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Beginner’s Guide to Ulster Hospital (Dundonald)

It’s been a strange week. Or at least an unexpected one at the Ulster Hospital. Where a quick run to A&E for Fanfan involving one issue, ended up a week in the Critical Care ward for another. It was one of those “what if” scenarios, unable to just bung her back on the street with a potentially life-threatening condition. Thankfully it wasn’t. But it was no doubt a scary week.

Anyway, I never expected to do a write-up on a hospital, but I had a week twiddling my thumbs, and with plenty of time on my hands, I came to learn the hospital and the surrounding area fairly well. Spending each day at the Ulster Hospital and travelling back and forth between Bangor and Dundonald. So here is my Visitors Guide to Ulster Hospital.

Travel from Bangor to Dundonald (Ulster Hospital)

So each day I was driving from Bangor to Dundonald across the Craigantlet Hills in time for the start of visiting hours (11:00AM) which takes roughly 25-mins. It’s an easy enough drive from Bangor to Dundonald and parking is available on-site although occasionally there may be queues, and I share the best on-site parking options ahead.

Otherwise, when others were visiting, they were kind of reluctant to park at the hospital itself and opted to park and take the Glider located just before arriving to Dundonald (Park & Ride map here). It has free parking as well, it’s only 1-stop to find the Ulster Hospital, and you could probably walk it if you really want (15-minute walk).

Where is the Ulster Hospital? Upper Newtownards Rd, Dundonald, Belfast BT16 1RH (Map Here)

Visitor Parking at the Ulster Hospital

There are 5 different car parks at Ulster Hospital as well as drop-off and pick-up points at all the main buildings. All parking prices are the same (not much) and tickets can be paid by cash or card at pay stations in the main buildings or at the on-site car parks. Parking can be a bit busy at peak times so I suggest just going straight to the multi-story Wards Car Park. (Full Parking Details here)

The Multistory Terraced Car Park 

Aka the Wards Car Park. Even when it says the Terraced Car Park is full, there were always spaces on the 10th floor. So the best thing to do is to not follow the traffic and cars ahead and just take the nearest turn on each floor and keep going until the 9th and 10th floors. 

You’ll avoid the queueing, and maneuvering while other cars park, and there’s no need to squeeze into awkward spaces. You’ll be saving time and only mere seconds will be added going up and down on the lifts. 

Another option during later, less busy hours is to look for spaces on the ground (1st) floor of the Terraced Car Park on the opposite side of the barriers. Just look right. This is because cars still have to go up to the 2nd floor before turning back towards the exit on the ground (1st floor) again.

Visiting Times at the Ulster Hospital (Wards)

These times may vary between wards etc. so be sure to check the official visiting times. Otherwise, in the single-room wards (at least the Critical Care Wards) visiting hours were between 11:00AM – 21:00PM. During these times you can just press a release button and the doors will open and let you in (actually it’s only until 20:00AM for the later hours). 

However they do not seem overly strict and, as the best husband, I would be by Fanfan’s side from early hours to late at night. To get in and out outside of these hours you can still press the intercom button and a nurse or attendant will open the doors for you. 

Hospital Food at Ulster Hospital

If you complain about hospital food, then I don’t feel sorry for you. It’s free food, simple food, to satisfy a wide range of tastes, ages, ethnicities, allergies… The NHS is not about fine dining, it’s about keeping people alive. 

Anyway, there are plenty of options throughout the day, and you’ll be asked to fill in your meal preferences in advance. This will normally include a choice of around 5 or so main courses for lunch and dinner and 20+ items to choose from in total. Fresh fruit, baked beans, 2 scoops of mash….

For Fanfan it was a bit like an introduction to traditional, albeit a bit weird, British food. A bit like school dinners from the 80s. “What’s Angel Delight? Weetabix? Chicken Casserole? Jelly? Alpen? etc? And she’d more than not eat it and if she didn’t I’d polish it off. I’m not fussed for waste. 

Hospital Canteens and Nearby Shops

There are of course the on-site canteens and restaurants which are a bit like school or work canteens with decent-looking meals and dinners. I personally never used them but I did call down to check out the to-go options like salads and sandwiches and was picking up occasional hot cappuccinos and drinks from the vending machines. 

I would also take stops at the local supermarkets when travelling to the hospital or on occasional excursions through the day. There is a decent service station on the road nearby called Cherryvalley with a Eurospar and various chain food and takeaways including Subway Sandwich. There is also a LIDLs pretty much next to the Dundonald Park & Ride and then there’s Asdas on the opposite side of the road. All are within walking distance.

Local Fast Food and Takeaways 

Otherwise the best part of the day (for me) was 4:30 – 5:00 PM when the local takeaways would open and I’d be out, making the most of the situation, by checking out the local takeaway scene. Before this time it was McDonalds (just opposite) which opens 24-hours, and I also tried Just Eat but the local options weren’t overly exciting. 

So within a short enough walk, taking a left onto the Upper Newtownards Road, there is the Amethyst Chinese, Food Joint Asian fusion,  then Jemos Kebabs & Pizza (below) and Mario’s Pizza opposite. I would also hop into the car for the not-so-far Comber Road which has a whole load of eating options including my return visits to Tasty Garden (Fanfan loves their salted chilli chicken). In short, there’s plenty to choose from. 

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