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History

The Tropical Ravine, or the Tropical Glen as it was known, was the brainchild of Charles McKimm, head gardener at Botanic Gardens. The ravine was built on the site of the former orchid and propagating houses. 

1887 - 1889

Work on the 97ft x 35.5ft ravine began in 1887. It opened in 1889 and consisted of a sunken glen viewed from a high level, railed balcony. 

In true Victorian style, several grottoes were landscaped into the walls. These were illuminated with candles and fitted with mirrors to create intriguing lighting effects.

A waterfall was located above the lower level pool, with the flow of water started by a chain and pulley system.

1900 - 1902

The Tropical Ravine was extended with a second section in 1900. This section was kept warmer than the original ravine and used for tropical plants rather than temperate species. A further extension was built in 1902 to install a heated pond to grow the giant water lily from South America. These alterations added 76 feet in length to the Tropical Ravine.

1980

In 1980, a new aluminium-framed roof was constructed and set on to the original trusses and about 10,000 square feet of glass was then inserted onto the framework. Work at this time also included a new sprinkler system, heating system and additional lighting. 

Today, the ravine houses plant species such as the Killarney Fern, orchid, banana, cinnamon, bromeliad and some of the world’s oldest seed plant.

Restoration

July 2013

A major heritage application completed for a joint project with the Heritage Lottery Fund. 

January 2014

The Heritage Lottery Fund application was successful for £2.3 million, matched by Belfast City Council’s £1.5 million as part of its Investment Programme. The money will be used for a complete restoration of the Tropical Ravine in the Botanic Gardens. 

January 2014 - October 2015

Detailed design, listed building consent, planning approval was granted as well as the procurement of a contractor to complete the restoration. 

November 2015 - April 2018

Complete restoration of the Tropical Ravine with the addition of modern twists such as an innovative state of the art fogging and misting system, a frameless glass façade, accessible lift and interactive and engaging information panels.

April 2018

The Tropical Ravine reopens again for the public to enjoy.