Get wrapped up in linen history
Watch the skill and dexterity of Ireland’s last two linen handloom weavers at the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum, the city’s oldest building. Based in the city’s former Market House, it still keeps its original red sandstone 17th-century arches. The Flax to Fabric exhibition brings the history alive by showing how the cloth was made from flax. Being able to see the linen being woven is the real highlight here. The beauty and uniqueness of the fabric becomes so obvious. You’re perfectly primed for the gift shop and wonderful examples of damask linen.
Experience park life
The perfect spot for your picnic is the Castle Gardens. The public park, gifted to Lisburn in 1903 by Sir Richard Wallace, was once the site of Lisburn Castle, a 17th century fortified manor house built by the Conways – the landlords of Lisburn. The park has since been restored with its garden terraces laid out in the 1650s. Archaeological works uncovered some significant historical artifacts such as a 17th century gazebo, terrace walls and a double flight stairway. Look out for the original Second World War air raid shelter, which has been given new life as an education centre.
Follow the art and sculpture trail Xplorart, which highlights the work of local and international artists along the river. The cycling sculpture marks the entrance to the cycle path, which is part of a National Network. On spring and summer Saturday mornings, artists display their work on the ornate railings of Castle Gardens as part of the Art on the Rails weekly sale. Cycle up to Wallace Park, a space named after Sir Richard Wallace, who left many legacies to the city, including a gift of five fountains. Only two survive today: one in Market Square and the other in Castle Gardens. Scan the riverbank and you may glimpse electric blue kingfishers darting along it.
Take a tour of Hilden Brewery
If local breweries are more to your taste, spend an afternoon at the Hilden Brewery and Tap Room restaurant. Established in 1981, the Hilden Brewing Company is the oldest independent brewery on the island of Ireland. They select the finest ingredients and use traditional handcrafting methods to brew delicious full-flavoured beers, such as Buck’s Head Double IPA, Hilden Irish Stout and Twisted Hop Pale Ale. Take a tour to learn the brewery’s rich history, watch their brewing process and sample some of Hilden’s finest beers. After your tour, head to Hilden’s Tap Room, located in the grounds of beautiful Georgian Hilden House, which once played host to guests such as William Wordsworth and King Edward VIII. There you can treat yourself to an elegant meal or book a Bottomless Brunch special.
Get a taste of the city
On Tuesday mornings, head to Lisburn’s outdoor market. Queues form at Deighan’s Cabbage Patch stall for everything from Ailsa Craig tomatoes to Maris Piper potatoes. Gerard McNabb from Silverfin Fish Merchants displays the catch, still twitching, from the fishing ports of Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie. Most popular are mussels and oysters from Dundrum Bay, and in summer, herring and fresh mackerel.
Visitors love the atmosphere of the market and many have never seen such a wide range of fish.
Greene’s supermarket started life as a butcher’s shop, but now the place to go for the perfect picnic bits and bobs. The options are endless: country rhubarb and ginger jam, Northern Ireland honey, creamy Clandeboye cow’s yoghurt, the award-winning Ballybrie Irish soft cheese or Boilie Irish goat’s cheese (it’s a big hit in Asia).