Sandy Row Belfast

Sandy Row Belfast

Sandy Row is among one the oldest neighbourhoods of Belfast. Its rise in population was largely caused by the expansion of the linen industry, much like many other areas such as the Falls Road & Shankill Road.

The name Sandy Row comes from the sandbank next to the route that took after the high-water mark due to the outflow of the tidal waters of the Lagan River inlet.

For more than two millennia, the path along the sandbank was the main route heading south from Carrickfergus.

Early 1900's Sandy Row

During the 19th century, Sandy Row was a vibrant shopping district, with 127 shops and businesses operating within the street by the beginning of the 20th century. Many people from all over Belfast came to the area for shopping until the Troubles began in the late 1960s. 

Subsequently, the rows of nineteenth-century terraced houses which were located in the roads and alleyways connected to Sandy Row were taken down and replaced with more modern housing.

Out of these, six houses which were once found on Rowland Street have been reconstructed and put on display at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

'Image Courtesy of Ulster Folk & Transport'

Sandy Row is a historically Protestant, tightly-knit loyalist area, which is famous for the grand Orange Order festivities on the Twelfth of July. More than 40 Arches are located in the area with banners, bunting, and flags used to decorate the buildings, homes, and streets.

Sandy Row later became a major hub for the growth and sway of Orangism, with an Orange Hall at its south entrance being built in 1869. Its famous Boyne Bridge crossed the Blackstaff River, with the north side being 

One of the most widely recognized and 'notorious' edifices was the Belfast Union Workhouse, located near Donegall Road. It was opened in 1841, and was designed to fit a maximum of 1000 inmates; its burial ground was divided into two sections, located behind Utility Street and Abingdon Street. 

During the 19th and 20th-centuries, there was much sectarian violence and brawling between the Sandy Row Protestants and Catholics from Pound Loney in the Lower Falls Road.

The Ulster Defense Association (UDA) had a strong presence in the area during The Troubles, in the early 1970s they initiated several assaults on Durham Road, a region mainly populated by Catholics that is sandwiched between Sandy Row and Falls Road, leaving four Catholics killed in the attacks.

In March 1974, two Protestant civilians were slain by an unknown republican paramilitary group in a bomb attack that was conducted without any prior warning, targeted at the Crescent Bar. 

On 30 January 1976, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a car bomb outside the Klondyke Bar on the corner of McAdam Street. This resulted in the death of one middle-aged Protestant civilian, John Smiley, and caused severe injuries to many people inside the pub, including a female bartender who lost one eye. The Klondike Bar had been in the area since 1872.

while you can find Irish stew in every corner of this wee island, this comforting classic is a must have especially in the cooler months.

This hearty meal is made using beef or lamb, and typically accompanied with root vegetables such as carrots, onions and of course potatoes.

This meal is best accompanied with a side of wheaten bread to soak up the rich broth and a pint of Guinness to make it the perfect Irish meal.

Although Sandy Row may not be as well known as other parts of Belfast when it comes to murals, there are still a few that are worth seeing. 

On the corner of Sandy Row and Donegall Road, you will find The Royal Bar, where a mural of Alex "The Hurricane" Higgins can be found. The Royal Bar was his local watering hole and he also used to live in the flats right across the road, a wreath with a snooker cue sits above the main doors in remembrance.

Higgins was renowned for his swiftness on the pool table, his quickness to pocket shots, and his ostentatious style. His nickname, "Hurricane Higgins," was a result of these feats. Furthermore, he had a distinctive way of cueing which often included contorting his body and adopting a stance that was more elevated than that of other professional players.

If you take a walk towards the Boyne bridge and old tobacco factory, you'll come across the iconic mural of King William of Orange. Located at the northern end of Sandy Row, a Loyalist mural of the Ulster Freedom Fighters was once showcased here.

In 2012, it was decided that the mural would be replaced with another artwork depicting William of Orange. This resolution was made after a year of discussions with local business owners and residents, some of whom argued that the mural was a deterrent for new businesses to move into the nearby office blocks. On June 25th, the mural of William of Orange was unveiled, replacing the former one.

In 1690, King William III of England and his soldiers passed through Sandy Row when they were travelling to fight King James II in what was known as Battle of the Boyne. It is believed that the army camped where the Orange Hall currently stands.

If you are a fan of Van Morrison, you may have also heard Sandy Row before. In his album Astral Weeks in his song 'Madame George' he sings. 'Then you know you gotta go On that train from Dublin up to Sandy Row'

*No matter what things to do in Belfast you decide upon, be sure to fully discover the city on the Belfast hop on hop off tour & make the most of your stay.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Sandy Row is located in South Belfast, about a 10-15 minute walk from the city centre. Its on the Belfast Hop on Hop off tour route

Sandy Row is a relatively safe area, it is best to visit Sandy Row during the daytime. Like many places, if you are unfamiliar with an area, it is best to avoid after dark.

Sandy Row is a predominately Protestant area.

The mural of King William of Orange sits on Nnrth end of Sandy Row after you cross the Boyne Bridge.  

Sandy Row got its name due to the high tide water mark from the inward flow of tidal waters from the River Lagan, in Irish it is known as 'Rae na Gainmhe'.

Yes - Sandy Row have one of the largest bonfires on the 11th of July every year