Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel

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Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel
strangfordlough.org
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
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The Ports:
An introduction
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Portavogie
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Portadown
In Northern Ireland, there are now over
350 licensed vessels fishing for seafood,
and the industry employs over 1,000Gilford
fullandArmagh
part-time fishermen.Tandragee
Around £20 Banbridge
million worth of fish and shellfish is landed
annually into Northern Ireland. Some Scarva
seafood caught by the local fleet is landed
Loughbrickland
outside of Northern Ireland, into the UK,
Markethill
Republic of Ireland, and as far away as
Norway and Denmark, bringing the total
value of landings from Northern Irish fishing
vessels to around £60 million.
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While family bonds have endured across
the generations, the fishing industry has
changed with great purpose over time,
Craigavon
working towards a sustainable future that
respects the local marine environment.
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Kil
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The local catch
Improved fishing gear
Changing fisheries
Navigating change
Weather & hidden danger
People’s
& present
Lisburn stories: past
Carryduff
Fishing moves forward
Day in the life of a trawler crew
Day out
at the harbour
Hillsborough
Coasting along
Eating sustainable fish
Spotting local wildlife
Fishing fables
Emergencies & welfare
Rd
kill
yn a
Tull
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Holy
wo
Fishing has been a major industry in County
Down for many years. Three ports - Kilkeel,
Portavogie and Ardglass - remain at the
centre of the fishing industry today. Their
communities revolve around the sea. Local
people and their traditions have strong ties
to the water.
W
pe
Up
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in
Contents
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Pushing the boat out
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Belfast
Lough
Kilkeel
Map based upon Ordnance Survey of Northern
Ireland’s data with the permission of the Controller
of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, © Crown Copyright
and database rights NIMA ES&LA205.2
5
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Strictly speaking it’s not a
prawn at all, but a type of
lobster. However, for the
purposes of this booklet,
langoustines are simply
referred to as prawns.
Incredibly, many years ago,
fishermen threw prawns back
into the sea, viewing them as
a useless by-product of the
main fish catch.
The local catch
Prawns make up the largest proportion of
the local catch and have done for some time.
Specifically, local fishermen catch Nephrops
norvegicus, also known as the Dublin Bay
Prawn, langoustine, Norway lobster or scampi.
A catch of edible crabs
Gourmets now consider local
prawns an upmarket delicacy.
As a result, County Down
shellfish is in demand around
the world. Consumers are
also becoming increasingly
aware of the health benefits
of eating seafood. It might
surprise natives that, in
a French supermarket or
Spanish restaurant, Northern
Irish seafood takes pride of
place on the counter or menu.
Large trawlers do still
catch pelagic fish in these
waters. Pelagic fish are freeswimming from the top to the
bottom of the water column,
but are mainly found midwater. They include mackerel
and herring.
Demersal fish are also still
important species for local
fisheries, although the prawn
makes up the biggest share
of the catch. Demersal fish
are bottom-dwelling, like
cod, haddock, monkfish,
hake, plaice, brill and whiting.
Shellfish like scallops,
mussels, crab and lobster
also feature in the local list.
Aquaculture is a growing
industry in the area, both in
the Irish Sea and Strangford
Lough. The tradition of
pot-fishing endures too.
Fishermen use potting creels
to catch crab, lobster and
prawn. Winkle picking is
common in Ardglass, Kilkeel
and Tyrella, with workers
harvesting shellfish by hand.
Some of the local catch is
seasonal. The mackerel
season is about three weeks
long and the herring season
is also relatively short.
Changes in market demands
and available technology,
such as the move from salting
to freezing, also caused huge
changes to the make-up of
the local catch.
The main prawn season
runs from the end of June to
September, although the
species is caught all year
round. This is a busy time for
prawn trawlers, involving
weeks of intensive labour.
Dublin Bay Prawn is made up
of two products - the whole
fish and the tail. Local prawn
tails are mainly sold to the
UK scampi market, while
whole prawns are exported
to France, Italy, Spain and the
Middle East.
Buyers work all three
Northern Ireland ports, and
both Kilkeel and Portavogie
host regular auctions.
However, fishermen sell
many locally caught prawns
under contract, rather than
auctioning them.
Fishing also supports
other industries, including
processing. Pelagic fish go to
the local factory to be frozen,
then buyers export many
of them to the Baltic States,
China and the Far East.
The volume of the catch
depends on vessel size as
well as commercial quotas.
Of course, like any other
industry, fishing operates
within the usual framework
of demand and supply. The
technological advances that
created a greater supply of
fish and prawns also meant
that often prices dropped.
Changing diesel prices also
have a huge effect on fishing
costs. An average prawn
trawler uses 2,000 litres of
diesel in a typical week, so
it’s easy to see how rising fuel
prices affect the bottom line.
The ritual of the diesel lorries
pulling into harbour once
a week to refuel the boats
signifies a major variable cost
for the fishing industry.
7
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Fishing gear
improvements
Boats and nets are thought
of as the hardware of the
fishing industry. Both have
changed considerably.
With the move away from
sail, boats evolved into coalpowered steam drifters, and
later to diesel-powered boats
that were bigger again and
could travel further. The old
sailing boats were restricted
to working in very calm
weather. Today’s diesel boats
can fish all year, and in most
weathers.
Different species of fish
require different nets to catch
them. Local fishermen use
demersal trawl nets for their
main catch of prawns and
bottom-dwelling fish. This
is a long, low net that moves
across the seabed.
