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Visiting Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland: Traditional Academic Architecture in Gothic Revival Style

Updated on October 21, 2020
Flag used in the Police Service of Northern Ireland's logo
Flag used in the Police Service of Northern Ireland's logo | Source
Queen's University, Belfast
Queen's University, Belfast | Source
Cloisters, Queen's University, Belfast
Cloisters, Queen's University, Belfast | Source
Map location of Belfast
Map location of Belfast | Source

A sedate seat of learning since the 19th century

The Gothic Revival main building, known as the Lanyon Building, of Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, dates from 1849. Academic cloisters complement the main frontage. Its central tower is based on the tower of Magdalen College, Oxford, albeit on a smaller scale. The striking thoroughgoing effect of this towered frontage is of traditional academic buildings.

The architect was Sir Charles Lanyon (1813-1889), who was also responsible for various other prominent buildings in what is now Northern Ireland.

Founded in 1845, what was known as Queen's College, Belfast existed as part of the Queen's University of Ireland, together with Queen's College, Cork and Queen's College, Galway. As an academic institution in Ireland, where Trinity College, Dublin was a predominantly Anglican institution, Queen's University of Ireland was originally designed as an institution of higher learning to serve the needs of Roman Catholic and Presbyterian students.

In 1908, Queen's University, Belfast received a charter as a separate university in its own right. Until 1950, Queen's University was represented in the United Kingdom Parliament. Chancellors of Queen's University, Belfast have included Sir Tyrone Guthrie (1), 1st Viscount Alanbrooke (2) and former US Senator George Mitchell.

Prominent alumni of Queen's University, Belfast have included former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, former Northern Ireland First Minister Lord Trimble, who with John Hume shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, and the 1995 Nobel Prizewinner in Literature Seamus Heaney. Poet Philip Larkin served on the staff of the University's library.


(1) Canadians may recall theatrical director Sir Tyrone Guthrie as first Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival of Canada, now known as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

(2) As well as for a distinguished military career, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke, the former Field Marshall Sir Alan Brooke, is remembered in Canada as a director of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Also worth seeing

In Belfast itself, other noted sights include the monumental, domed City Hall, Belfast Castle, the Albert Memorial Clock, and the Stormont Parliament Buildings of the Northern Ireland Executive.

Carrickfergus (distance: 19 kilometres), has a 12th century Norman castle, which attracts many visitors.

Scrabo Tower, Newtownards (distance: 16 kilometers), a 41 metre high tower commemorating the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry is a conspicuous visitor attraction.


How to get there: Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Belfast International Airport, at Aldergrove, where car rental is available. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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