Every Irish city must have its castle, and the capital of Northern Ireland is no exception. The Belfast Castle in Ireland, built in 1870, is only 10 minutes from the center of the city just below Cave Hill. While many of Ireland's castles were built in medieval times as defensive structures, the Belfast Castle was constructed as a noble home. The pretty building is covered in turrets and other architectural details, but most people are charmed by the garden outside rather than the ornate castle itself. The unique garden contains nine cats in the form of sculptures, mosaics, and manicured shrubbery. According to legend, visitors to Belfast Castle will have good fortune as long as there is a cat residing there -- preferably a white one.
Let Sleeping Cats Lie
This myth and rumor of good luck led to the creation of the Belfast Castle Cat Garden, which boasts nine artistic cats for visitors to discover. All are clearly visible, but some are hidden in plain sight. This makes a trip to the garden (which also has amazing views of the city) a great activity for kids and cat lovers who find themselves with a bit of time to spare in the city. Visitors to Belfast Castle go on a quest to find nine cats in the Cat Garden. If you need hints to find all nine cats, the reception desk will provide a map of their locations in the garden but we will get you started with a few of the more famous felines you can find on the castle grounds.
This Cat Got the Cream!
"Before a Cat will condescend to treat you as a trusted friend, some little token of esteem is needed, like a dish of cream." This plaque in the Cat Garden is in honor of T.S. Eliot's famous poem, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats."
Mosaic of a Sitting Cat
Take the hop-on-hop-off bus to the castle; hike up Cave Hill from the castle, then relax in the Cat Garden and search for this mosaic cat. Sometimes you have to look down to find all the cats on this fun scavenger hunt at the castle.
Snoozing Bronze Cat
This life-sized bronze cat taking a nap is a favorite with children. If you work up an appetite while visiting the castle, enjoy a snack in the on-site restaurant, The Cellar. The restaurant is very well regarded in the city but the prices are slightly higher than other eateries in the area so it might be a treat best left for those who complete the challenge of finding all nine felines.
A White Cat Sat in a Wall
Hidden away a bit, this requisite white cat is charming in its simplicity. It is one of the highlights of the garden, which is open for visits every day. The castle is owned by the city of Belfast and the interior of the castle may not always be open to visitors when there are special events because it is sometimes rented out for weddings and other private functions.
Cat Playing With a Ball of String
This bench is made of fine metalwork of a cat playing with a ball of string. It may be the most elusive of the nine cats in the Cat Garden. However, don't worry if you won't find them all on the first visit. Entry to the Belfast Castle and its cute Cat Garden is free, so you can always come back another day to search for more cats hiding in plain sight.
Reclining Cat Mosaic
There seems to be more than a hint of a tiger here in this lovely mosaic of a reclining cat. While you are searching high and low, take a break to soak in your surroundings. When visiting the garden, be sure to take in the views of Belfast from the top of Cave Hill behind the castle.
Has This Cat Spotted a Mouse?
When you come across this cat statue, you wonder whether there should also be a mouse to go with it. The Cat Garden is in full bloom in summer, and there is a pretty pond in the center of the garden.