Holywood, County Down

Holywood (/ˈhɒliwʊd/ HOL-ee-wuud) (Irish: Ard Mhic Nasca, meaning 'Height of the Son of Nasca'. Latin: Sanctus Boscus, meaning 'Holy Wood'[2]) is a town in the metropolitan area of Belfast in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is a civil parish and townland of 755 acres lying on the shore of Belfast Lough, between Belfast and Bangor. Holywood Exchange and Belfast City Airport are nearby. The town hosts an annual jazz and blues festival.

St Colmcille's church, Holywood, County Down.jpg
St Colmcille's church on High Street
Holywood is located in County Down
Location within County Down
Population11,257 (2011 census)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBT18
Dialling code028
PoliceNorthern Ireland
FireNorthern Ireland
AmbulanceNorthern Ireland
UK Parliament
NI Assembly
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°38′10″N 5°50′42″W / 54.636°N 5.845°W / 54.636; -5.845


The English name Holywood comes from Latin Sanctus Boscus 'holy wood'. This was the name the Normans gave to the woodland surrounding the monastery of St Laiseran, son of Nasca. The monastery was founded by Laiseran before 640 and was on the site of the present Holywood Priory. The earliest Anglicised form appears as Haliwode in a 14th-century document.[3]

The Irish name for Holywood is Ard Mhic Nasca meaning "high ground of Mac Nasca".[4][5]


In the early 19th century, Holywood, like many other coastal villages throughout Ireland, became popular as a resort for sea-bathing. Many wealthy Belfast merchants chose the town and the surrounding area to build large homes for themselves. These included the Kennedys of Cultra and the Harrisons of Holywood. Dalchoolin House stood on the site of the present Ulster Transport Museum, while Cultra Manor was built between 1902–04 and now houses the Ulster Folk Museum.[6]

The railway line from Belfast to Holywood opened in 1848, and this led to rapid development. The population of Holywood was approximately 3,500 in 1900 and had grown to 12,000 by 2001. This growth, coupled with that of other towns and villages along the coastal strip to Bangor, necessitated the construction of the Holywood Bypass which was completed in 1972.[7]

Holywood Priory

The Old Priory ruins lie at the bottom of the High Street. The tower dates from 1800, but the oldest ruins date from the early 13th century. The Priory graveyard is the resting place for many distinguished citizens including the educational reformer, Dr Robert Sullivan, and the Praeger family. Sullivan Upper Grammar School is named after Dr Robert Sullivan.[8] Robert Lloyd Praeger (1865–1953) was an internationally renowned botanist[9] and his sister, Rosamond Praeger (1867–1954), gained fame as a sculptor and writer.[10]

On 17 June 1994, Garnet Bell, a former pupil bearing a grudge, entered an assembly hall at Sullivan Upper School and used a flamethrower to attack students taking A-level examinations. Six pupils were injured; three of them seriously.[11]

On 12 April 2010, at around 12:24am, a car bombing occurred near Palace Barracks, a British Army barracks on the edge of Holywood's town centre. An elderly man was blown off his feet and had to be treated in hospital. The bomb was allegedly driven towards the base in a hijacked taxi.[12] The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the attack.[13]


As of the 2011 United Kingdom Census on 27 March, there were 11,257 people living in Holywood.[14] Of these:

  • 18.29% were under 16 years of age and 18.79% were 65 or older
  • 48.99% were male and 51.01% were female
  • 62.25% were from a Protestant or other Christian background and 23.11% were from a Catholic Christian background.
  • 3.39% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.

