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History and restoration

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

In 2014, approval for a major restoration of the Ravine was granted with the newly restored Ravine opening to the public in April 2018.

Tropical Ravine Timeline

Work to build the Tropical Ravine began in 1887. 

The Tropical Ravine opened. It consisted of a sunken glen which could be 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.

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. 

Restoration (2013-2018)

The new look ravine takes a step back to how the Victorians designed the original building back in 1887 with old features reinstated and unique details preserved. The building has a new 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 slightly widened and new triple glazed windows installed to retain heat. 

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.

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

Tropical Ravine Video

Watch a snapshot about the restoration of the Tropical Ravine.