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Restoration of the Tropical Ravine

The Tropical Ravine is closed for a £3.8 million restoration. This unique, listed building nestled in the heart of Botanic Gardens is home to many tropical and native plants.

The ravine had become old and inefficient, but it’s set to be restored back to its former glory, with a modern 21st century twist that will see it become one of Belfast’s popular tourist attractions.

McAleer and Teague began the refurbishment work in November 2015 with completion expected in late spring 2018.

Upon completion of the restoration, we will be presenting an outstanding example of Victorian architecture, with improvements that will ensure its historic and architectural character is emphasised and that access is available to a wide audience.

Botanic Gardens will remain open for the duration of refurbishment but due to the scale of this project access restrictions for that area of Botanic Gardens are in operation.


We've contributed £1.5 million to this restoration project as part of our physical investment programme. The Heritage Lottery Fund is contributing £2.3 million towards the refurbishment, and the Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens will also contribute to the repairs.

Restored and new features

We’ll preserve the look and feel of the current building, the only one of its kind in Europe, and protect its unique plant collection.

Before the work started on the Tropical Ravine, many of the plants were moved into the Palm House or rehomed to other ferneries. The large specimens that we couldn’t shift have been covered and protected from reconstruction work and the cold. Some of the plants are very valuable - the tree ferns are estimated to be over 150 years old.

The new look ravine will take a step back to how the Victorians designed the original building back in 1887 with old features reinstated and unique details preserved. The ravine will be split over two levels with an open reception area on the ground floor next to the lily pond. The building will be modernised so that it’s more energy efficient. The red bricked walls and window sills will be restored, pathways will be slightly widened and new triple glazed windows will be installed to retain heat.

We’ll do this through:

  • capital works to restore the key historic features of the ravine, including the original work of Charles McKimm's water features and lighting effect arrangements
  • the creation of a new main entrance enhancing the ravine's visibility, functionality and presence within the gardens as well as its connectivity with the Palm House
  • development of the plant collection, including replacement and replanting of specimens
  • linkages and landscaping improvements, which will be made with other areas of the gardens and the surrounding institutions, including immediate hard landscaping, paths, paving, seating, lighting, signage, and refurbishment of existing shrubberies
  • development of appropriate interpretive signs to help enhance the visitor experience for the public, educational and specific user groups, as well as sensory facilities for sight and hearing-impaired visitors.
Old and new visitors will be able to learn more about the conservation and species of the plant collection. Our interactive and digital exhibits will highlight the rare and endangered plants inside. And a tree trail will allow you to explore for yourself with plant labelling and information panels.


Watch our video about the restoration of the Tropical Ravine.