Twin and quad rigs can tow
two or four nets at one time.
Boats may pair up when
two or three vessels trawl
together, towing one net
between them.
Generally, net design has
changed in an effort to be
more selective about the
type or size of fish to catch.
Many dual purpose nets
used locally can catch prawns
and fish. They are towed
along the seabed. As a
conservation measure, these
nets now have sections of
square mesh in the top panel
to let some fish escape. This
helps fishermen become
more selective about the
species caught.
Seine nets were originally
Scandinavian. They are ring
nets that are shot around the
fish, catching mainly whiting,
cod and haddock.
Changing
fisheries
The net’s rope that is laid
on the seabed closes slowly,
effectively herding the fish
into the net.
A seine net is lighter than a
trawl net, and the boats tow it
for a shorter time. As a result,
this type of fishing is more
fuel efficient.
A bigger trawler can bring
in 500 tonnes of fish on one
trip. These are now vacuum
pumped out of the boat
in minutes.
The original fishing boats
heading to sea from County
Down were herring drifters.
Their nets drifted with
the tide at night and were
pulled in by hand.
Early boats also set long
lines. These were branches
of fishing line with baited
hooks for catching cod, ling,
haddock, plaice and whiting.
This method was highly
selective and sustainable,
but was time-consuming
and labour intensive for
the crews.
These boats followed the
shoals of fish. In fact, an
entire fishing industry
followed the herring shoals.
Many nomadic boats
travelled round the
coastal ports as the fish
themselves moved.
Main Image: Hands of an expert –
retired skipper Alastair McBride
mending nets at Kilkeel harbour
Herrings
9
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Navigating
change
Weather
watching
Years ago, skippers
often navigated by lining
up their boats with
familiar landmarks.
Many fishermen claim that
weather variations, even
in the course of their own
working lives, have changed
the industry.
Although crews now make
the most of up-to-date GPS
technology to navigate,
many still refer to the familiar
Decca sectors.
The move to a hyperbolic
navigation system, known
as Decca, divided the local
fishing waters into sectors,
which are still familiar to
fishermen today.
Anecdotally, fishermen
often report that the
incidence of extreme wind
has risen over the years,
making their working trips
increasingly unpredictable,
and often more treacherous.
Hidden danger
Industry experts agree
that fishing is the most
dangerous peacetime
occupation.
Paul Murphy
onboard 'Karen'
According to Seafish, the
authority on seafood, 25% of
UK fishermen claim they have
had an incident at sea which
put their lives at risk.
Extreme weather is a
frequent worry, but
occasionally boats face other
unpredictable dangers. In
spring 2015, while fishing
close to the Isle of Man,
around 18 miles from the
port of Ardglass, a prawn
trawler was dragged
backwards by a submarine.
The Karen’s nets became
entangled with the
submerged hazard. The
incident destroyed much of
the fishing gear on the boat,
as the crew decided to release
the equipment to avoid being
dragged under.
Fortunately no-one was
injured, and the crew
believe their speedy response
saved them from potential
disaster, as did a lucky break
of an entangled steel cable
on the boat.
11
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Hard-working
migrant workers
County Down’s fishing
industry has depended for
years on the people that
travel to the area to work.
Currently, people from
Eastern Europe, the
Philippines and beyond make
up a significant proportion
of those helping fishing to
flourish here. Migrants work in
all aspects of the industry, as
crew on the trawlers and in
fish processing at the ports.
Many families’ involvement in
the fishing industry goes back
for generations. However,
migrant workers have always
been a feature of local fishing
- from the gutter girls from
the west of Ireland to Eastern
European migrants.
After the Second World War,
one Polish man migrated to
Ardglass, leaving behind the
post-War communist regime
in his native land.
The people’s
stories
Herring lassies
Every industry is built on its workers, and the
families that support them. In tightly-knit
communities like Portavogie, Kilkeel and
Ardglass, family ties are crucial.
Women played a huge part
in the fishing industry, in
particular working as “herring
lassies” or “gutter girls”.
Seafish produced a series
of short films that celebrate
Northern Ireland’s seafood
industry and communities.
You can view them on
Seafish’s YouTube channel.
Retired skippers Alastair McBride and
Elwyn Teggarty enjoy each other's company
while mending nets at Kilkeel harbour
Female workers followed
the shoals of herring, taking
seasonal work in various
fishing ports. Although some
of the gutter girls were local,
many came from the west
of Ireland, in particular from
Donegal. The men from
this area were often already
working in nomadic fishing
boats that moved in fleets
around the Irish coast, so it was
a natural step for the women to
work this way too.
Frank Zych (pictured above),
born in 1927, came to Ardglass
via England. Legend persists
that ‘Frank the Pole’, as he was
nicknamed in Ardglass, arrived
in England in a fishing boat!
Frank lived for more than 50
years in Ardglass, at the heart
of the fishing community,
working with his sons Tony
and David, and later with
grandson Conrad.
Thanks to the Down Recorder which
published Frank Zych’s obituary.
The gutter girls worked in the
harbours’ curing yards, gutting
and packing the herring into
barrels. It was hard work, done
out of doors, with long hours
when the catch was good.
Many of the herring lassies met
their future husbands through
this work. Plenty married
into local families in County
Down, and the fishing ports
are still home to their direct
descendants.
