Home » Places » Places to See » Belfast Castle, Cave Hill, Belfast
Belfast Castle from garden
Belfast Castle from it’s garden

Introduction

The first Belfast Castle was built by the Normans in Belfast city centre in the late 12th century. A second castle, made of stone and timber, was later constructed by Sir Arthur Chichester, Baron of Belfast, on the same site in 1611. This castle was subsequently destroyed with no existing traces outside of a few street names in central Belfast.

In 1862 the third Marquis of Donegall, George Hamilton Chichester, decided to build a new castle within his deer park on the slopes of the Cave Hill overlooking Belfast Lough. Rather than a traditional medieval castle, the current Belfast Castle has more of an appearance of a grand stately home.

Construction of Belfast Castle

George Hamilton Chichester

George was the eldest son of Viscount Chichester and was born in London on 10th February 1797. He was educated at Eton and served in the 11th Hussars before being elected Member of Parliament for Carrickfergus. He remained in politics until 1857 and at the time of his death he was a senior member of the Privy Council. Chichester employed the architect Sir Charles Lanyon to design and build a suitable residence for his family.

Sir Charles Lanyon

Lanyon was an English architect born in Eastbourne in 1813. He moved to Ireland in the 1830’s, where he remained until his demise in 1889. He is buried in Knockbreda cemetery. Some of his other notable works include the Lanyon Building at Queens University [1849], the Union Theological College [1853], Ballymoney Court House [1838] and the Palm House in Botanic Gardens [1840].

The Palm House, Botanic Gardens, Belfast
Sir Charles Lanyon’s Palm House, Botanic Gardens, Belfast

Belfast Castle Site & Construction

The site for the castle is 400ft above sea level, with majestic views. The building was constructed in sandstone in the Scottish baronial style, which was the fashion at the time. This design has Gothic influences and is usually planned to be asymmetrical with towers and turrets. One of the castle’s
most impressive features is it’s twisted, winding outdoor staircase leading to the first floor.

The planned expenditure was £11,000. Unfortunately the project went over budget and the Marquis’ son-in-law, Lord Ashley had to make up the shortfall. The castle was completed in 1870.

Belfast Castle changes hands

In 1884 the Marquis died and Lord Ashley, by then the 8th Earl of Shaftesbury inherited the castle and the estate. The Marquis’s two sons had predeceased him, George Augustus Chichester (died 1827) and Frederick Richard Chichester (died 1853).

Lord Ashley, had married the Marquis’s only daughter, Lady Harriet Augusta Anna Seymourina Chichester on 22nd August 1857. The couple had six children, five girls and one boy. Unfortunately Lord Ashley and Lady Harriet were renowned for an extravagant lifestyle and an accumulation of debts. In 1884, aged 54, Lord Ashley died and was succeeded by his son Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 9th Earl of Shaftesbury.

Belfast Castle Restoration under Belfast City Council

In 1934 the Shaftesbury family presented the castle and its grounds to the city of Belfast. It has since been restored and maintained by Belfast City Council. The castle remains a popular venue for weddings and events. The beautiful grounds are laid to lawns and flower beds with a central fountain and are free to access. There is also a challenge in the gardens to discover the castle’s nine lucky cats!

Belfast Castle Interior

The first main room in the castle is known as the Shaftesbury Room, it is lined in the original oak panelling and has an impressive fireplace. Next to this is the Donegall Room which leads to the carved oak staircase. The main first floor room, the Chichester Room, has a beautiful maple floor and runs the entire length of the building. Its tall elegant windows look out over the vista of Belfast City, Belfast Lough and the surrounding countryside. This room, as well as the Fisherwick, Ashley and Ben Madigan Rooms are popular for wedding receptions.

Belfast Castle Restaurants

Belfast Castle’s cellars house its two restaurants:

  • the Castle Tavern – popular for tea, coffee & lunches
  • the Cellar Restaurant – for evening meals and Sunday dinners

These have a quaint Victorian ‘understairs’ feel but with a cosy atmosphere in a historic building. The cellar also has a Visitors Centre, which illustrates the history of the castle as well as information on the flora, wildlife, archaeology and folklore of the Cavehill.

Cave Hill Country Park

Cave Hill Country Park Map
Cave Hill Country Park Map

For those who like hill walking with spectacular views, Belfast Castle provides one way on to the Cave Hill Country Park supporting woodland walks to the summit of the Cave Hill with panoramic views over Belfast and Belfast Lough. The Castle and Country Park offer a great day out with no admission fees. (Note: the popular Childrens’ Adventure playground in the lower Castle Estate does charge for admission).

Gallery – Belfast Castle and Cave Hill

Contact Information

Contact : Belfast Castle, ANTRIM Road, Belfast BT15 5GR
Tel +44 [0]90776925
email: bcr@belfastcastle.co.uk


What are others reading now?

Galboly cottage view

Galboly – The County Antrim Village Lost in Time

By P&P / 30 September 2021 / 4 Comments
Mill chimney - a common sight in Belfast

Ardoyne – The Story of a Village

By P&P / 13 November 2021 / 2 Comments
Bodies Illustration at the scene Belfast Telegraph 13th March 1890

Nora’s Grave – A True Story of Love & Death

By P&P / 19 March 2022 / 0 Comments
Belfast Long Bridge crossed the River Lagan between 1688 and 1841

Unusual Laws in Old Belfast 1613 – 1816

By P&P / 11 March 2022 / 0 Comments

If you enjoyed this article…

Belfast Entries is a husband & wife hobby website featuring articles on our shared history, memories and entertaining stories of our past. We hope you enjoy visiting the website. If you like our posts please help us to grow our readership by sharing any posts that you like. There are social media sharing icons at the foot of each post. Simply tap to share with your friends.

A Word of Thanks

We would particularly like to thank those who have made a donation via Paypal or the “Buy Us A Coffee” feature. Every small donation goes a little way towards covering the costs of running the website and helps us keep Belfast Entries running. Your support is appreciated.

Click the image below to read more about making a small donation.

Buy Us a Coffee
Buy Us a Coffee

We have 2 donations this month 🙂

Thank you for your generosity and words of encouragement

We had 3 donations last month. Thank you

Please share our posts to help us increase readership for future posts. All posts can be shared directly from this website page or can be shared from our Facebook page.


Cost of Living Crisis

Given the current cost of living crisis that will impact so many in coming months we have added a page signposting organisations that may be able to offer support. We have no relationship with these organisations and cannot offer financial advice but we hope that some of the links may prove useful.



Belfast Entries posts & photos are our intellectual property and copyrighted to us. Where we use photos that do not belong to us, it is because we believe them to be in the public domain or shared under a Creative Commons licence with appropriate attribution. None of our content or images can be used without our consent. Note that a link to our Copyright & Takedown notice is included in the website footer on all pages.


P&P

We are a Belfast couple adding information on Belfast and the surrounding counties. Over coming months we will add a range of posts covering the people, places, products and stories that interest us and will hopefully be of interest to you. Over time we hope to build up information of use to locals & visitors alike and welcome your feedback on subjects of interest or stories that might be interest to the wider audience. Let us know what you think.

0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Would you like notifications of new Belfast Entries posts? OK No thanks