The Tropical Ravine first opened in 1889 and was built on the site of the former orchid and propagating houses. It was also known as the Tropical Glen. The ravine was the creation of Charles McKimm, head gardener in Belfast's Botanic Gardens.
A Victorian ravine
Work on the ravine started in 1887. When the Tropical Ravine opened in 1889, it had a sunken glen which could be viewed from a high level, railed balcony. In keeping with 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.
Extensions to the ravine
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. Another 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.
In 1980, an aluminium-framed roof was constructed and set on to the original trusses. About 10,000 square feet of glass was then inserted onto the framework. Work also included a sprinkler system, heating system and additional lighting.
Restorations and improvements
Between 2013 and 2018, the ravine was restored to how the Victorians designed the original building in 1887. Old features were reinstated and unique details preserved. The building has a reception area next to the lily pond and has been modernised so that it is more energy efficient. The red bricked walls and window sills have been restored, pathways widened and triple-glazed windows installed to retain heat.
As well as complete restoration, modern twists were added such as an innovative state of the art fogging and misting system, a frameless glass façade, accessible lift and interactive and engaging information panels.
Plant species in the Tropical Ravine
The ravine houses plant species such as the Killarney Fern, orchid, banana, cinnamon, bromeliad and some of the world’s oldest seed plants.
Tropical Ravine video
Watch a video of the restoration work at the Tropical Ravine.