Northern Ireland news

Heritage and history brought to life at European Heritage Open Days across NI

Tours will also take place in Ballycopeland Mill, near Millisle

FROM an 18th-century printing press to a working windmill and the childhood home of a late Manchester United footballer, this weekend will give members of the public the opportunity to take a peek inside some of the north's historic buildings.

A celebration of Northern Ireland's rich and diverse culture and heritage takes place as part of this year's European Heritage Open Days.

The doors of historic properties and monuments will swing open with visitors given free access to around 360 properties across the north, with many opening up to the public for the first time.

Town halls, stone cottages, churches and stately homes will be among the buildings opened up to with talks, tours, exhibitions and performances at many venues under this year's theme of 'The Art of Sharing".

Some highlights include Armagh Courthouse, which dates back to 1809, and Northern Ireland's secret bunker - at15ft below a field on the outskirts of Portadown, a relic of the Cold War.

Heritage and history will also be brought to life in Co Tyrone at Gray's Printing Press where visitors can step back in time and discover a treasure trove of ink, galleys and presses hidden behind an 18th-century shop front in the heart of Strabane.

Tours will also take place in Ballycopeland Mill, near Millisle, where visitors can see up close the original mill machinery and hear from the conservation team working on the property.

The childhood east Belfast home of the late footballer George Best is also to open to the public.

The house at Burren Way, where Best lived until he left for Manchester United, aged 15, now operates as self-catering tourism accommodation and is decorated with mementos and iconic images from the footballer's life and career.

There's also a chance to explore the 200-year-old walled garden of Greenmount Campus, Antrim as well HMS Caroline, which is docked in Belfast and Headhunters Railway Museum in Enniskillen where one of the largest collections of Irish railway memorabilia is on display.

Iain Greenway from the department for communities said the "aim is to help communities to understand and realise the value of our historic environment".

"European Heritage Open Days are a key opportunity for everyone to do this, whether by visiting a new place or taking part in a new activity," he said.

"This is particularly relevant in this European Year of Cultural Heritage which has a theme of sharing heritage.

"That heritage is shaped by history and people; its authenticity is derived through the connections with communities. It delivers prosperity, progress and personality."

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