Hello and welcome to these weekend’s walk in the village of Belleek.
It’s a chilly enough morning today – but at least its dry, so come along with me for a walk through this beautiful and interesting place.
The village itself sits on the banks of the river Erne. On one side of the river is County Donegal, that is in the Republic of Ireland, and Belleek itself lies in County Fermanagh which is in Northern Ireland .
Belleek has been known as a “ border town “ that has been subject to customs posts and army presence over the years but nowadays it’s peaceful and calm and we can cross back and forth over the river bridge as often as we like !
I’m told there have been settlements here long before the border came into being with traces of neolithic life in the area and legend has it that the great Irish hero, Fionn mac Cumhall and his men sharpened their swords on the big limestone rock at Belleek Falls. Also, in 1593 the battle of Belleek took place in the build-up to the nine years war that was fought between an Irish alliance—led mainly by Hugh O Neill against English rule in Ireland.
Of course, we all know that Belleek stands on the worlds map for its famous pottery but lets save our visit till the end of our walk.
Come along with me up the main street, it is really quite charming with a nice mix of shops, a nice coffee shop and a pub or two. It’s only about a hundred yards from top to bottom so lets take a look at the brightly painted houses, the antique street furniture and the freshly picked vegetables.
Righto, enough walking – let’s take a visit to the Belleek pottery, which is the highlight of today’s walk !
When we step into the lobby of Belleek Pottery, we are entering one of Northern Ireland’s oldest and most fascinating attractions.
The pottery was opened in 1857 by a local man John Caldwell Bloomfield. Mindful of the plight of his tenants in the aftermath of the potato famine he sought to provide some form of worthwhile employment. As an amateur mineralogist, he ordered a geological survey of his land and to his delight it revealed the necessary raw materials to make pottery – feldspar, kaolin, flint, clay and shale.
We stop in the lobby where we can see some of the oldest and most important pieces of Belleek pottery ever made . They are displayed in a range of glass cases so we can trace the evolution of the products over the years. Take a look at one of the oldest and most prestigious pieces of Belleek ever made. It is called the Belleek International Centre Piece and was displayed at the Paris Exhibition in the year 1900 where it was awarded its fourth gold medal. I’m told that it took seven weeks to create the masterpiece. The creation stands 28 inches high and over 16 inches wide at its widest point. The urn shaped vase is exquisitely decorated with flowers and Irish Harps, and it rests on a scrolled base which also supports three Irish Wolfhounds. What an amazing piece !!
All around the walls are pictures of the craftsman and women that have made these products over the generations, and we can take a peek into the main factory floor to watch the craft process – it’s the same as it was over 160 years ago . There are lots of other interesting artefacts, moulds and photos all around the building , we could stay for hours !
I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to a cup of tea and a biscuit – but first we must take a look around the gift shop .. and guess who is working today – My friend from QVC – Patricia Mc Cauley ! I have not met her in person since the pandemic , so you had better head off to the coffee shop as we could be chatting ( at a social distance ) for quite a while !!
So, As you enjoy Belleek’s finest cup of tea, I hope that you enjoyed coming along with me today and take care until next time.
Dont forget we have a very special offer on our website of our Shamrock Enhancer pendant for just $60.00 ! You can take a look at www.connemaramarble.com You will also receive a free gift with all orders over $50 – We cannot do any better than that! See you all next Saturday .All the best, Stephen