Fishing in harmony
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Fishing for
generations
Many unifying traditions have grown within
the fishing communities. One of these is the
Fishermen’s Choir from Portavogie. The choir
was set up in the 1950s by Eileen Palmer, the wife
of a local boat builder, who was also a church
organist. Members of the Fishermen’s Choir,
which is still going strong with around 25 singers,
are drawn from the local fishing community and
other men from the area. The choir performs
regularly at churches, public events and
fundraises for various charities.
As well as more recent
arrivals, a great tradition
involving generations of
fishing families exists in all
of the County Down ports.
One such family is the
Cassidys of Kilkeel, whose
involvement in the fishing
industry stretches back for at
least five generations.
In Ardglass, at least five
generations of the Smyth
family have been involved in
the fishing industry, including
jobs such as auctioneers,
buyers, fuel suppliers,
fishermen and
Harbour Master. Some of
these jobs have been carried
down from father to son.
In May 1918 during the First
World War, a German u-boat
torpedoed six boats from
the Kilkeel fishing fleet. The
submarine torpedoed the
line of boats that had been
tied together, mercifully
having allowed the crews to
escape to shore.
The Mourne Maritime Visitor
Centre, opposite Kilkeel
harbour, has a permanent
exhibition called ‘Families
at Sea’, which has more
information about local
families like these. The
exhibition inside shows
what life was like for the
fishermen at sea and the
household at home. You can
find out more about it online
at mournemaritime.com/
families-at-sea/families
Charles Cassidy was skipper
of the Cyprus, one of the
six boats to be lost that
day. Charles’ descendants
went on to fish in Kilkeel.
His great-great-grandson
has continued the tradition,
through his role in the
Merchant Navy.
His granddaughter helped
form a fish sales company,
and her sons also became
involved in fish sales and
pelagic trawling.
Another Kilkeel family, the
McBrides, worked once as
farmers, but turned from the
land to the sea in a downturn
because of an early interest in
skiff fishing.
William John McBride Senior
was one of the ‘Half Eleven
Men’, who wouldn’t fish on a
Sunday, and instead made
preparations for leaving the
harbour just before midnight.
Sons and grandsons have
all followed into the fishing
business, where they
continue to work today.
Gilbert McBride, a retired
fisherman now based
in Ardglass, recalls each
weekend’s hard work, as he
and his crew followed the
habit of making the boats
ready for the week’s
fishing ahead.
13
From boat to market
Something Fishy is a familyrun Portavogie business
that brings fresh seafood to
local consumers.
Trader Edward Murray buys
his product mainly in County
Down, and his market stall
is packed with boxes of
delicacies like prawns, crab
and scallops sourced in
Portavogie harbour, as well
as Strangford Lough mussels.
Edward Murray’s family has
long involvement in the local
industry - his father owned a
fishing boat - while father-inlaw Alan Coffey is the fourth
generation of his family to
work in fishing.
Having traded at St
George’s Market in Belfast
for more than three decades,
as well as at many other
local markets, Alan has seen
big changes in consumer
demand over the years.
While white fish remains a
popular choice, demand
has grown for shellfish like
lobster, prawns and oysters.
Both Portavogie men believe
that the key to successful
seafood retailing lies in
product freshness. As
Something Fishy sources
seafood mainly from local
suppliers, the journey from
fishing boat to market is as
brief as possible, so that
high quality products reach
consumers quickly.
Fishing moves forward
Like any industry, commercial fishing methods have
evolved over time, making the most of the latest
technology to streamline operations. Over the years,
this has included advances in boats, nets, onboard
machinery and navigation equipment.
Many other challenges drive change in the fishing
industry, including conservation measures and
quotas that regulate the catch volume. For many
years the local fishing industry has been looking
towards building a sustainable future that respects
the marine environment.
15
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Nets in Ardglass
Skipper Trevor Thompson
Ardglass
Raising the catch
Sorting the produce
Aaron Cunningham and
Martin Johnston land their
lobster pots at Ardglass
Landing the catch
Ready for the
fish market
Skipper of the
Karima, Kilkeel
Portavogie prawns
Returning to harbour
Unloading the catch
Prawns
Geoff
Palmer
mending
fishing nets
Straight from
the trawler
Richard
Fitzpatrick
mending
lobster pots
in Ardglass
Boat-spotting
'A Day in the Life' of a trawler crew
As you tuck into local
prawns, spare a thought for
the crew out in all weathers,
trawling the Irish Sea for
this delicacy.
Ideal conditions for a fishing
trip? A calm day and a neap
tide. Fishing is usually more
productive on the neap, rather
than spring tide.
The skipper often takes the
first tow, which allows the
crew to sleep. Then everyone
gets up to have breakfast and
lift the nets.
Fishermen on the prawn
trawlers typically head to sea
for a day or two at a time. Of
course it all depends on the
weather and tides, as well as
the crew’s availability.
Of course the crew can
also face violent storms or
mountainous waves, freezing
weather and gales, and other
extreme conditions.
Ideally the crew is busy on deck
all day, sorting the previous
tow until half an hour before
the next one is brought in. The
crew makes the most of all
their time at sea, trawling the
nets all night. This means long
shifts as the crew shares the
watches. Those onboard need
to be physically fit and capable
of strenuous team work.
A day’s work on a prawn
trawler bears little or no
resemblance to the relaxation
associated with hobby fishing!
