Following a £17 million redevelopment, The Ulster Museum is a shiny, engaging and highly accessible place to visit. Modern glass and steel walkways lead visitors into the art, history and science galleries, which tell the story of the evolution of Ireland, from Jurassic times through to recent political history.
However, it isn’t just Irish history that’s covered – must-see exhibits include the gleaming collection of gold coins and jewellery rescued from the Spanish Armada fleet shipwrecked on the Giant’s Causeway; Takabuti, an Egyptian mummy brought to the museum in 1835 (along with a skilful reproduction of the head); a twentieth-century haute couture fashion collection; and the ever-popular Peter the Polar Bear, whose home is the impressive Window on Our World display tower. The interactive Discovery Zones – nature, art and science – are particularly popular with children, and include a number of touch exhibits, such as a fossilised dinosaur egg, snake skin and shark teeth.
Disabled visitors can move around the refurbished areas with ease (though, as parts of the building are listed, a few areas remain difficult to access without help, such as “Deep in Time”). There are five Blue Badge parking spaces, and ramps lead through the automatic doors into the stunning entrance hall, where you’ll find a low-level desk and cloakroom, and the two main lifts. Elsewhere there are three additional lifts, which provide alternatives to the staircases in the old part of the building. Ramps inside the building have handrails and level rest points. The majority of exhibits have low display panels and there are rest seats dotted around, with portable seats available too. A few wheelchairs are available to borrow, and there are plenty of disabled toilets on site. Visitors with sensory disabilities can call ahead to organise free personal guided tours.
Food & drink: The museum restaurant overlooks the lovely Botanic Gardens next door, or you can eat your own packed lunch in the picnic room on the ground floor if the weather keeps you from venturing outside.