From the main entrance of the gardens you will be greeted by the impressive statue of Belfast-born physicist Lord Kelvin. Kelvin is famed as the creator of the Absolute Temperature Scale (later renamed the Kelvin scale) but here his likeness offers a majestic welcome to locals and tourists alike.
Perhaps the most eye-catching sight in the gardens, the Palm House was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, also the designer of the nearby Queens University front building, and completed in 1852. It is one of the earliest glasshouses still intact that is made from curved iron and glass and is an elegant example of how greenhouse technology allowed Victorian botanists to grow many exotic plants from the southern hemisphere. This attraction opens 10AM to 5PM in the summer months and is best experienced on days with a bit of cloud cover – things can get very warm in there.
In full bloom, the rose garden (added to the park in 1932) is an uplifting and impressive sight. What better place to throw down a picnic blanket and indulge in some snacks than among a variety of colorful rose species. The pleasing scent and complex circular layout are sure to entice anyone from the casual appreciator to the trained botanical eye.
The Ulster Museum can be accessed by turning right on entry to the gardens. Even the innovative exterior juxtaposing the traditional with the abstract offers a taste of what’s inside. The Museum offers displays and collections not only on the discipline of botany but also zoology, geology, local history and fine art. The best thing about it? It’s free! The Museum asks only for a £3 donation and after the mind-opening experience inside, you’ll find it is worth this and more.
The bandstand is often used as an ideal spot for yoga classes and musical activities alike. Hidden among the trees and at the side of the rose garden, the bandstand offers a place to reflect on the beauty of the surrounding gardens, and away from the hustle and bustle of the area surrounding the popular Palm House. It also offers the perfect photo opportunity for you and your family and friends to help you capture your day in the gardens.
The tropical ravine is currently undergoing a restoration after falling into disrepair in recent years. Designed by Charles McKimm and built in 1889, some of the oldest seed plants around today can be found here, as well as bromeliad, cinnamon, banana, and orchid plants. Construction work on the ravine currently renders one of the entrance to the gardens from Colenso Parade not in use. Keep this in mind on your trip and enter through the main entrance on Stranmillis Road, from the McClay Library or through the Queens University Physical Education Centre.