Peter McCabe's Top Five places to Walk in EastSide

Local Tour Guide and Greenway Leader, Peter McCabe has been reflecting on his top places to walk during lockdowns. He has not only provided us with great ideas for getting out and about (safely of course) but added interesting facts to keep your mind occupied as well as your feet!


Cyprus Avenue - during each of the lockdowns I try to take a stroll down Cyprus Avenue every day. I love the Avenue at every time of the year, and always marvel at the spectacular houses, of varying styles, and all well out of my price range! I often think about the Van Morrison concerts there for his 70th birthday - now more than five years ago! - which I attended having ‘blagged’ a couple of residents’ passes! Previous occupants of Cyprus Avenue include Dean Sammy Crooks (the original Black Santa), Ian Paisley, Paddy Lamb, and Dr Joey Lewis, an uncle of CS Lewis.

Did you know? Two Titanic Foundation (now called Maritime Belfast) plaques are on Cyprus Avenue, commemorating two members of the great ship’s Guarantee Group. The Group were hand selected by Harland & Wolff to guarantee the safe passage of the liner on her maiden voyage, and all went down with the ship. At the junction of Cyprus and Sandford Avenues, a plaque commemorates Chief Draughtsman Roderick Chisholm, whilst a plaque at the junction with Sunbury Avenue remembers Foreman Engine Fitter Anthony Wood Frost.


Rocky Road - on a clear day the views from Rocky Road, or the nearby Middle Braniel Road, are simply stunning. With views across East Belfast in the foreground, with the Lagan valley, Belfast city centre and the hills of Antrim also clearly visible, the Rocky Road is a fantastic walk, and its good fun to pick out your favourite landmarks from this unique vantage point. You can also turn your walk in to a circular route if you include the often-forgotten Cregagh Glen nearby.

Did you know? At the top of the Rocky Road is an area that used to accommodate Lisnabreeny Military Cemetery. During the Second World War, 148 American servicemen - usually killed as a result of accidents - were buried there. After the end of the War, all the bodies were reinterred in the United States or in a military cemetery in Cambridgeshire.


Stormont Estate - the beautiful grounds of Stormont were, until the sterling efforts of the then-NI Secretary of State Mo Mowlam, an underused gem on our doorstep. However, on a recent lockdown walk there, I was struck by just how many local people now use the grounds to walk, run or simply people-watch. As many people know, Prince of Wales Avenue from the front gates of the Estate on the Newtownards Road up to the front entrance of the magnificent Parliament Buildings is exactly one mile long. Another interesting fact about the Estate is that, to camouflage the buildings during the Belfast Blitz, a mixture of bitumen and cow manure was used to turn the building black!

Did you know? The spectacular tomb of James Craig, also known as Lord Craigavon, and his wife sits behind a carefully tended hedge to the right of the buildings near the car park. Craig was interred there following his death on 24 November 1940 aged 69, with his wife Lady Craig dying on 23 March 1960 aged 77.


Ty-Isa, 184 Parkgate Avenue - Richard Lewis, C.S. Lewis’s paternal grandfather, lived at ‘Ty-isa’ (Welsh for ‘house alone’), at the start of the 20th century. It has been suggested that Richard made the wardrobe made famous in his grandson’s acclaimed book ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. Other properties in East Belfast with strong links to C.S. Lewis include Little Lea at 76 Circular Road, and the former St Mark’s Rectory on the Holywood Road, where Lewis’s maternal grandfather Reverend Thomas Hamilton was the first rector baptising his second grandson on 29 January 1899.  Until recently, the Rectory included the original door knocker, rumoured to have inspired the creation of Aslan. A replica is now in place.

Did you know? A shipbuilder by trade, along with John H. McIlwaine, Richard Lewis founded the firm of ‘McIlwaine, Lewis and Co. Ltd’ based at Abercorn Basin. Whilst just a small company, in 1888 McIlwaine and Lewis built the original Titanic, a steel freight steamer weighing 1,608 tons.


16 Burren Way - number 16 Burren Way on the Cregagh estate was the childhood home of 1968 European Footballer of the Year George Best, with ‘El Beatle’ widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time. Most of us can remember the mass outpouring of grief after George died on 25 November 2005 aged 59, and the unbelievable scenes at his funeral. For the last couple of years I have looked after 16 Burren Way with EastSide Partnership through Air BnB, meeting many great people, including Sir Michael Parkinson during that time. The house is currently receiving a retro refurb to try to replicate the house as it would have been when George left to go to Manchester in 1961.

Did you know? ‘The tunnel’, which links the front garden to the back garden, has been transformed by local artist Tony Moore with the creation of a timeline of George’s career, ‘bookended’ by quotes from Pele and East Belfast’s own Bob Bishop, “I think I’ve found you a genius”.

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