Ulster Bank reveals new vertical notes

Ulster Bank has revealed the designs for its new £5 and £10 polymer banknotes ahead of their release next year. The vertical notes feature images of Northern Ireland’s countryside and local wildlife


The obverse of Ulster Bank’s new £5 and £10 notes feature images of local plants and wildlife. Landscape scenes are pictured on the reverse – RBS has yet to release images to the public

It’s not just the Bank of England that produces UK currency. Northern Ireland’s Ulster Bank and the Bank of Scotland also produce legal UK tender – though their notes are a rare sight in England.

The Bank of Scotland is in the process of replacing its paper banknotes with polymer ones and Northern Ireland will soon be following suit. Ulster Bank’s new £5 and £10 notes were revealed at a press conference last week and will come into circulation next year.

The notes are the result of a collaboration between Edinburgh service design agency Nile, Glasgow studio O Street, note design specialists De La Rue, who worked with illustrators, photographers and type designer Jason Smith, and are the first vertical bank notes to be introduced in the UK and Ireland.

The £5 note features images of Brent Geese, a fuchsia plant and the Cryptic Wood White butterfly (a species endemic to Northern Ireland) on its front. On the reverse is an image of Strangord Lough and a geometric pattern inspired by the markings in ancient sandstone. It also shows a family at the beach and a shellfish (a nod to the country’s fishing industry).

The £10 note contains several references to agriculture: an Irish hare, Clydesdale horses, potatoes and green fields appear on the reverse while a Guelder-Rose (a Northern Irish shrub) is shown on the front. 

Ulster Bank says the £5 note “focuses on Northern Ireland as a place that people pass through and visit, highlighting the importance of the sea and migration” while the ten pound note is focused on agriculture and heritage.

Nile’s bank note designers for the Royal Bank of Scotland, created in collaboration with O Street, Timorous Beasties, Graven Images and Stuco. Images via O Street (more on the project here)
The Scottish £5 note features an image of Modernist writer and poet Nan Shepherd on one side and fish on the other

Nile, O Street and De La Rue also designed the Bank of Scotland’s new £5 and £10 polymer notes, collaborating with Timorous Beasties on a design that celebrates Scotland’s diverse wildlife (more on the process here). For the Ulster notes, they collaborated with Fontsmith’s Jason Smith (who created bespoke numerals inspired by the numbers on Irish road markings), illustrators Peter Strain and Abigail Bell and photographers Chris Hill and Patricia Pyne.

Nile says the process was similar to designing the Scottish notes but was completed in a ‘much shorter’ time frame. The agency is now working on a book that will explain the process – and each design – in more detail.

The Scottish £10 note features an image of astronomer Mary Somerville on the obverse and otters on the reverse
Otters featured on the Scottish £10 note