The crew’s commute to work
starts very early, as they set
off from port about 3.30am
to journey to the fishing
grounds, a trip which can
typically last between one
and three hours. They call
this “steaming off”.
The prawns they seek live in
u-shaped burrows in areas
of muddy seabed, a habitat
common in the Irish Sea. The
creatures themselves are
quite unpredictable, so catch
volume can vary hugely. Often
the best catches come with
the first dawn tow and the
dusk tow.
Prawn trawlers tow their
nets for three to four hours
at a time.
Conditions can be cramped,
with the crew doing practical
work in often challenging
situations. The sea itself is
unforgiving, and the crew is
always at the mercy of the
weather. Remaining calm
under pressure is a skill that’s
highly prized!
Skippers are in overall charge
of the boat at sea, and will
generally do the detailed
planning and navigating, as
well as managing the crew
onboard. They move from
bridge to deck, and tend to
be experts on every area of
their fishing grounds, with
great knowledge of local
weather patterns.
Mobile phones help
skippers share useful
information. Often they
decide to change fishing
ground if the catch isn’t good,
or if a tip-offcomes that there’s
better fishing elsewhere. As a
result, sometimes the prawn
trawlers are concentrated into
one area where the fishing is
best that day.
As the season for some
seafood is short, it can be hard
for skippers to get crew for brief
periods. Many factories now
fly in migrant workers for the
herring and mackerel season,
running from September to
February. This is very different
to years ago, when boats often
had the same crew all year
round. The volatile earnings
in the industry mean that
crew members may need
second jobs, which also
restricts their availability.
Their trawlers take ice
onboard to store the fish
and prawns, as well as
having modern refrigeration
equipment for storage. The
crew handles the fishing gear,
keeps the decks clear and
works together to bring in the
catch. They sort the fish and
often gut and store it.
They tail the smaller prawns
and pack the larger ones
whole, and help unload the
catch back at the harbour.
If you’re interested in
following the course of
vessels in local fishing grounds,
check out www.shipAIS.com
Powered by GPS, this website
lets you spot boats fishing
the local waters and follow
their progress.
Most crews are made up of
“share fishermen”. Put simply,
after boat expenses and the
owner’s share is taken care of,
the takings from each trip are
divided between the crew.
The ratio is usually two shares
for the skipper and one for
each of the crew. Earnings can
be unpredictable, and the
business is cashflow intensive,
in particular affected by
changing diesel costs.
From labouring and
butchering, to navigating and
engineering - it’s not your
typical day at the office!
17
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Day out at
the harbour
For visitors who want to
soak up the atmosphere
of a busy, working fishing
port - here are some tips
to help you make the most
of your trip.
Friday is a great day to
experience the buzz of all
three County Down ports.
In summer, fishing boats
generally return to harbour
between 7-10pm, unloading
their catch then.
Unloading the catch from a prawn
trawler at Portavogie Fish Market
If you’re looking to buy
seafood locally you can buy it
in the ports, from mobile fish
vans, East Coast Seafood,
Ballyhornan, renowned
fishmongers, McKeowns of
Bangor, and other outlets.
It’s also worth visiting St
George’s Market in Belfast.
Friday morning’s traditional
variety markets is a fish
Fresh fish from the boat
at Ardglass harbour
lover’s paradise , with plenty
of stalls selling seafood from
the local ports.
Find up-to-date listings at:
discovernorthern
ireland.com/SeafoodSplendour-A1935
19
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Coasting along
Along the coastline and
heading inland, you can pick up
stunning driving routes, as well
as walking and cycling trails.
A visit to County Down’s
fishing ports fits perfectly with
driving the Mourne Coastal
Route. It runs from Belfast,
through Bangor, via the Ards
Peninsula to Newry, and takes
in the Lecale coastline and
scenic loops into the Mourne
Mountains. Brown signs with
white text mark the route
which, along with nearby
Strangford Lough, covers
some of the best scenic
driving in all of Ireland.
You could follow in the
footsteps of Ireland’s patron
saint on Saint Patrick’s Trail,
in Downpatrick and around
Lecale. This 92-mile driving
route connects the key sites
with strong links to Saint
Patrick’s life, landscape and
legacy. Saint Patrick arrived
in Ireland by boat, crossing
the Irish Sea, navigating
the Narrows into Strangford
Lough and landing just
outside Downpatrick.
Many choose to walk in the
famous Mourne Mountains,
following the Mourne Wall or
visiting the scenic Silent Valley,
as well as hiking Northern
Ireland’s highest peak,
Slieve Donard. Beautiful sections of coastal
path include the walk from
Saint John’s Point to Killough,
or south of Ballyhornan.
Ballyquintin Point, at the tip of
the Ards peninsula, and Killard
Point, just south of Strangford,
are also particularly rewarding
for walkers.
Eating sustainable fish
The tower houses, ancient
monuments and natural
beauty around Strangford
Lough, Northern Ireland’s
only Marine Nature Reserve,
create a satisfying and varied
brush with local nature.
Strangford is the UK’s
largest sea lough, an Area
of Outstanding Natural
Beauty and an Area of
Special Scientific Interest.
Castle Ward and Mount
Stewart, both National Trust
houses and gardens, are
worth a visit, as is Delamont
Country Park, with glorious
views over the lough.
Mountain biking, golfing, sea
safari boating and canoeing
is all within easy reach of
County Down’s three fishing
ports. Stunning local beaches
suit sunny days as well as
windswept walks - try Tyrella
or Cloughey.
