The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is situated in Cultra, Northern Ireland, about 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) east of the city of Belfast. It comprises two separate museums, the Folk Museum and the Transport Museum. The Folk Museum endeavours to illustrate the way of life and traditions of the people in Northern Ireland, past and present, while the Transport Museum explores and exhibits methods of transport by land, sea and air, past and present. The museum ranks among Ireland's foremost visitor attractions and is a former Irish Museum of the Year. It is one of four museums included in National Museums Northern Ireland.
Created by an act of parliament in 1958, the Folk Museum was created to preserve a rural way of life in danger of disappearing forever due to increasing urbanisation and industrialisation in Northern Ireland. The site the museum occupies was formally the Estate of Sir Robert Kennedy, and was acquired in 1961, with the museum opening to the public for the first time three years later in 1964. In 1967, the Folk Museum merged with the Belfast Transport Museum, to form the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. The museum's Rail and Road Galleries were opened in 1993 and subsequently expanded in 1996. In 1998, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum merged with the Ulster Museum and the Ulster-American Folk Park to form the National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland, now National Museums Northern Ireland.
The Folk Museum houses a variety of old buildings and dwellings which have been collected from various parts of Ireland and rebuilt in the grounds of the museum, brick by brick. 170 acres (0.69 km2) are devoted to illustrating the rural way of life in the early 20th century, and visitors can stroll through a recreation of the period's countryside complete with farms, cottages, crops, livestock, and visit a typical Ulster town of the time called "Ballycultra", featuring shops, churches, and both terraced and larger housing and a Tea room run by Eurest Services, a sub division of the Compass Catering Service. Regular activities include open hearth cooking, printing, needlework, and traditional Irish crafts demonstrations.
The allocation of a considerable sum of lottery money has enabled the museum to build a large outhouse in the centre of Ballycultra town. This new structure houses unusual relics from Ulster's past, such as an unusual waffle iron from the mid-19th century, an old 'poteen' distillery from Portmore and the first twin axle bicycle ever seen in Ireland. A little more offbeat is the 'Worlds Largest Sausage', a 17-foot-long (5.2 metre) banger, the creation of Newtownards man Seamus McTavish. All these new developments have aided UFTM in developing a new visitor base and have gained the site international recognition.
Indoors, the Folk Galleries feature a number of temporary exhibitions. These have included They Love Music Mightily, an exhibition featuring contemporary recordings of Irish traditional music, and Meet the Victorians, a "lively and interesting exhibition" focusing on aspects of Victorian life. The Museum is the holder of Northern Ireland's main film, photographic, television and sound archives. The Museum holds the BBC Northern Ireland archive of radio and television programmes, and also possesses over 2,000 hours of sound material broadcast between 1972 and 2002 by the Irish language radio station RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, from its studios in Derrybeg, County Donegal. The museum also maintains an archive of Ulster dialects, and a large library containing over 15,000 books and periodicals. The archives and library are open to the public during office hours.
Meet the Victorians Exhibition. Learn how Victorians dressed, what they ate, how they kept clean, what they invented, how they amused themselves and how they coped with daily life. This exhibition is laid out to allow you to investigate the various areas of life as a Victorian using original items such as clothing, toys, musical instruments, sporting memorabilia, poacher’s traps and (an empty) horse-drawn hearse! Food & Farming Exhibition. Examples of traditional farm machinery and equipment such as a seed fiddle, ploughs and a horse drawn reaping machine can be found in the food and farming exhibition, along with a working model of a steam thresher, information on harvest traditions including harvest knots, photographic material, and 3-dimensional scenes depicting various farming activities. You will also find information on traditional crops and animals that would have been reared for various uses and examples of typical recipes.
The Transport Museum houses an extensive transport collection, and endeavours to tell the story of transport in Ireland, from its early history to the modern era. It is the largest railway collection in Ireland. The Irish Railway Collection tells the story of over 150 years of railway history. Steam locomotives, passenger carriages and goods wagons are combined with extensive railway memorabilia, interactive displays and visitor facilities. One of the collection's main attractions is Great Southern Railways Class 800 locomotive No. 800 Maeḋḃ, one of the three largest and most powerful steam locomotives ever to be built and run in Ireland.
In 1882 Samuel Geoghegan, the Guinness brewery's young Head Engineer invented and patented a lightweight steam engine with all moving parts high above the dirty floor to fit within a 6 feet (1.8 metre) loading gauge. Samuel Geoghegan also invented a Haulage Wagon by which his patented narrow gauge locomotives could be used on broad gauge track. Both inventions are on display.
The new Road Transport Galleries boast a large collection of vehicles ranging from cycles and motorcycles to trams, buses, and cars. One of its most famous attractions is a DeLorean DMC-12 car, the model made famous by the Back to the Future trilogy, and manufactured by the DeLorean Motor Company in Belfast. The infamous 'Paper Car' resides in the main auto transport gallery. This ingenious (some say mad) creation is a replica of a Fiat Panda made entirely from old issues of The Belfast Telegraph and The Irish News. A cross community effort, this car was a curiosity that made headlines in the 1990s. The car was black and white and red all over, apart from the windows. It was cited as an inspiration for Skoda and their recent Cake advertising campaign.
