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Subject: County Down, Bangor, County Down, Rory McIlroy, Donaghadee, Clive Standen
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Scots: Halywid[1]
Irish: Ard Mhic Nasca

St Colmcille's church on High Street
Holywood is located in Northern Ireland
 Holywood shown within Northern Ireland
Population 12,131 (2011 Census)
District Ards and North Down
County County Down
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town HOLYWOOD
Postcode district BT18
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK Parliament North Down
NI Assembly North Down
List of places
Northern Ireland

Holywood ( ) is a town and civil parish and townland (of 755 acres) in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies 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.


  • Name 1
  • History 2
  • Demography 3
  • Places of interest 4
  • Transport 5
  • Wildlife 6
    • Animal 6.1
    • Plant 6.2
  • Industry 7
  • Education 8
  • Sport 9
    • Cricket 9.1
    • Football 9.2
    • GAA 9.3
    • Golf 9.4
  • Notable people 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


The English name Holywood comes from Latin Sanctus Boscus, meaning "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 Anglicized form appears as Haliwode in a 14th-century document. Today, the name is pronounced the same as Hollywood.

The Irish name for Holywood is Ard Mhic Nasca meaning "high ground of Mac Nasca".[2][3]


In the 17th century, Ulster ports began to rise in prominence. In 1625, William Pitt was appointed as Customer of the ports of Newcastle, Dundrum, Killough, Portaferry, Donaghadee, Bangor and Holywood.[4]

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 in 1902–1904 and now houses part of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

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 in the early 1970s. Holywood today is a popular residential area and is well known for its fashionable shops, boutiques, arts and crafts.

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. Robert Lloyd Praeger (1865–1953) was an internationally renowned botanist[5] and his sister, Rosamond Praeger (1867–1954), gained fame as a sculptor and writer. "Johnny the Jig", one of her sculptures, is situated in the town. Praeger House at Sullivan Upper Grammar School is named after the family. Bishop Robert Bent Knox is also buried there.

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.[6]

On 12 April 2010 at around 12:24am, a car bombing occurred near Palace Barracks, a British Army barracks on the edge of the town centre. An elderly man was blown off his feet and treated in hospital. The bomb was allegedly driven towards the base in a hijacked taxi.[7] The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the attack.[8]


Holywood Urban Area is a medium town within the Belfast Metropolitan Urban Area (BMUA) as classified by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency[9] (i.e. with population between 10,000 and 18,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 12,037 people living in Holywood. Of these:

  • 19.9% were aged under 16 years and 20.6% were aged 60 and over
  • 50.6% of the population were male and 49.4% were female
  • 68.6% were from a Protestant background and 23.0% were from a Catholic background
  • 3.0% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.

Places of interest

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. The maypole is still used for dancing at the annual May Day fair.
  • Nearly as famous, is the adjacent Maypole Bar,[10] locally known as Ned's or Carty's. It was first licensed in 1857, and remarkably, from then until 2006, it has had only 3 proprietors. County Donegal native, Ned Carty, bought it from Mick O'Kane in the late 1960s. It had been owned by O'Kane since 1908. It is now run by Ned's son, Brian Carty.
  • There is a Norman motte in the town which may have been constructed on an earlier burial mound.
  • The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum illustrating the way of life and traditions of the people of Ulster is nearby, at Cultra.


The first section of the Belfast and County Down Railway (BCDR) line from Belfast to Holywood, along with Holywood railway station, opened on 2 August 1848. The line was extended to Bangor by the Belfast, Holywood and Bangor Railway (BHBR), opening on 1 May 1865, and acquired by the BCDR in 1884.[11] Holywood station was closed for goods traffic on 24 April 1950.[12]




Records of the marine algae include: Polysiphonia elongata (Huds.) Spreng.; Laurencia obtuse (Huds.) Lamour.; Chondria dasyphylla (Woodw.) C.Ag.; Pterothamnion plumula (Ellis) Näg.; Rhodophyllis divaricate (Stackh.) Papenf.; Coccotylus truncates (Pall.) Wynne et Heine.[13]


The Crosslé Car Company, a manufacturer of racing cars is based in Holywood.[14][15]


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



Holywood Cricket Club is amalgamated with the Holywood R.F.C. Cricket may have been played in Holywood as early as 1860 but the present club, as we know it, was formed as a result of a meeting held on Monday, 28 March 1881. In the first season games against Ballynahinch, Enfield, Lurgan, North Down and Sydenham followed the opening game against Wellington, when the team was captained by Joe Ross.