Delamont and
Ballyquintan Point
To find out more, see
visitstrangfordlough.co.uk,
visitmournemountains.co.uk
and strangfordlough.org
Within the industry,
commercial buyers talk
about sustainability and
tracing origins, much as
they do in agriculture. What
about consumers? There’s a
wealth of information about
buying fish and choosing
sustainable species, buying
in season and understanding
industry labelling.
The Northern Ireland
Pelagic Sustainability
Group sea herring fishery
recently became the first
Irish Sea fleet to be awarded
Marine Stewardship
Council certification, which
recognises a well-managed
and sustainable fishery.
Seafish’s new online RASS
tool (Risk assessment for
sourcing seafood) provides
lots of information to allow
buyers and consumers to
make sustainable choices
when selecting seafood.
Find out more at
www.seafish.org/rass/
Seafish’s digital campaign,
Fish is the Dish, found at
www.fishisthedish.co.uk,
provides lots of ideas for
using seafood as a key part
of a healthy family diet.
21
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Spotting local wildlife
County Down’s harbours
are teeming with wildlife.
Look up for dark flocks of
birds and look out to sea for
marine wildlife.
You might spot the glossy
head of a grey seal in the
harbour water at all three
ports. They are frequent
visitors, being well-fed by
fish from the boats. Often
the seagulls and seals battle
it out in the harbour for the
best pickings. The gulls are
frequently spotted landing
on the seals’ heads, in hope
of a snack!
Less frequently spotted,
but equally at home, are the
otters in Ardglass harbour.
Count yourself lucky if you
see them; they are worth
watching out for all the same.
There are plenty of birds to
spot at the harbours, where
they find rich pickings. Expect
to see many gulls - blackheaded, herring and common
gulls - plus cormorants and
black guillemots.
Jellyfish are often visible in
shallow waters, or washed
up on the rocky shore. If
you’re lucky, you could spot
bottlenose dolphins, harbour
porpoises, minke whales
or even a basking shark.
These great creatures are
the second largest fish in the
world, measuring up to 10
metres long. They feed on
plankton, so don’t represent
any threat to humans.
Black-headed gull
Many overwintering birds
come to this area and to
Strangford Lough, attracted
by the rich pickings on the
shorelines. You may spot
turnstone, winged plover
and brent geese in winter.
In summer, you can watch the
gannets dive. The islands of
nearby Strangford Lough also
provide an important habitat
for nesting terns. They arrive
from the Antarctic and Africa
to breed.
Grey seal
Jellyfish
Brent goose
Gull
23
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Fishing fables
In any dangerous
occupation, perhaps
it’s inevitable that
superstitions take hold.
Fishing’s many occupational
hazards mean that workers
are often superstitious.
Local traditions endure,
and the growing number of
migrant maritime workers
also bring their own customs
to the area.
Some beliefs survive across
the generations, although
it’s fair to say that most
fishermen are no longer
as superstitious as their
counterparts years ago.
However, customs
endure and a chat with a
fisherman can reveal some
surprising beliefs!
Many still consider it unlucky
to rename boats. Others
insist that it’s ill-fated to
allow women onboard,
particularly redheads!
Members of the clergy are
traditionally discouraged
onboard too, joining a list
that also includes pigeons,
and merely the mention of
pigs or rats. Some fishermen
insist that whistling onboard
can summon up a storm.
Herrings were often called
silver darlings, partly due
to their colouring. Some
believed they got the name
because of the money they
were worth to the fishermen,
while others were convinced
that mentioning their real
name brought bad luck, and
that the herring shoals would
swim away.
The club that is used to
cull landed fish at sea is
traditionally called the priest,
possibly drawn from the idea
of administering
the last rites!
In Ulster Scots, the word
freety means superstitious.
It’s an adjective that could
apply to many fishermen
and their families.
In fact, many Ulster Scots’
words relate to the twin
local pursuits of fishing and
farming. One example is
the carpers, referring to the
men, women and children
that gathered in the herring
escaping from the nets as
they were brought ashore.
Less a superstition and more
a religious conviction, many
local fishermen would not go
to sea on Sunday. In County
Down they became known as
the “Half Eleven Men”. Local
Kilkeel tradition concerns
a group of these men who
got their boats ready from
11.30pm on Sundays, so they
were ready to set out after
midnight.
Of course many of the things
caught in nets are more
mundane, and County Down
fishermen have seized the
opportunity to help clean the
sea through the Fishing for
Litter project.
This encourages
fishermen to dispose of their
strange catches carefully,
and to recycle marine litter
where possible.
The aim is to help sea life
thrive, make beaches cleaner,
reduce damage to fishing
nets and to lose less catch to
contamination.
Northern Ireland’s first
Fishing for Litter scheme was
launched by the Northern
Ireland Fishery Harbour
Authority in Ardglass in 2014,
to be extended to Kilkeel and
Portavogie in the near future.
Other surprises lie in store for
fishermen at sea, and local
tales of items brought in with
the nets reveal great variety.
One Ardglass legend tells of
an oven brought up in the
net, with a still-warm chicken
inside!
Trevor Thompson, skipper of the Aubrietia,
unloads the catch at Portavogie Fish Market
25
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Emergency
response and
fishermen’s
welfare
The RNLI, HM Coastguard
and The Fishermen’s Mission
The Royal National Lifeboat
Institution has five lifeboat
stations on the County
Down coastline - Bangor,
Donaghadee, Portaferry,
Newcastle and Kilkeel.
