure that rewards visitors with a unique, entertaining and educational experience.”“We look forward to many more people enjoying these new facilities,” he added.The Tropical Ravine has been transformed into a fantastic visitor and educational space, an outstanding amenity that will last for future generations. Some of the plants are estimated to be over 150 years old so the restoration has been a remarkable feat. Many of the plants were temporarily moved into the Palm House or rehomed at Botanic Gardens’ glasshouses. The large cycads that we couldn’t shift were covered and protected from reconstruction work and the cold.
Demand to see round the new ravine is expected to be very high but due to the nature of the building, the number of people that can be inside the ravine at any one time is limited.For more information on the restoration project visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/tropicalravine