THE Earl of Wessex arrived in Northern Ireland yesterday for a day of engagements which included a visit to the Ardaluin outdoor activity centre in Newcastle, Co Down.
Prince Edward was greeted at the centre by the Lord Lieutenant of Co Down David Lindsay, and he also met South Down MP Margaret Ritchie, Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland and chairman of Down District Council Mickey Coogan.
The Earl met a number of young people who are taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award scheme, as well as members of the Belfast Activity Centre including chairman Tom Scott and the Ardaluin Regeneration Trust Board.
He was treated to a short musical/drama piece entitled Memories of Ardaluin enacted by a number of young people from the Fortwilliam Musical Society.
Later, in the dining room, Edward met representatives from various groups involved in the activity centre project. These included funders, the Prince’s Trust, Friends of Ardaluin House, Belfast Activity Centre staff and volunteers. He also viewed a slide show depicting the project before and during the first building phase.
Prince Edward heard of the challenges and the vision for the future of Ardaluin House from Stephen Dickson and also about the £150,000 grant to complete the restoration announced yesterday by Mr McCausland.
The Earl unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit and the reopening of Ardaluin House and Jack Dickson, 5, presented the Royal guest with a gift of a wood-turning by local craftsman Paddy Brannigan.
Later, the Earl attended the launch of the Duke of Edinburgh Award ‘creating brighter futures’ strategy, at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, which concluded his one-day visit to Northern Ireland.