According to the Fishermen’s
Mission, fishing remains the
most dangerous peacetime
occupation in the UK.
Operating as a charity, and
relying on public donations
and legacies, the RNLI saves
lives at sea. Volunteers
provide 24-hour search and
rescue services in the UK and
Republic of Ireland, involving
4,600 lifeboat crew members
and 3,000 shore crew.
More than 13,000 people
work in the UK fishing industry.
On average, 15 are killed or
seriously injured each year.
Even fully-trained, safetyconscious and well-equipped
crews face unpredictable
dangers at sea.
In one year alone (2014), RNLI
lifeboats launched 261 times in
Northern Ireland, bringing 281
people to safety.
This is why emergency
back-up and welfare services
are so crucial.
If you’d like to donate
to the Fishermen’s
Mission, please call
If you see someone in
trouble at sea, call 999
for assistance.
To donate to the RNLI,
visit: rnli.org or telephone:
UK: 0300 300 9990 Freephone
0800 634 1020
The RNLI works alongside
government-controlled
and funded coastguard
services to prevent loss
of life on the coast and
at sea. HM Coastguard
provides 24-hour
maritime search
and rescue response
and co-ordination
around the UK coast.
Northern Ireland’s maritime
rescue co-ordination centre
operates from Bangor
harbour in County Down.
This centre becomes part of a
supporting national network
in September 2015.
The coastguard is responsible
for the entire Northern
Irish coastline from Lough
Foyle to Carlingford Lough,
including the inland waters
of Lough Neagh and Lough
Erne, and they work with
other emergency authorities
and nations in the interest of
maritime safety. The Maritime
& Coastguard Agency
produces legislation and
guidance on maritime matters,
and certification for seafarers.
The Fishermen’s Mission
provides support to fishermen
and their families across the UK.
This includes financial,
pastoral and spiritual
support, as well as emergency
response. The Fishermen’s
Mission responds to fishermen
and their families’ needs
following disasters at sea, and
helps retired fishermen to cope
with hardship or isolation.
Locally, Fishermen’s Mission
centres, such as those in the
County Down harbour towns,
provide leisure space for local
and migrant fishermen to
relax, as well as practical
facilities, such as laundry.
To find out more visit:
rnli.org
fishermensmission.org.uk
gov.uk/mca
27
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
County Down's
fishing ports
Portavogie
Portavogie is the second
largest fishing port after
Kilkeel. The harbour is an
important commercial hub
of Northern Ireland’s fishing
industry, and the village’s
name is justifiably wellknown globally as the home
of the Portavogie prawn!
Ardglass
Ardglass sits on the
coast of an area called Lecale,
which was an important
Norman stronghold, and is
made up of the eastern area
of County Down. Ardglass
is sited on a natural inlet,
making it an ideal haven for
boats, as it offers natural
shelter and access at all
stages of the tide.
The town was an
important historical port
for the Normans, as was
Carrickfergus.
Maritime
Heritage
Further information and materials
for download are available from:
strangfordlough.org
visitstrangfordlough.co.uk
visitmournemountains.co.uk
Kilkeel
Kilkeel is now the biggest
fishing port in Northern
Ireland. The town has also
earned a well-deserved
reputation as the seafood
capital of the Mournes, with
its cookery school at the
Mourne Maritime Visitor
Centre by the harbour.
Fishing is just one of its main
industries - Kilkeel is also
famous for farming and
Mourne granite. The harbour
itself is relatively new,
dating from the 1850s.
It was expanded significantly
in 1955, and improvements
continue today.
In 2015 the Strangford Lough
and Lecale Partnership
(SLLP) led a collaborative
Maritime Heritage Tourism
initiative to benefit fishing
communities in County
Down, with funding from
the European Union and the
Department of Agriculture
and Rural Development
through Axis 4 of the EU
Fisheries Fund, administered
by the South East Area
European Fisheries Fund.
• Produce this brochure on
the area' s fishing heritage,
with the support of fishermen, harbour masters and others who participated in the photography and provided information
and stories.
Ards and North Down Borough
Council, Newry, Mourne and
Down District Council, the
Northern Ireland Fishery
Harbour Authority and the
SLLP worked together to:
• Provide on-site visitor information, an App and free WiFi for all three
fishing ports.
• Work with local people on public realm improvements to reconnect Portavogie Harbour to the rest of
the village.
Many thanks go to all the
local people who contributed
to this work.
The funds also helped the
SLLP to develop and provide
heritage guide training
courses in Portavogie,
Ardglass and Kilkeel. Some
of the trainees now provide
guided tours of the area and
related materials are
available online.
As part of wider work on the
area's artisan food offering
the SLLP commissioned a plan
to develop local and visitor
markets for locally landed fish.