Places of interestEdit

The Maypole and Ned's Bar
  • Holywood is famous for its maypole at the crossroads in the centre of town. Its origin is uncertain, but, according to local folklore, it dates from 1700, when a Dutch ship is said to have run aground on the shore nearby, and the crew erected the broken mast to show their appreciation of the assistance offered to them by the townsfolk. It was severely damaged in high winds in February 2021 and had to be replaced.[15]
  • Nearly as famous, is the adjacent Maypole Bar, locally known as Ned's.[16]
  • There is a Norman motte in the town which may have been constructed on an earlier burial mound.[17]
  • The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum illustrating the way of life and traditions of the people of Ulster is nearby, at Cultra.[6]


On 2 August 1848, the first leg of the Belfast and County Down Railway, or BCDR, was opened from Belfast to Holywood. The Holywood railway station opened simultaneously. The railway line was extended via the Belfast, Holywood and Bangor Railway (BHBR) to Bangor, and the extension opened on 1 May 1865. The BCDR acquired the BHBR in 1884.[18] Holywood station was closed for goods traffic on 24 April 1950.[19]


Records of the marine algae include: Polysiphonia elongata, Laurencia obtusa, Chondria dasyphylla, Pterothamnion plumula, Rhodophyllis divaricate, and Coccotylus truncates.[20]


The Crosslé Car Company, a manufacturer of racing cars is based in Holywood.[21][22]


The town contains the following schools: Holywood Primary School, Holywood Nursery School, Holywood Rudolf Steiner School, Priory Integrated College, Rockport School, St. Patrick's Primary School, and Sullivan Preparatory School and Sullivan Upper School.[8]


Holywood is home to Formula One driver, Eddie Irvine and Formula 3 Driver (2020), Christian Lester.[23]


Holywood Cricket Club was formed at Kinnegar in 1881. It moved to Belfast Road in 1885 and then to the present ground at Seapark Road in 1996.[24]


Holywood F.C. is a Northern Irish intermediate football club playing in Division 1B of the Northern Amateur Football League.[25]


St. Paul's Gaelic Football Club was founded in 1979 as an amalgamation of the Holywood, Bangor, and Newtownards clubs.[26]


Holywood Golf Club, founded in 1904 is where 2011 US Open, 2012 US PGA, The Open 2014, and 2014 US PGA champion Rory McIlroy learned his golf, and he still calls it his home course. Nearby Craigavad is the home of the Royal Belfast Golf Club, the oldest in Ireland, dating from 1881. The club's present course was designed by architect Harry Colt in 1926.[27]

