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British RoyalsThe Wessexes

The Earl and Countess of Wessex head to Northern Ireland


The Earl and Countess of Wessex have spent a day in Northern Ireland, culminating with a visit to the famous Balmoral Show.

Their first engagement was a tour of the new facilities at the South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon. They met with the staff and patrons of the facilities, as well as those involved in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, where the centre was used as a regional hub.

According to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, the Centre features “50-metre, eight-lane swimming pool, the 1,000m2 gym, the largest on the island of Ireland, health and wellbeing suite, multi-court sports hall, group cycle and dance studios” and has welcomed over 36,000 people since it opened last November.

“It is an honour and a privilege today to have The Earl and Countess of Wessex present with us to celebrate the official opening of the largest investment project within our Council area to date, one that we as Members of Council are extremely proud of,” said the Lord Mayor, Alderman Glenn Barr, in a statement.

Edward and Sophie then visited Craigmore Trees to learn more about the Centenary Trees for Schools scheme, as the business is the official supplier for the scheme.

Over 1,100 schools in Northern Ireland will be offered a tree to plant in honour of the centenary of the Northern Ireland. The royals met with schoolchildren who have already chosen their trees.

The royals then traveled to the Lisburn Museum to view its ‘Flax to Fabric: The Story of Irish Linen’ exhibition. They were able to watch a live spinning demonstration as well as a handloom weaver crafting a damask linen napkin that would be a gift for the nearby Hillsborough Village as it receives Royal Status.

“We are so proud of what our Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum has to offer. The Earl and Countess of Wessex were really impressed with our collection of damask linen and its royal links including linen from Queen Mary’s doll’s house, cloths woven for Queen Elizabeth II and a rare photograph of Queen Victoria using her own spinning wheel in 1865,” said Councillor Sharon Skillen, Chair of the Council’s Leisure and Development Committee in a statement.

Edward and Sophie also visited Elmfield Estate to meet local producers, artisans, and shoppers at the wholefood and wellbeing market, which is a monthly endeavour.

The Estate, which is owned by the local Shaw family, is a community hub that supports the community in their goals for cleaner eating and wellbeing. “The royal visit today clearly affirms what I have always known, we are privileged in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough to have visionary entrepreneurs like the Shaw family, who have created something truly unique to showcase a sustainable and holistic approach to food, health and wellbeing, and by so doing have achieved this memorable market experience.  It was a delight to see the genuine interest and engagement from the Royal visitors today,” said Glenn Barr.

Edward and Sophie’s final engagement was a visit to the Balmoral Show at the Eikon Exhibition Centre in Lisburn. The royals met with the organisers behind the show, as well as exhibitors and attendees. Their visit including touring the horticultural marquee, the livestock quarters, and sampling local artisan food produce.

About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.