Holywood is not to be confused with Hollywood in the US – you will find no large white letters set into the hillside here. What you will find is a charming seaside town with a wonderful sense of history and heritage. The town got its name from the Normans, they called it Sanctus Boscus which literally translates as ‘Holy Wood’, which is a reference to the woodlands that surrounded the town that were home to an ancient monastery which was founded by St Laiseran in the 600’s. Today the ruins that you find there are the remains of the more modern, if still medieval, priory that was built upon the same site. The name of the town though is pronounced the same as its US namesake with the ‘Holy’ having been given over to ‘Holly’. This is the region of North Down and the town is situated just off the main Belfast to Bangor Road, which means that it is a great location to use as a base when wanting to explore the region. It is a town filled with speciality shops and galleries and is home to the oldest maypole in Ireland that is still in use today.
Holywood Events and Attractions
Many of the pubs here are not only welcoming, they are also of historical interest. Plus you will also find award winning restaurants and eateries as well as many well restored Victorian buildings. The maypole in the town dates from the 1700’s and was originally the mast of a Dutch vessel that ran aground here.
May Day brings the traditional dancing around the pole as well as a large fair and market. June brings the annual Jazz festival which sees a traditional new Orleans style band parade through along the high street, the tune of choice being ‘When the Saints Go Marching in’, an appropriate choice as the town owes its existence to St Laiseran who founded the monastery here.
The library building is a building that you cannot fail to miss, it is both imposing and impressive and also of great historical interest to the town. It is very much the heart of the town offering much more than books and study space.
Things to See and Do
Outside of the children’s playground in the town is a bronze statue. The figure is ‘Johnny the Jig’ and it commemorates the passing of a young boy in a road accident. It stands as a reminder to not only road safety but the sanctity of life.
There are a number of beautiful wooded parks around the town from which you can take in some wonderful, panoramic views of the city of Belfast and the surrounding area, including across the Lough to Carrikfergus. Sea Park is filled with areas to indulge in tennis, football, bowling and even a putting green as well as a children’s play area. From here you can also explore the North Downs Coastal Path, which when followed for sixteen miles will bring you to the town of Portavogie.
There is also the yacht club should you feel like taking to the water and several golf clubs where you can work on reducing your handicap or improving your swing.