The Tropical Ravine in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens reopened yesterday following a £3.8 million refurbishment.
The listed building, which dates back to 1887, has been restored with many of its original Victorian features reinstated and preserved.
The ravine is now split over two levels allowing visitors to view the tropical plants from above and below. The famous waterfall has also been given more prominence in the now triple-glazed location.
Carol Thompson, VP at Botanic Primary School, said it was fantastic for pupils to have the tropical ravine on their doorstep: “I think we were the last children to visit before the plants were taken away. I can’t wait to bring them back to see it again. It’s incredible. I love the way they’ve created extra viewing space.”
While the restoration work was ongoing many of the plants – some over 150-years-old – were temporarily moved to the nearby Palm House and re homed in other Botanic Gardens glasshouses.
Mayor of Belfast Nuala McAllister said: “I have fond memories of coming here as a child. The renovation was long overdue – and although it took three years – it was definitely worth the wait. It’s a beautiful location, but more importantly it’s about education and preservation.”
She added: “I’m extremely proud as mayor to be able to welcome visitors to this city I love and to locations like this.
“Twenty years on from the Good Friday Agreement it’s easier to look back at the negatives but I prefer to look forward to the positives.”
Frank Caddy, chair of Friends of Botanic Gardens said: “We are delighted to have achieved so much more than the restoration of the roof which is what we began lobbying for.”
Sir Peter Luff, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, key funders of the project, said: “The word unique is often abused. This place literally is. There is no other Victorian recreation of a tropical ravine with cascading stream, tropical plants and schemata anywhere else in the world.”