The Tropical Ravine, Belfast, June 2022

by Veronica

Following on from Frank's article about The Giant's Causeway earlier in June, here is my pictorial visit to Belfast's restored Tropical Ravine which I visited nearly 3 weeks ago.

A family wedding in Belfast took us there in the first week of June and we variously visited several locations to make it a holiday too.

The Tropical Ravine is situated in Belfast's beautiful Botanic Gardens at Queen's University. It opened in 1889 having replaced the original orchid and propagating houses. At that time, it was called The Tropical Glen, later called the Tropical Ravine.

Since its restoration, I have wanted to visit but lockdowns have prevented it until this month. It is a small exhibit but well worth a visit. It probably takes about half an hour to visit but the rest of the Botanic Gardens are worth a visit too, as is the Ulster Museum also on-site!

A link to Belfast's Botanic Gardens is here in the sidebar!

The best thing for me in the Restoration is the huge attention paid to period detail and the use of authentic 19th Century plants.


Although The Tropical Glen/ Ravine officially opened in 1889 it was in planning, growing and developing since 1887.
It was designed to be viewed from above into a sunken ravine and observed from a balcony. This has been retained and we stood on the balcony to view the beautiful plants. It is very hot and steamy in there, like The Tropics in fact.  Well named! I need to step outside once or twice to breathe. A small waterfall was situated at one end of it and is still in the restoration.

Over the years it was extended and more plants were added too.

A collage
A collage
veronica's photo

Restoration work 2014- 2018

The Tropical Ravine fell into disrepair and was eventually closed in 2014 but plans were already underway to restore it to its former glories even then. Belfast has made huge efforts with its tourism and this restoration is no exception.
Work started to restore the Ravine in the spirit of the original building. Many features were restored and preserved. The grid below is an example of this.
I discovered that it is sooooo HOT in there because they have triple-glazed windows to keep it that way!
It is beautiful!

Old features

Old features Restored
Old features Restored

John Templeton

The "Father of Irish Botany"

An information board ( and I LOVE Information Boards ) about John Templeton, known affectionately as "The Father of Irish Botany" was on the balcony.
John, a Belfast Man, had lovingly created a greenhouse of tropical plants that he had acquired and been given from around the world. He is credited with finding the beautiful Templeton Rose, growing wild in the North of Ireland. Today, it is only found now in Belfast Botanic Gardens.

Templeton Rose
Templeton Rose


The Tropical Ravine is a well-restored attraction which is worth a visit but only takes a small time to see so it needs to be included in other visits to the Queen's University, Belfast.
We thoroughly enjoyed it.


Updated: 06/26/2022, Veronica
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Veronica on 07/15/2022

I apologise for the tardy response. I had not seen the post .
John Templeton was a very unassuming gentleman who did not particularly push himself forwards for attention. He was happy staying mostly in Ireland ( well who would not be ? :) )

Thank you for your comments.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/29/2022

Thank you, Frank!

It's most elucidating that you not only figure out the value but that you relate it in such sobering terms as average wages, lower in Ireland and Scotland, higher in England, and as what a woman averagely earned from one year's work.

It's nice to know that John Templeton was appreciated financially -- and hopefully professionally and socially -- for his discovery back then and that he still is today, what with the Templeton rose and the Tropical ravine wizzleys!

Veronica on 06/29/2022

Very clever reasoning. You are a star.

frankbeswick on 06/29/2022

It is hard to specify the value of five guineas in 1802,but I have pored over some on-line figures and have found that in the eighteenth century in England, which won't be very different from 1802, an average worker might take home fifteen shillings a week. There were twenty shillings in a pound and twenty one in a guinea. So five guineas is 105 shillings, so 105 divided by 15 is 7. It follows that 5 guineas was seven weeks earnings for an ordinary family. But wages in Scotland and Ireland were lower than they were in England, so Templeton's prize was worth more in relative terms than it would have been in England. The average earnings for a female worker was eight pounds a year., so five guineas was worth 105 divided by 160 of a woman's annual earnings, not far off two thirds of a woman's annual earnings.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/28/2022

Thank you, Frank and Veronica, for the most helpful information on the significance of payment in guineas and on their worth nowadays.

(Veronica, It turns out that the discovery was in 1802. An online source incorrectly wrote 1795. But most likely the difference would not be that much between what a guinea from that year and a guinea from seven years later, in 1802, would be worth nowadays, in 2022, right?)

Veronica on 06/26/2022


frankbeswick on 06/26/2022

A guinea was worth one pound and one shilling, a shilling being twelve old pence,which was the equivalent of one pound and five new pence. Only the relatively rich dealt in guineas. Horse racing, a rich person's sport still deals in guineas.

Veronica on 06/24/2022

£5 guineas would have been a substantial sum in 1795. Approx £2000 I guestimate, which would be approx $2500,00 today.

Veronica on 06/24/2022

Dearest BSG,
Thank you for commenting. There were scents of the flowers as the plants grow tall but the overwhelming smell is sort of dank and musty, ferny because of the temperatures.

blackspanielgallery on 06/23/2022

Viewing from a balcony must have been a distint, different way of viewing a garden. The problem it has is there would be no aromatic scents from the flowers.
Gardens are best when taken in via multiple senses.

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