29
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Portavogie
Copeland
Islands
A2
yR
W
pe
Up
Rd
ha
ns
ra
rG
la
Kil
Rd
Rd
Rd
l ydra
in R
Ca
rd
d
d
y Rd
dd
Sca
M
y
G
as
bo
rou
gh
Rd
lly
e
Rd
h
le Rd
cast
N ew
ur
t
sC
o
Rd
Killar d Rd
Chur
chto
wn R
d
mo
Cre
wR
d
re Rd
A2
bb
Inch A ey Rd
75
B1
Guns
Island
Glen R d
Rd
g
Rd
Ardglass
B
Poin
Or c h ard
all
yli
Rd
ea
Ba
Qu
A21
1
A2
B3
B3
d
lR
3
r Ha l
76
B1
Rd
tle
as
A2
Tyrella
A2
is
L
A29
d
Ba
B i shop
B1
Bryansford
B25
A2
t Rd
Dundrum Bay
0
8
Newcastle
B
B7
8
B1
Rd
ra
d
ks R
tric
Pa
Ballyhor nan R
d
ne
Bo
800
B180
B1
50
A
Kilcoo
B8
Portavogie
d
St
er R
art
Qu
d
Gores
Castle Island
Island
Me a rne Rd
Rd
ia
Bog Rd
A2
B22
7
B88
B
B8
B7
B7
Newry
A 29
Meigh
A1
Warrenpoint
e
Forkhill
Omeath
Crossmaglen
Killowen
N1
A37
M1
Annalong
lR
ou
t
Rostrevor
9
u
Mo
rn
eC
oa
st
a
Kilkeel
Carlingford
Lawson Park
New Ct
Law
son
Park
Water
House
New Rd
Main Rd
A2
Prin
cess
Ann
e Rd
Harb
our
Rd
Community
Centre
Portavogie
Harbour View
Harbour Rd
New Harbou
r Rd
Region
Ballymartin
A2
Carlingford Lough
Sp
rin
gfi
eld
Rd
A2
B 25
B134
Creggan
B27
B30
B113
Mullaghbane
35
A2
B30
Cullyhanna
B1
Town/Area Map
A20
A2
R
ay
il
Rd
ons
mm
B25
7
5
Murals at the village school
and on a wall opposite the
harbour reveal more about
the fishing history of the
village, with panels showing
local fishermen at work.
A memorial statue in the
harbour, by Colin Telfer,
commemorates the lives of
local fishermen who were lost
or died at sea.
The South Rock lighthouse, on a
reef south of Portavogie towards
Kearney Point, was built with
the support of Lord Kilwarlin,
2nd Marquis of Downshire. It
was lit for the first time in 1797
and named the ‘Kilwarlin Light’
in honour of the Marquis. It
was replaced by a manned
light vessel in 1877, which was
automated in 1982, and replaced
by a navigation buoy in 2009,
although the lighthouse on
the South Rock still stands.
Ard
Co
Dundrum
A25
Hilltown
Mayobridge
Camlough A25
Play Park
& Car Park
Bog Rd
rin R
ufe
gd
Ri n
A25
Castlewellan
Rathfriland
A25
Bessbrook
Belleek
Rd
stone
rer
g
Portaferry
Strangford
c
B7
A2
34
B1
Portavogie has two fine
beaches: the East Shore’s
promenade has stunning
views to the Isle of Man and
Scotland, weather permitting!
At low tide you can see
McCammon Rocks where
fishermen anchored their
boats before the harbour was
built. From the South Shore
you can walk to two islands at
low tide – the Green Isle and
Bird Isle, which is now a tern
colony. Check the tide tables
before venturing out.
The harbour, which has
recently undergone a £2
million renovation, has
transformed over the years,
with major work resulting in
the new harbour in the 1980s.
Recently installed pontoons
provide berths for smaller
fishing boats and leisure
craft. Before the modern
harbour was built, fishermen
used to land their catch
at McCammon Rocks and
Warnock’s Rocks, where they
also beached their
boats for repair.
A22
Katesbridge
3
B3
B1
33
A2
el a
Salt
Island
A25
4
A2
B1
10
A5
0
Newtownhamilton
e Hill Rd
Walla c
Downpatrick
Loughbrickland
A 29
B2
The Spa
B7
B7
B10
Scarva
A2
8
A1
Various seating along the
harbour and throughout the
village allows locals and visitors
to rest, relax and enjoy the views.
Scottish families settled in
the Ards peninsula in the late
16th and early 17th centuries,
including the influential
Hamiltons and Montgomerys.
This area still has strong links to
the Ulster Scots language and
customs. Portavogie was part of
James Hamilton’s estate. A 1625
map in North Down Heritage
Centre in Bangor shows an
area that locals still know as the
Warren, due to the number of
rabbits there.
Rd
kill
yn a
Tull
A24
Dromara
B25
Banbridge
A26
1
A5
A2
7
B3
Markethill
yg
B7
B7
B7
Gilford
Tandragee
A51
A2
8
A7
0
A5
Dromore
Main Rd A2
The Aubrietia returns to berth
at Portavogie harbour after a
five day prawn fishing trip
Visitors to Portavogie are
close to Ireland’s most
easterly landmark, Burr Point,
which lies north of Portavogie
towards Ballyhalbert. The
island offshore is known as
Burial Isle and is home to
nesting terns. Legend persists
that it has a secret Danish
burial chamber full of Viking
treasure, if you could find it
under the guano!
There are superb views
to Isle of Man and further
along the coast to Cloughey
and Kearney.
A24
6
A2
Armagh
A 28
A
tor
Vic
B a ll
Island
Taggart
B2
A50
A2 7
Warno
cks Rd
e Rd
onag
Blacks
taff
Rd
Islandmore
B77
B
77
A29
A3
Dunov
er Rd
Stump R d
Pars
Strangford
Lough
Conley
Island
B
B6
Cl
A2
There has been a settlement
at Portavogie since the 1600s.
