Northern Ireland

Balmoral Show 2018: All you need to know

Tara O'Brien from Dungannon and her Commercial Heifer pictured during the annual Balmoral Show Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption The annual Balmoral Show is located on the site of the former Maze prison near Lisburn

Bulls and beer, tractors and traffic jams, ice cream - and hopefully sun cream - it's Balmoral Show time.

One of the biggest events on the Northern Ireland calendar, more than 100,000 people are expected to attend - townies and country folk alike.

2018 is the show's 150th anniversary, and will be the second time the event will run across four days, rather than its traditional three.

Here is our spectator's guide, giving you everything you need to know for a big day out.

When and where

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption A rabbit seemed calm in the presence of royalty when Princess Anne visited the show in 2015

The show begins on Wednesday morning and continues through until Saturday evening, with gates opening at 09:30 BST each day and closing at 18:00 (20:00 on Thursday).

Balmoral Park, near Lisburn in County Antrim, has been the venue for the most important events in Northern Ireland's agricultural year since its move from the King's Hall complex in Belfast in 2013.

Watching the weather

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Media captionBarra Best has the lowdown on whether you will see sundown at the agricultural extravaganza

Ah, yes, the all-important question - will there be sunshine, showers or will we need the welly boots?

Thankfully, the weather's looking good for the first three days, although it might get wet later on Saturday.

Getting there

You can park at the Balmoral Park site - at the cost of £8 for a car and £12 for a bus.

For those driving, there is an app available for visitors to the show, which includes a "Find my car" feature.

But visitors have complained about hours-long delays getting out of car parks in recent years, and organisers are encouraging people to use public transport, with full details available via the Translink website.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption You're shear (sorry!) to have a good time at Balmoral, says this laid-back sheep

And the police are warning visitors to park responsibly and only in the designated car parks.

Shuttle buses will operate between Lisburn train station and the showgrounds between 09:00 and 18:20 each day (20:20 on Thursday).

If you do choose to take the car, there is free car parking available at the King's Hall in Belfast, with a train service to Lisburn just a short walk away.

Details of services to the show are available on Translink's website, and the public transport operator says people should plan ahead and leave extra time for their journeys.

Getting in

If you book ahead, you'll get a discount.

Pre-show tickets cost £17 for adults; £9 for 12 to 18-year-olds; £12.50 for over-65s; £2 for children aged between 5 and 11; under-five's get in for free.

You will get in if you turn up without a ticket, but on-the-door prices will be £3 more than the pre-show bookings, or £1 more for children aged between five and 11.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Steady on! Some of those at the show can get a little bit too excited by it all...

What to do

What ISN'T there to do, more like...

Once you're in, you have the freedom to roam virtually the entire grounds.

All of the demonstrations, exhibitions, grandstand seating and entertainment are open and there for you to take in at your leisure.

Among the highlights over the last couple of years was the live robotic milking display and it returns to give visitors an insight into the delights of the dairy farmer's twice-daily duty.

There are 650 trade stands displaying their wares, from brand new farm and plant machinery to all sorts of arts and crafts.

Then there's Young Farmers' Club day on Thursday, with members showing their machinery handling and tug-of-war skills, along with endless other activities, agricultural and otherwise.

Feeling peckish? Then you'll want to make your way to the food pavilion, where more than 90 food and drinks companies will offer tasters of their finest produce.

For the youngsters, the children's farm is a must-see, and the fun-fair and the donkey displays are sure to keep them happy, as well as daredevil stunt riders on quad bikes for a bit of a thrill.

And, of course, there are the livestock competitions taking place across all four days - cattle, horses, goats, pigs and sheep will all be strutting their stuff in the hope of taking home a nice big rosette!

And one more thing...

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Image caption Four-legged friends can be found more in the equine than canine variety

Leave the dog at home.

The show operates a strict no pooches policy, for the safety of both you and your four-legged friend.

Instead, make sure to pick up a meaty treat when you're browsing the taster stands to take home for Fifi or Fido!

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