On Donegall Quay is the ambitious Laganside development project, the first component of which to be completed was the Lagan Weir, designed to protect the city against flooding. Millions of pounds have been pumped into dredging the river to maintain water levels and revive the much depleted fish population – successfully it seems: there was salmon fishing on the weir’s inauguration day. However, little can be done to restore the river’s erstwhile crucial role in the successful development of the city as a centre for industries as diverse as linen, tobacco, rope-making and shipbuilding – a glance across the river to the Harland & Wolff shipyard confirms that the last-named still survives.
If the sea air’s twitching your nostrils, head a few hundred yards further north towards the ferry terminals, where you’ll find the restored Harbour Office and nearby Sinclair Seamen’s Church on Corporation Square. The latter is yet another Lanyon design, but it’s the contents that are most intriguing. Sailors must have felt truly at home among the cornucopia of maritime equipment – an old-fashioned wooden wheel, the bell from HMS Hood, assorted navigation lights and a ship’s prow for a pulpit.
The most obvious changes to the city’s skyline can be seen from almost any river viewpoint: further south along Oxford Street sits the glittering two-thousand-seater Waterfront Hall concert venue, a housing development and a Hilton hotel.