The museum boasts a permanent Titanic exhibition, documenting the construction, voyage, and eventual sinking of the ill-fated vessel. The ship has long been associated with Northern Ireland, as it was constructed in the Harland and Wolff shipyards, just a few miles from the museum. The newly refurbished Titanic exhibition, tying in with the Folk museum's 'Titanic Trail' is titled TITANICa. Another exhibition at the Transport Museum is X2: Flight Experience, developed in partnership with Bombardier Aerospace, owners of the Belfast-based aerospace company Short Brothers. Also on display at the museum is the Shorts manufactured Short SC.1, an experimental vertical take-off aeroplane, only two of which were ever produced. The example in the museum, XG905, crashed in 1963, ending up upside down and killing its pilot. It was, however, repaired and flown again before eventually being preserved by the museum.
Attractions in the grounds themselves include a model railway operated by the Model Engineers Society of Northern Ireland, and the 120 ton steel schooner Result. Recent additions to the collection include a full set of Stanley Woods racing memorabilia, and two of his bikes. Also on display is a Rex McCandless vehicle and an early Formula 1 racing car. A little known fact of which there are examples in the museum is that the pogo stick was invented in Comber, County Down. Previously used by local potato farmers to make holes for planting their seed it was later developed by local inventor Archibald Springer who saw potential for its use as a mode of transport and sporting novelty.
The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is a large 170 acre site situated off the main Bangor Road near Holywood. The venue has two separate Museums. The indoor Transport Museum and the mainly outdoor Folk Museum. There is a bus stop on the main road and a railway stop, Cultra Halt, beside the Transport Museum. Both public transport stops involve walking to gain access to the site. Contact Translink for timetable and route information. Please note that the railway stop has stepped access to the Museum and is not suitable for a visitor using a wheelchair. There is an alternative route to the Museum however this involves a steep incline and would take approximately 20 minutes to complete before arriving at the venue. Distance to the Transport Museum is a downhill walk of approximately 10 minutes from the Bangor Road. Distance to the Folk Museum is an uphill walk of 15-20 minutes from the Bangor Road.
All car parking is free. Transport Museum: - Car parking is a surface, open air car park with 300 spaces. There are 9 blue badge designated parking bays within this car park. These are allocated on a first come first served basis and cannot be pre-booked. The nearest designated bay is 200 metres from the entrance to the museum. The route from the car park to the entrance is on a flat surface and accessible to a wheelchair user. There are 2 Eco Car charging car parking spaces. Folk Museum: - After passing a Security Kiosk, entrance to the main car park is up a steep hill. Car parking is a surface, open air car park with 80 spaces. There are 15 blue badge designated parking spaces within this car park. These are allocated on a first come first served basis and cannot be pre-booked. The nearest designated bay is 20 metres from the entrance. The route from the car park to the entrance is on a flat surface and accessible to a wheelchair user. Folk Museum Overflow Car Park: - When the main car park is full, visitors are directed to park along the road within the Museum or at the entrance overflow car park. Blue badge holders should make themselves known and Security will direct to available designated spaces or arrange drop off facilities. Visitors are welcome to drive from one car park to another to facilitate access to both Museums.
Transport Museum. The main entrance is flat, there are automatic doors with a push pad function to open. Assistance dogs are welcome. Wheelchairs and mobility scooters are available to borrow and should be pre-booked in advance by calling 028 9042 8428. All levels have ramp access and are flat surfaces. There are no lifts. Accessible toilets are available at the reception, at the Tram Gallery and the Land Sea and Sky Galleries. Tables and chairs in the café are free standing.
Folk Museum. The main entrance is an outdoor kiosk with flat surface. Assistance dogs are welcome. Wheelchairs and mobility scooters are available to borrow and should be pre-booked in advance by calling 028 9042 8428. The surface is uneven in places with cobble stone streets, pavement kerbs and hills. Many exhibit buildings are not on the level surface and have a step to enter. Limited ramp access is available at key locations. There are two accessible toilets available in the town area and 2 in the rural area. These are noted on the visitor map. Tables and chairs in the café are free standing. The size and layout of this outdoor museum may pose some difficulty for visitors with mobility issues. Click for museum map.
Location : Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, Cultra, Holywood BT18 0EU
Transport: Cultra Halt (NI Rail) then 3 mins. Transport or 15 mins. Folk. Bus Routes : 1, 1b, 2, 502a and 502b stop outside the gates.
Opening Times :March - September, Tuesday to Sunday + Bank Holidays 10:00 to 17:00; October - February, Tuesday to Friday 10:00 to 16:00, Saturday, Sunday 11:00 to 16:00
Tickets Transport or Folk: Adults £9.00; Concessions £7.00; Children (5 - 17) £5.50; Job Seekers Free
Tickets Both Museums: Adults £11.00; Concessions £8.50; Children (5 - 17) £6.00; Job Seekers Free
Tel: 028 9042 8428