- Not to be confused with the Los Angeles district of Hollywood.
Holywood is a town five miles northeast of Belfast in Northern Ireland. It's historically in County Down, but since 2015 has been part of Ards and North Down District, along with Bangor and Newtownards.
The town's name is pronounced "holly" but means "holy" - the monastery of St Laiseran was established early in the 7th century. An Augustinian priory was built in the 12th century, and these are the ruins you see today. In the early 17th century Holywood was rebuilt as a Plantation market town. Its developers and settlers didn't make much money, until the railway arrived in 1848. It became a commuter town, trippers came out from the city for a day at the seaside, and wealthy industrialists and merchants built their mansions here. Traditional industry slumped in the 20th century and fuelled "The Troubles", but Holywood is not an interface between communities and was only lightly afflicted. It has even managed to attract a textile industry in an era when so many Ulster towns have lost theirs.
Holywood had a population of 11,257 in 2011. The main attractions are the Folk and Transport Museums two miles east of town at Cultra.
For long-distance transport options see Belfast; the city centre is 5 miles southwest of Holywood.
Trains run every 30 min from Portadown and central Belfast stations to Titanic Quarter, Sydenham (for 1 City Airport), 2 Holywood, Marino and Cultra (for Folk and Transport Museums), continuing east to Seahill, Helen's Bay, Carnalea, Bangor West and Bangor.
Ulsterbus 502 runs from Belfast Laganside via Lanyon Place (above the main railway station), Holywood (20 min), Cultra, and on eastwards to Bangor. It runs hourly M-Sa, rarely on Sunday, and doesn't serve Europa bus station except late evening and Sunday.
From City Airport it might be simplest to take a taxi. Bus 3a / 3b runs to Sydenham from central Belfast but then only as far as Knocknagoney retail park, a mile short of Holywood.
It's a long straggly town along A2. For the Folk and Transport museums, take buses or trains towards Bangor and get off at Cultra.
Stormont is only 3 miles south but with no direct public transport, you have to go into the city then come out again. Consider taking a taxi.
Fonacab are the local taxi franchise, +44 28 90 333 333. Uber don't operate here.
- 1 Holywood Priory is the ruin of a 12th century Anglo-Norman Augustinian Priory, built over the 7th century monastery at the core of Holy Wood. It affiliated to the Franciscans in the 14th century, was dissolved in 1541 but became the parish church, with the tower added in 1806.
- The Martello Tower is 200 yards southeast of the Priory, one of dozens erected around Ireland to watch out for Napoleonic invasion.
- The Motte southeast of the Priory is a hummock that in Norman times was fortified by a palisade; there doesn't appear to have been a stone castle here.
- 2 The beach has two sandy strips, Seapark Bay southwest and Farmhill Bay northwest.
- 3 Window on Wildlife is an RSPB-run bird-hide overlooking the lagoon behind the airport.
- 4 Ulster Transport Museum, 153 Bangor Rd, Cultra BT18 0EU (train to Cultra, south side of road). Th-Su 10:00-17:00. Vast collection, with a wing-back De Lorean and two train sheds full of old steam locomotives and buses. Adult £6.13, child free.
- 5 Ulster Folk Museum, Cultra, Holywood BT18 0EU (train to Cultra, north side of road), ☏ . Th-Su 10:00-17:00. Open air museum recreating an Ulster town, farms, cottages and country crafts, mostly from the 19th century. (It surrounds Cultra Manor but that's only open for special events.) Allow a couple of hours; it's easily combined with the Transport Museum but they don't do combi tickets. Adult £7.88, child £4.81.
- 6 Stormont, the seat of government in Northern Ireland, is 3 miles south, see Belfast for details.
- 7 Titanic and the rejuvenated east end of the city are a mile west of the airport, see Belfast.
- North Down Coastal Path starts at Holywood Esplanade and follows the coast east to Bangor and Orlock Point. It's 16 miles in total, the route is firm going and fairly obvious.
- Queens Leisure Complex is by Holywood railway station. Gym and various fitness classes, it doesn't have a pool.
