The Bear Pit – Belfast, Northern Ireland - Atlas Obscura

The Bear Pit

Once home to a local bear named "Bruno." 


The Redburn Country Park in Holywood, County Down was once part of the Dunville Family Estate. The Dunville family moved to Redburn House in 1759 and the family lived in the home up until the death of the last family member in 1940. The Dunville family had many hobbies and business interests.

These interests included a Whiskey business (Dunville & Co Ltd), as well as tea importing, cotton, competitive air ballooning, football clubs, and many others. One family member, Robert Lambert Dunville, had a particular interest in zoology and went as far as creating his own private zoo.

His collection of exotic animals included a zebra, a panther, a cockatoo, kangaroos, lemurs, and monkeys. But there was one special animal that Robert and the general public were especially fond of; a black bear from North America known as Bruno.

Bruno was kept in a quarry area that became known as The Bear Pit and the family would frequently take him on walks around the estate. The Dunville family even took Bruno to London to their family house and would let him loose around the grounds. After Robert’s death in 1929, the estate was unable to continue looking after the animals and the collection was donated to the Belfast Zoological Gardens to look after.

The Dunville Estate is now mainly what makes up the Redburn Country Park, where there is a vast amount of woodland trails to explore and great viewing areas of Belfast Lough and the County Antrim & Down Coastlines. You can even visit the location of The Bear Pit and imagine the sight of a big black bear standing in your way.

Know Before You Go

To get here you must head towards the M3 Motorway from Belfast. When you reach the little County Down town of Holywood get off the Dual Carriageway at the Jackson’s Road Junction and head up the road and then turn right on the Old Holywood Road and then follow this road until you see the Redburn Country Park signage on the left. There is a small car park available on the site.

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November 16, 2022

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