Sunday, February 14, 2016

Portaferry #322

Today I spent much of the day in Portaferry in County Down - I had attended the Month's Mind Mass of my late uncle Seámus Quinn. With both my Aunt Breeda and Uncle Seámus now sadly passed on, I am already wondering if and when I will be back in Portaferry again. I felt quite sad leaving the town as I have many happy memories of many happy visits there. The last time I visited Portaferry was in the summer of 2014 during my ride around the Causeway and Mourne Coastal routes - indeed this was the last time I saw Seámus. 

Below is a short  extract from my book Exploring Northern Ireland's Causeway and Mourne Coastal Routes in which I wrote about Portaferry:

Portaferry to Strangford (85 km)

Strangford Lough is the largest sea lough in Ireland or the UK - it is also a Marine Nature Reserve. It includes several areas of special interest to marine conservationists and is recognised internationally as a major location for marine research. Arriving in Portaferry I first make my way to Windmill Hill overlooking the town. From here is one of the best viewing points in the lower part of the Ards Peninsula - you can see southwards towards the Irish Sea and the Mourne Mountains, west towards the town of Strangford, east towards the Isle of Man, and northwards up though Strangford Lough over the town of Portaferry.

View northwards over Portaferry to Strangford Lough.

At the top of Windmill Hill are the remains of Tullyboard Windmill that are still in good condition. It was one of the many windmills that dotted the hills of the Ards Peninsula and was built in 1771. Like other windmills in this area it was used for scutching flax and for grinding grain. However, it was destroyed by a fire on Christmas Day in 1878. From the top of Windmill Hill you can see the old St Patrick’s Church, which was built in 1762, and its adjoining cemetery. I pay a visit to the grave of my dear Aunt Breda who is also my Godmother. On a bright sunny afternoon looking out over Strangford Lough, this seemed like the most beautiful and peaceful resting place in Ireland.

Portaferry is well known as a boarding point for the short ferry journey across the lough to Strangford. Watch out for the ferry going sideways when the tide is in full flow. Overlooking the small harbour where the ferry arrives and departs is Portaferry Castle. On the seaward side the castle is intact, but several walls have fallen on the landward side. It was built in the sixteenth century by William Le Savage, who was a descendant of the ‘Savages of Ards’. This family were Norman knights who invaded England with William the Conqueror and came to Ulster in 1177 to seek their fortune. You can go inside to look at the thick walls and see the places where wooden floors once crossed overhead. Beside the castle is the Exploris Aquarium, which is well worth a visit to see the fascinating marine life from the lough and from the Irish Sea. Also here is the Portaferry Lifeboat Station which replaced the Cloughey station in 1980. One of its best known rescues was on 26 May 1985 when a converted fishing vessel, the ‘Tornamona’, hit rocks and sank at the entrance to Strangford Lough. On board were the Dunlop brothers, Joey and Robert, who were on their way from Portaferry to the Isle of Man TT races with a cargo of racing bikes.

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