- 1 Holywood Golf Club, Nuns Walk BT18 9LE, ☏ . Course on the woodland slopes of the Holywood hills. The front nine are relatively easy and might be played as a quick after-work game, the back nine will demand your attention. This is the home course of Rory McIlroy, born locally. White tees 6027 yards, par 70. Day visitor £80.
- 2 Royal Belfast Golf Club, Station Rd Cultra BT18 0BP, ☏ . It claims to be the oldest golf club in Ireland, founded in 1881, but it had two other locations before coming here in 1914, and the present course was laid out in 1925. It's a challenging course on the slopes above Belfast Lough. Blue tees are 6306 yards, par 70.
- Other nearby golf courses are Helen's Bay towards Bangor, Knock near Stormont, and Shandon Park off A55.
- May Day celebrations are held around the maypole outside Ned's Bar. The rest of the year frankly it's just a flagpole.
- Holywood Music Festival is in November, dates for 2022 are TBA.
- High Street has convenience stores such as Centra and Tesco Express.
- 1 Holywood Exchange is a large retail park a mile southwest of town next to City Airport.
- Knocknagoney is the retail strip facing the Exchange across the A2. Tesco here has fuel as cheap as any you'll find around the city.
- Holywood High Street has a strip of eating places.
- Bay Tree, 118 High Street BT18 9HW, ☏ . M-Sa 09:30-15:00, Su 10:00-14:00. Coffee shop, good menu selection but you have to try their cinnamon scones.
- Loganberry Deli, 18 Shore Rd BT18 9HX, ☏ . M-Sa 08:00-17:00, Su 10:00-14:00. Continental deli has small licensed cafe, good soups and sandwiches.
- Coffee Yard, 102-104 High St BT18 9HW, ☏ . M-Sa 08:00-16:00. Generally good reviews but mixed over coping with covid. Somewhat pricier than its neighbours. Also has a small art gallery and shop.
- Noble, 27 Church Rd BT18 9BU, ☏ . M Th Sa 17:00-21:30, F 12:00-14:45, 17:00-21:30, Su 13:00-17:00. Restaurant serving Continental favorites, gets great reviews.
- Other High Street choices are Indian Ocean, Fontana, and Tulsi.
- Ned's Bar (The Maypole), 55 High St BT18 9AB, ☏ . M-Sa 11:30-23:00, Su 12:00-15:00, 19:00-22:00. Remarkable little pub next to the town maypole, it's only had three proprietors since it first opened in 1857. Small place yet it does table service.
- Stokers Halt is on Hibernia St, inland side of Holywood station. It serves food and is open Su-W 11:30-23:30, Th-Sa 11:30-02:00.
- The Dirty Duck, 3 Kinnegar Rd BT18 9JN (coast side of Holywood station), ☏ . Daily 12:00-21:00. Popular seafront pub, serves food, has live music and pub quiz. On a fine day the beer garden has a great view over the estuary.
- Yardsman Lager is brewed at Hercules Brewing Company on the industrial park north side of City Airport. No tours.
- 1 Rayanne House, 60 Demesne Rd BT18 9EX, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Quirky B&B, richly decorated. No dogs. B&B double £120.
- 2 Gweebarra, 48 Station Rd, Cultra BT10 0BP, ☏ . Smart B&B near Royal Belfast Golf Club. B&B double £90.
- 3 Culloden Estate and Spa, Banger Rd, Holywood BT18 0EX (next to Cultra station), ☏ . Upscale hotel in Baronial style, often hosts weddings and similar events, in pleasant grounds. B&B double £170.
- See also Belfast#Sleep for nearby accommodation in the Titanic Quarter.
As of April 2022, Holywood has 4G from all UK carriers, and you might get 5G from Three.
- Belfast attractions start just a couple of miles west in the rejuvenated Titanic Quarter. The city deserves several days to explore.
- Bangor a few miles east is a pleasant Victorian seaside town.
- Antrim coast, but don't just rush to the touristy Giant's Causeway, take the scenic route through Carrickfergus and the Glens.
- Hollywood spelled with two L's of course is in County Wicklow, south of Dublin.