Northern Ireland

One man's long walk to Ardoyne shops

Kevin Sharkey
Image caption Kevin Sharkey walked to the Ardoyne shops from Barnett's Desmesne but how long did it take?

Barnett's Demesne and Ardoyne are at opposite ends of Belfast. They're separated by an estimated six miles along the traditional route used by Orangemen.

That's along the Malone and Lisburn roads into the city centre and then up the Shankill and Woodvale roads.

Orangemen from three lodges in north Belfast have been told by the Parades Commission that they must be back at the Ardoyne shops no later than 16:00BST on 12 July.

That's just over an hour after the Twelfth prayers and speeches are due to get underway at Barnett's Demesne.

So, how long does it take to walk the route?

Obviously, it will vary from individual to individual.

Not to mention bands, whose members will be carrying instruments and who may pause for breaks along the way.

But, to get some idea of how long it might take, I walked the exact route, leaving from the field where thousands of Orangemen and their supporters will assemble on the Twelfth.


Less, than a mile into my walk, I anxiously look towards a signpost ahead to see the distance for the first leg of my walk.

From the junction of the Malone Road and Balmoral Avenue, the city centre is two and a half miles away.

By the time I reach the fire station on the Lisburn Road, I'm half an hour into my journey. Then further down this well known shopping road, I notice some graffiti on the wall of a derelict building.

It reads: 'No matter what the Name, We're all the Same. Pieces in One Big Chess Game'.

I'm not sure if this message has a specific issue in mind but I couldn't help thinking it has a certain resonance to this particular dispute.

Onwards then to the city centre and as my watch reaches the one hour mark, I'm just about 100 metres shy of the city hall.

How long?

Here, heading towards Royal Avenue, a big banner across the street proclaims 'Belfast Orangefest Open for Shopping and Celebration.'

Ten minutes later, I'm going onto the bottom of the Shankill Road. Whatever protests there may be elsewhere, Orangemen will be assured a rousing reception here.

The long thoroughfare along this Protestant heartland is decked out in Union flags and red, white and blue bunting.

When I reach the top of the Shankill and turn onto Woodvale Road, I'm on the home straight. Ten minutes later, I'm at journey's end. The Ardoyne shops.

So, what have I learned? Well simply this. If I was at the Orange gathering in Barnett's Desmesne on the Twelfth and had to be back at the Ardoyne shops by 4pm, I would have to give myself one hour and 40 minutes to get back.

That means I would have to set-off on my walk back no later that 2.20pm. That would be more than half an hour before the start of the prayers and speeches.