Closed 2006

13 High Street
BT18 9AT

The Olde Priory Inn has had a varied career.

Built in 1849 as a single-story coach-stop between Belfast and Bangor, it was raised to two-story status in the early part of this century, and has been in service as a bicycle shop and temporary Methodist church, without ever losing its licence!

Its name, of course, was chosen by virtue of its position, right beside the ancient Augustinian priory, and something of that sense of age and tradition clings round this very fine old pub. It’s done in mock-Tudor style inside and out, including the excellent Twysel restaurant. The heavy oak beams, supports and oak panelling have been salvaged from old ships and churches, so that the aura of the inn is one of overwhelming antiquity.

There’s almost a stable-like effect in the low ceilings and dark timbers decorated with shiny brasses.
You’ll find it hard to leave the warmth of the real brass wood-burning stove in the restaurant, and the hearthside ease of the old bricks which were formerly part of the old gasworks building on Laganbank Road, Belfast.

If you have a Glory Hole in your house, you will know that you can expect to find everything in it but the thing you are looking for.
If it’s a drink you’re looking for, however, in the most interesting and unusual of surroundings, it’s a Glory Hole you should go to – the one upstairs in the Priory Inn. You’ll never be prepared for the range and variety of items on display here, a collection that suggests great imagination, inventiveness, and innovation on the part of the enthusiastic owners, Ian, John and Damien.

It includes articles and ideas which you will find in no other pub in the North. An example of the clever adaptation of a prop is the set of working traffic lights at the top of the stairwell.
Green denotes Bar Open, Amber – Last Orders, and Red – Bar Closed.

Poised above this – and, apparently, about to swing down on a liana – is a gigantic King Kong-type gorilla, clutching a huge bottle of beer. In what other bar could you find an inverted, illuminated snooker table set into the ceiling or a female mannequin with glowing red eyes looking down upon you from a ceiling bath?

Where else would you reach the toilets through a lovely old red phone box, or stand sipping your drink elbow-to-elbow with a lifesize carved wooden warrior from Taiwan, with a slain deer draped round his shoulders?

At the top end of the bar counter, you can sit on one of the rows of wooden seats used in the chapel in The Nun’s Story. Yes, these are the actual seats from that famous film starring Audrey Hepburn.

Spaced above them are six of those grand old black phones (acquired from the Royal Victoria Hospital) which now promise you a direct line to London, Paris, New York, Munich, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
On the subject of phones, how about the authentic American call-box chrome one, which is fully operational and will take quarters, available from the bar staff.

An essential quality of any Glory Hole worthy of the name is that you never have any idea of just how many things are in it, and a complete inventory of the Priory Inn’s Glory Hole is out of the question, but here are a few of its contents to whet your appetite: a bodhran advertising Guinness, a child’s rocking chair, an old mule’s saddle, a toilet cistern (the chain pull type), an American football shoulder harness, a leather bag of ancient golf clubs, one of those old ’50s bakelite black and white television sets (in perfect working order), a hotel porter’s night bell, a ukelele in its case, a set of chimney sweep’s rods, a World War I tin helmet, a World War 11 gas mask, a crossbow, a blunderbuss, an absolutely ancient typewriter, a number of gaily-painted Victorian cast iron spouting tops apparently sprouting flowers and plants.

Best of all – a stuffed swan!
Can your 45 Glory Hole beat that lot?
Remember, you’ve only been told a few!
Don’t worry about the clutter, though, there’s still plenty of room to relax in comfort and enjoy a drink or a dance on the fine little floor. All the items on display are there to be seen, not to get in your way, which is probably what distinguishes this Glory Hole from all others. For a pub with a difference, in which everything is a talking point, the Glory Hole Upstairs in Holywood’s Olde Priory Inn is well worth a rummage.

If this storehouse of assorted treasures sounds all a bit too hectic for the customer who perhaps prefers the discreet comfort of a quiet lounge to enjoy that business lunch or gin and tonic after the strenuous idleness of a round of golf, then the Priory Inn’s downstairs lounge is just the ticket.

Next time your name-dropping neighbour boasts of her fabulous holiday week in the States, you can in all honesty claim that you had a great time too when you were in Holywood, but don’t spell it out too