|Council:||Causeway Coast & Glens|
Portstewart is a small seaside resort town in County Londonderry, neighbouring Portrush. Of the two towns, Portstewart is decidedly quieter with more sedate attractions. Its harbour and scenic coastal paths form an Atlantic promenade leading to 2 miles of golden strand (Portstewart Strand). Portstewart is probably best known for this sandy beach, popular with surfers.
Portstewart was a popular holiday destination for Victorian middle-class families. Its long, crescent-shaped seafront promenade is sheltered by rocky headlands. It is a reasonably prosperous town. Most of the town is contained in the Strand electoral ward and this is one of the most affluent areas in Northern Ireland.
House prices in Portstewart have been amongst the highest in Northern Ireland. According to the University of Ulster Quarterly House Price Index report produced in partnership with Bank of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in Q4 2010, the North Coast region (Coleraine/Limavady area) had higher property prices than those of affluent south Belfast.
Due to unusually high second home ownership there has been concern in recent years about the pace of development in the town. The number of holiday houses or apartments being purchased has led to rapid inflation of house prices. The town has also houses many of the students from the nearby Coleraine Campus of the University of Ulster and has a vibrant social and cultural life.
Portstewart is one of the most integrated towns in Ulster with the religious demographics similar to the population of Northern Ireland as a whole. Community relations are generally good within the town. Dominican College, a Roman Catholic grammar school, has a significant proportion of Protestant students and staff.
Portstewart was founded in 1792 by John Cromie, who named it after his maternal ancestors, the Stewarts of Ballylesse. A Lieutenant Stewart is said to have obtained a lease of land from the Earl of Antrim in 1734.
As recently as the mid 18th century it was little more than a fishing village, although it has been inhabited since the Neolithic era. Portstewart developed to a modest size seaside resort in the mid 19th century under the influence of a local landlord, John Cromie. Its development and character was influenced greatly by the Sabbatarian sensitivities of the Cromies and the consequent resistance to a railway connection in the mid 19th century. The scale of development for the next century was more modest than that of neighbouring Portrush which rapidly expanded (particularly in the late Victorian era) with the mass tourism market. Despite a tram connection being provided from Portstewart to Cromore to link with the railway, the town developed with a more genteel character. With the ascent of the car as the predominant means of travel through the 20th century, Portstewart developed a wider role as a popular holiday and recreational destination, along with a significant dormitory function due to its proximity to Coleraine as well as being a local service centre.
From the 1950s until into the 1980s the town's main development thrust was as a residential area, with the steady construction of new dwellings in the suburbs mainly for owner occupation. Unlike Portrush where there was a rapid expansion of static caravan parks, Portstewart continued to avoid the effects of mass tourism.
Over the past 15 years however, there has been a widespread perception that the character of the town has changed through the rapid growth of the student population and the accelerating expansion of second home ownership.
Places of interest
- Portstewart Strand, extending to the west of the town; a clean two-mile long blue flag beach, protected by the National Trust. Portstewart Strand has been the most popular attraction of Portstewart to holiday-makers for generations. Saint Patrick's well is to be found at the head of the strand, which was used in the 19th century and early 20th century for horse racing. The beach finishes at the Barmouth of the River Bann overlooking Castlerock.
- Dominican convent (an imposing Gothic mansion) with the attached Dominican College sitting on the edge of a cliff which dominates the western end of the Promenade. The eastern end of the Promenade has a small harbour which has recently undergone refurbishment.
- Cliff path which stretches along the coast from the Promenade to Portstewart Strand. From here it is a popular walk to the Barmouth, where the Bann flows out into the Atlantic Ocean. The cliff path has panoramic views across the Strand and Downhill with Donegal in the background.
- The Barmouth, a sanctuary for waders, wildfowl and nesting birds. Beyond the Barmouth lies Castlerock, Mussenden Temple, Benone Strand and the Magilligan Strand.
- Cycle path to the east of Portstewart along the coast to Portrush, leading to the Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the Old Bushmills Distillery (the oldest licensed distillery in the world).
- The North Antrim Coast Path which forms part of the Ulster Way starts at Portstewart Strand and continues for 40 miles along the coast to Murlough Bay.
- Every May the North West 200 motorcycle race passes through the town, with the starting grid and pit area located on the coastal road between Portrush and Portstewart. The circuit between the towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine is one the fastest in the world, with top speeds exceeding 200 mph on public roads. It is one of the last such classic races held in Europe. Drawing crowds of over 150,000, it is the largest outdoor sporting event in Ulster.
- Angling: Sea angling is available from several boats in the harbour.
- Baseball: Portstewart Eagles
- Football: Portstewart F.C.
- Golf: Three golf courses under one club - Portstewart Golf Club, made lively by the forceful Atlantic wind. Portstewart has one of the few 54-hole complexes in Europe. The championship links Strand course is set amidst imposing sand dunes with panoramic views across the Atlantic mouth of Lough Foyle to the Inishowen peninsula beyond. A claim is often made that Portstewart strand course has the best opening hole in Irish Golf - indeed some say in the world, and has been described as "an absolute stunner" by experts. Portstewart golf club is ranked 95th in the 'Top 100 golf courses of the British Isles'. Portstewart Golf Club does however live in the shadow of its better-known neighbour, Royal Portrush Golf Club. It has been stated that "if it weren't for the fact that the highly acclaimed, Royal Portrush Golf Club is only a couple of miles down the road from Portstewart, the latter would be much better known as one of the best courses in all Ireland and would be vying with its neighbour for the accolades that are normally reserved exclusively for Portrush and Royal County Down".
- Gaelic Athletics: CLG Eoghan Rua]], Coleraine
- Portstewart also hosts matches in the Milk Cup.
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|
- "Northern Ireland Quarterly House Price Index Q4 2010". ulster.ac.uk. 26 September 2011. http://news.ulster.ac.uk/podcasts/QHPIFeb2011.pdf.
- BBC - Portstewart
- "Other motorists have responsibility for bikers too, campaign warns". Northern Ireland Executive. 14 May 2009. http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/news/news-doe/news-doe-may-2009/news-doe-140509-other-motorists-have.htm. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
- Great Northern Home Page
- Portstewart Golf Club. Portstewart. Strand Course. Golf Links Portstewart. Northern Ireland Golf
- Portstewart Golf Club (Strand) - Top 100 Golf Courses