The club's first home was at Kinnegar where the club President and Benefactor for many years gave use of part of his land to the club free of charge. The members worked hard to turn the area into a cricket ground and by 1883 had secured sufficient money to erect a new pavilion.

North Down Borough Council has provided HCC with a new home at Seapark. "Seapark Oval" was finally ready during the 2005 season, after 8 years of using the pitch at Sullivan School.

The club had been forced off the Belfast Road grounds it occupied for 100+ years due to the GAA upgrading the pitch it leases from the Down and Connor Roman Catholic diocese. This meant that with the playing surfaces of the two sports pitches being at different levels, cricket could no longer be played at this venue unless the ground was raised to the same level as the GAA pitch.

The cricket club now share the Seapark grounds with a bowling club and Holywood Football Club, the latter hoping to secure new grounds at Spafield in the near future. There are also plans for a new club house at the Seapark grounds.


Holywood F.C. was formed in 1983 following the amalgamation of two Northern Amateur League teams, Loughview Star (1961–83) and Holywood Town (1972–83). These two clubs had not been very successful, though Loughview had caused a sensation when they reached the Clarence Cup final while still a Second Division club, losing 2–0 to Lisburn Rangers in 1964–65

Loughview won Division 2B in 1981–82 and after the amalgamation, the new club finished runners up in 2b in 1992–93, but were soon relegated again. The club's biggest day came when they won the IFA Junior Cup final in 1989–90, beating their town rivals Holywood Rec. in the decider.

The club has enjoyed even more success in recent years, by winning the 2a title and the Cochrane & Corry Cup in the 1999–2000 season. As a result the club were promoted for the first time in their history to intermediate status in Division 1B.


The first Thomas Russell Gaelic Club was formed in 1962 and soon earned the name "the Holywood Giant Killers". It played on a notoriously uneven pitch in the 'Convent Fields'. But early success did not continue – the club struggled on until 1976 when it withdrew from the Antrim League.

St. Paul's Gaelic Football Club was founded in 1979 as an amalgamation of the Holywood, Bangor, and Newtownards clubs. It operated under a deal with Holywood Cricket Club which maintained the Gaelic pitch in return for using a small section of the lower pitch as part of its 'out-field'.


Holywood 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. The town also features the Holywood Golf Club, which was founded in 1904; this course is where 2011 US Open, 2012 US PGA, 2014 British Open, and 2014 US PGA champion Rory McIlroy learned his golf, and the champion still calls it his home course.

