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Portrush and Portstewart

~ The Towns by the Sea ~

~ Portrush and Portstewart ~

About Portrush and Portstewart


Three miles (5km) west of Dunluce Castle along the A2 coast road is the seaside town of Portrush, and three miles further west still is the slightly smaller but no less busy town of Portstewart. Along with the town of Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart form what locals call ‘the Triangle,’ because of their layout, and because a favourite weekend pastime is to cruise between the three towns by car… ‘around the triangle!’

In the Earl Bishop`s day, there were no roads, only cobbled or mostly muddy country lanes. Portrush was a small but busy harbour, whilst Portstewart was little more than a cluster of very poor fishermen`s cottages. This was a wild and isolated part of the world, where a handful of families lived hand-to-mouth from a bit of subsistence farming and whatever they could catch from the sea. Frederick travelled frequently along this coastline on his journeys to and from the Giant`s Causeway, no doubt stopping in peasant houses to shelter from the rain or to enjoy a meal… much as the modern visitor can, if they take a notion for ice cream or delicious fish and chips!

Portrush and Portstewart did not grow into proper towns until long after Frederick`s death, when the new railway, which was built in the 1840s, brought workers eager for clean sea air, from the new urban industrial cities of Belfast and Derry / Londonderry. The Victorian character of both towns can still be seen, even after decades of inconsistent urban planning. There are many architectural gems to be admired in Portrush in particular, for example the terrace of coastguard housing down by the harbour and a handsome red-brick town hall. Both towns have fine churches and for those whose personal religion revolves around a well-driven ball, they offer some of the finest golf courses in the world. But their true blessings are their beaches; East and West Strands at Portrush and Portstewart`s synonymous strand, which is almost 2 miles (km) long, and runs as far as the River Bann, to almost below Frederick`s magnificent Mussenden Temple. The Bann cannot be crossed at this point, by the way, except by boat! To stay on terra firma, you have to travel into Coleraine, the lowest point in the Triangle, but also a good shopping town that grew up around Northern Ireland`s longest river.

Portrush grew more quickly than Portstewart, because the landed family that owned the latter in the 1800s did not want to let the railway in, fearing an invasion of drunken tourists! But Portrush also had an earlier significance; Dunluce Castle, which was the local centre of power until the early 1600s, is located on top of a cliff, as was the ‘lost’ town that surrounded it. As maritime trade became more important, so the opportunities afforded by large, natural harbours like the one at Portrush also became more important, and remote seats of power – like Dunluce – became outdated. Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine are restful stopping-points for anyone following the Earl Bishop Trail – bastions of civilisation amidst the wild, open spaces that lie in every other direction!