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Online Scots Dictionary Archived 20 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  2. ^ Patrick McKay, A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 82. The Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast, 1999.
  3. ^ The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland. Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland. 1882. p. 81.
  4. ^ "Ard Mhic Nasca/Holywood". Logainm.ie. Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  5. ^ "Ulster Place Names, County Down". Ainm:Journal of the Ulster Place-name Society (1987, 1988). Archived from the original on 14 December 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2007.
  6. ^ a b "Ulster Folk & Transport Museum". Ulster Folk & Transport Museum. Archived from the original on 19 September 2004. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  7. ^ "A2 Sydenham Bypass/Holywood Bypass". Northern Ireland Roads Site. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  8. ^ a b "Principal's Welcome". Sullivan Upper School. Retrieved 1 December 2022.
  9. ^ Praeger, Robert Lloyd (1969). The Way that I Went: An Irishman in Ireland. Dublin: Allen Figgis. pp. 10–12. ISBN 0-900372-93-1.
  10. ^ a b "Praeger, Sophia Rosamond". National Irish Visual Arts Library. Archived from the original on 11 August 2014.
  11. ^ "Flame-thrower case man 'did not mean to hurt pupils'". The Independent. London, UK. 20 June 1995. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2009.
  12. ^ Sharrock, David (12 April 2010). "Car bomb explodes near MI5 base in Belfast". The Times. London, UK. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  13. ^ "Real IRA admits NI MI5 base bomb". BBC News. 12 April 2010. Archived from the original on 26 August 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  14. ^ "Census 2011 Population Statistics for Holywood Settlement". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  15. ^ Beattie, Jilly (23 February 2021). "Holywood's maypole severely damaged in high winds". BelfastLive. Archived from the original on 5 August 2021. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  16. ^ "Maypole Bar". Archived from the original on 24 June 2006.
  17. ^ "Holywood Motte, Co. Down" (PDF). Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork, School of Archaeology & Palaeoecology, Queen’s University Belfast. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  18. ^ "Belfast and County Down Railway". Irish Railwayana. Archived from the original on 15 August 2007. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
  19. ^ "Holywood station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 28 August 2007.
  20. ^ Morton, O. 1994. Marine Algae of Northern Ireland. Ulster Museum. Belfast; ISBN 0-900761-28-8
  21. ^ "Dr Feargal Sharkey: It's going to happen". Londonderry Sentinel. 29 January 2010. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2010.
  22. ^ "The Crosslé Car Company Limited – Contact Information". Crosslé Car Company. Archived from the original on 12 May 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2010.
  23. ^ "Christian Lester". Archived 21 January 2021 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Holywood Cricket Club - Passing down the skills". Pitchcare. 29 July 2020. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  25. ^ "Holywood F. C." Northern Amateur Football League. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  26. ^ "About us". St Paul's GAC. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  27. ^ "Royal Belfast Golf Club – RBGC The Oldest Golf Club in Ireland". Archived from the original on 11 December 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  28. ^ "Holywood man Mark Adair is turning his Ireland dreams to reality with stellar show against England". The Belfast Telegrph. 25 July 2019. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  29. ^ "Desmond Boal obituary". The Guardian. 7 May 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  30. ^ "Brett, (Sir) Charles Edward Bainbridge". Dictionary of Irish Biography. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  31. ^ "Brown, Stephen James Meredith". Dictionary of Irish Biography. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  32. ^ "Where Are They Now? Brush With Fame". Noosa Style Living. No. 46. Spring 2011. pp. 40–41. (registration required)
  33. ^ "Darren Cave". ESPN. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  34. ^ Reid, James Seaton (1853). A history of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, comprising the civil history of the province of Ulster from the accession of James the First ... Vol. 1 (3 ed.). London: Whittaker; [etc].
  35. ^ "Jamie Dornan reveals his favourite spots in Belfast and the best places for a pint of Guinness". Belfast Live. 13 January 2022. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  36. ^ "His Honour Hubert Dunn QC". Hope for Youth Northern Ireland. 10 March 2020. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  37. ^ "Preacher to the converted". The Irish Times. 27 August 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  38. ^ "It's official: Holywood, my home town, is a great place to live…". Slugger O'Toole. 16 April 2019. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  39. ^ "Calls for memorial to Holywood's forgotten man". The Irish News. 24 March 2014. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  40. ^ "Drive Time's Maurice ties the knot in style". The Belfast Telegraph. 4 July 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  41. ^ "Brenda Kennedy keeping the magic of late husband Bap's music alive". The Irish News. 21 October 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  42. ^ "Launch of re-imaging project for Holywood". Redburn Loughview Community Forum News. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  43. ^ "Northern Ireland Olympic legend Stephen Martin takes on Half Marathon in memory of mum". The Belfast Telegraph. 19 September 2018. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  44. ^ "NGSA Contacts". National Grammar Schools Association. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  45. ^ "'If I wasn't a Catholic, I would not be the politician I am'". The Irish Catholic. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  46. ^ Elliott, Bill (22 July 2007). "As Woods slips, the steel of Europe is revealed". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  47. ^ "Apprentice star fires up NI women". BBC News. 23 May 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  48. ^ "Ulster's new face on Breakfast TV". The Belfast Telegraph. 4 July 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  49. ^ "Professor Rachel O'Reilly appointed next Head of School of Chemistry". University of Birmingham. 8 June 2018. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  50. ^ "Davy Sims World Music Radio". Mix Cloud. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  51. ^ "Michael Smiley: 'I'm an overnight success after 20 years!'". Belfast Telegraph. 21 April 2014. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  52. ^ "Holywood-born star tipped for Neeson action hero role". The Belfast Telegraph. 24 February 2016. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  53. ^ "John St Clair Boyd". Dictionary of Ulster Biography. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  54. ^ "Shane Todd: 'Sectarian comments on my online clips are big downside'". The Belfast Telegraph. 2 December 2022. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  55. ^ "Obituary: Prof Peter Woodman". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 February 2017.