Notable people

  • Mark Adair , cricketer for Warwickshire County Cricket Club Ex Sullivan Upper School pupil. (Born 27 March 1996)
  • Desmond Boal QC, Leading Northern Ireland Barrister and former Stormont MP resides in Holywood
  • Jonathan Bramley, television producer, Bafta winner.[16]
  • Charles Brett, architectural historian, born in Holywood
  • Stephen Brown, S.J., writer, librarian, founder of the Central Catholic Library, Dublin, was born in Holywood.
  • Darren Cave played rugby for Ulster Rugby and helped Ireland Under-20 win the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2007.
  • Jamie Dornan actor, model. Known for appearing in the television series Once Upon a Time as Sheriff Graham Humbert/the Huntsman, in Fifty shades of Grey as Christian Grey and for appearing in The Fall.
  • Garth Ennis, comic writer (born 16 January 1970)
  • Mick Fealty, political analyst and editor of Slugger O'Toole was born in Belfast but raised in Holywood.
  • Henry Harrison, MP, secretary to Charles Stewart Parnell, is buried in the Priory graveyard in the centre of Holywood
  • Ken Heaven, musician and trencherman. Raised in Holywood and features heavily in Holywood Star: The life and times of a rock and roll misadventurer.[17]
  • Bulmer Hobson, Irish nationalist activist and politician.
  • Maurice Jay, U105 radio station presenter.
  • David Jeffrey, former footballer of Linfield FC, Ards FC and Larne FC. Former manager of Linfield FC was born and raised in Church Road area of Holywood.
  • Bap Kennedy, singer-songwriter and record producer.
  • Tom Kerr, comic strip artist.
  • Jerry Lang, U105 radio station presenter.
  • Desmond Lorimer KBE FCA DSc, former head of the Northern Bank, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Northern Ireland Electricity and Ulster Garden Villages Limited. Resides in Holywood.
  • Breandán Mac Giolla Choille (1921–2006) was an Irish scholar and historian who was born in Holywood as Brendan Woodman; he later changed his name to the Irish language equivalent. He was Keeper of the State Papers for the Government of the Republic of Ireland, and edited Éamon de Valera's personal papers.[18]
  • Robert 'Bob' McCartney QC, leading barrister and ex-UK Unionist Westminster MP for North Down (1995–2001). Resides in Holywood.
  • Alban McGuinness, lawyer and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) politician was born in Holywood.
  • Rory McIlroy, professional golfer. Winner of the 2011 U.S. Open, 2012 PGA Championship, 2014 Open Championship, and 2014 PGA Championship.
  • Margaret Mountford, lawyer, businesswoman and advisor to Alan Sugar.
  • Dermot Murnaghan is a television news anchorman and a former resident of Holywood. Although he was born in Devon and spent some of his early years in Yorkshire, his family later moved to Holywood where he lived just off Church View. He attended Sullivan Upper School.[19]
  • Eamon Nancarrow, singer and author. Raised in Holywood and writes about the town in his autobiography Holywood Star: The life and times of a rock and roll misadventurer.[17]
  • Rosamund Praeger, artist, sculptor and writer; younger sister of the naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger.
  • Brian Rowan was a BBC security correspondent who was born and raised in Holywood.
  • Davy Sims broadcaster and writer, former head of BBC Northern Ireland New Media. He was born and raised in Holywood.
  • Michael Smiley, comedian, writer and actor. He was born and raised in Holywood.
  • Clive Standen, an actor. He was born in Holywood.
  • John St. Clair Boyd was born in Holywood.
  • Robert Sullivan, educational reformer and founding benefactor of Sullivan Upper School.
  • Robert Basil Uprichard ("Buster"), (1913–1993) was Crown solicitor for Belfast and County Antrim, legal partner with Sir Richard Dawson Bates at Number 1 Mayfair, Belfast. He lived and practised as a solicitor in Holywood.

See also


  1. ^ The Online Scots Dictionary Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  2. ^ Placenames Database of Ireland
  3. ^ "Ulster Place Names, County Down". Ainm:Journal of the Ulster Place-name Society. 1987, 1988. Retrieved 22 August 2007. 
  4. ^ O'Sullivan, Aidan & Breen, Colin (2007). Maritime Ireland. An Archaeology of Coastal Communities. Stroud: Tempus. p. 211.  
  5. ^ Praeger, Robert Lloyd (1969). The Way that I Went: An Irishman in Ireland. Dublin: Allen Figgis. pp. 10–12.  
  6. ^ "'"Flame-thrower case man 'did not mean to hurt pupils. London:  
  7. ^ Sharrock, David (12 April 2010). "Car bomb explodes near MI5 base in Belfast". The Times (London). Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  8. ^ "Real IRA admits NI MI5 base bomb". BBC News. 12 April 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  9. ^ Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)
  10. ^ Maypole Bar
  11. ^ "Belfast and County Down Railway". Irish Railwayana. Retrieved 1 September 2007. 
  12. ^ "Holywood station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Retrieved 28 August 2007. 
  13. ^ Morton, O. 1994. Marine Algae of Northern Ireland. Ulster Museum. Belfast. ISBN 0-900761-28-8
  14. ^ "Dr Feargal Sharkey: It's going to happen".  
  15. ^ "The Crosslé Car Company Limited – Contact Information".  
  16. ^ "Holywood producer wins Bafta". London:  
  17. ^ a b Nancarrow, Eamon (2009). Holywood Star: The Life and Times of a Rock and Roll Misadventurer, Showcase UK, Southampton. ISBN 0-9563900-0-5.
  18. ^ RTÉ
  19. ^ Swann, Yvonne (31 July 2009). "Me and my school photo: Dermot Murnaghan remembers the political and religious unrest growing up in Northern Ireland".  

External links

  • – Bangor & Holywood Town Centres Ltd
  • Bangor FM – Bangor's Radio Station [404]
  • BFBS Radio in Holywood on 101 fm [404]
  • Holywood virtual community
  • Holywood Conservation Group
  • Holywood Old School Preservation Trust
  • Holywood Parish Church
  • Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
  • Belfast City Airport
  • Holywood Rugby Club
  • Holywood Cricket Club [404]
  • Holywood Flickr Page
  • Holywood Residents Association
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