Surrounding rocks provided
shelter and fishermen could
beach their boats on the
sandy shore. The area is still
known as The Cove near
Stablehole and Puddledyke.
It can be reached by
walking along the promenade
past the last remaining 'oul'
pump in Portavogie.
9
A4
Hillsborough
A1
Craigavon
Dundalk
Portavogie is Northern
Ireland’s second largest
fishing port after Kilkeel,
which is further along the
coast in County Down. The
village grew to become an
important maritime centre
partly due to its location,
and also because of the rich
supply of superb seafood in
local waters.
Mahee
Island
Rd
B6
A3
A3
Portadown
Rd
Main
A rich heritage
8
B17
d
yR
d
Chapel
Island
Ardmi
llan
A7
M1
Lurgan
arry
A3
M1
A4
A23
A26
M1
R
A2
Ba
l
ur
ob
W
e
St ard R
d
Mt e w
er
Cu
Rd
nnin
gbu
0
Man
s
A2
mb
Co
Carryduff
t Rd
brig h
Kil
2
rn Rd
A20
A2
A55
Lisburn
d
he
ug
Abb
ey
wo
od
ill Rd
indm
ney H i ll
in
A48
Holy
nR
W
h
A21
A2
B allymon
ey R d
ne Rd
Kyle s to
Belfast
Lough
Portavogie
Harbour
You Are
Here
31
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Portavogie
Landing the catch
Shellfish is the main catch
of Portavogie boats, in
particular prawns and
scallops. The local fleet
currently stands at
around 50 boats.
Many of these local vessels
are small, inshore potting
boats, targeting crab and
lobster around the coast.
Other large trawlers,
targeting white fish and
prawns, provide work for up
to five fishermen each.
Strong family connections in
Portavogie mean that many
crews have ties that go back
for generations.
It’s not unusual to see
groups of fishermen
stretching out their nets
along the quay and in the car
park for a mending session.
Once the catch is landed
at the harbour, it is either
processed locally by one
of several Portavogie
businesses, or transported
for processing further afield.
Global fame
At one time there were two
large processing factories at
the quayside, but this industry
has downscaled to several
smaller local businesses today.
Deals are done by agents
representing several boats at
one time.
Northern Ireland has
plenty of specialist seafood
restaurants, in which
Portavogie shellfish often
gets star billing.
Fishing supports many
different onshore jobs,
including boat repairs, painters,
plant hire and chandlers, which
in turn boosts retailing and
business in the village. Boat
building is a strong tradition, its
strength drawn from decades
of local expertise.
From port to plate…
Portavogie prawns
The celebrated Portavogie
prawn features on many
restaurant menus, not just
in this area, but globally,
where prawns are one of
County Down’s most highlyprized exports.
33
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Ardglass
Copeland
Islands
A2
yR
W
pe
Up
Rd
ha
ns
ra
rG
la
Kil
Rd
Rd
Rd
l ydra
in R
Ca
rd
d
d
y Rd
dd
Sca
as
bo
rou
gh
Rd
lly
e
Rd
Ba
Qu
A21
1
h
le Rd
cast
N ew
ur
t
Chur
chto
wn R
d
o
Rd
Killar d Rd
sC
M
y
A2
Cre
wR
d
re Rd
Guns
Island
Glen R d
Rd
g
Rd
Ardglass
B
Poin
Or c h ard
all
yli
B3
G
bb
Inch A ey Rd
75
3
A2
B3
B1
Rd
ea
A2
Tyrella
7
A2
mo
L
A29
B1
il
Rd
ons
mm
Ard
Co
Crew
Hill Ct
d
Ba
B i shop
is
76
B1
Rd
tle
as
800
B180
B1
50
Bryansford
B25
A2
t Rd
Dundrum Bay
0
8
Newcastle
B
B7
8
B1
d
Ballyhor nan R
d
ne
Bo
B25
A2
Kilcoo
Rd
ra
d
ks R
tric
Pa
d
lR
St
Portavogie
A2
r Ha l
4
A2
3
B3
Dundrum
B8
Hilltown
B22
7
B88
B
Mayobridge
Gores
Castle Island
Island
Me a rne Rd
Rd
ia
Bog Rd
er R
art
Qu
rin R
ufe
gd
Ri n
d
B25
A25
A25
A
Town/Area Map
A20
A2
R
ay
A26
Rd
stone
rer
g
Salt
Island
A25
Castlewellan
Rathfriland
A25
Camlough A25
el a
Portaferry
Strangford
c
B7
Bessbrook
Belleek
A22
A7
A24
0
A5
A2
Rd
kill
yn a
Tull
A24
9
A4
6
A2
B1
33
Newtownhamilton
e Hill Rd
Walla c
Downpatrick
Katesbridge
A5
0
A 29
B2
The Spa
B7
B7
B1
10
B8
B7
B7
Newry
A 29
Creggan
A2
B 25
A1
e
B113
Warrenpoint
Rostrevor
9
Forkhill
Omeath
Crossmaglen
u
Mo
Killowen
N1
A37
rn
eC
oa
st
Annalong
a
Ballymartin
A2
Carlingford Lough
M1
lR
ou
t
B134
B1
Stra
ngfo
rd Roa
d
Bath
St
B30
B27
Ard
gla
ss R
oad
Meigh
Mullaghbane
35
A2
B30
Cullyhanna
Kilkeel
Carlingford
Dundalk
Ardglass
(North)
Harbour
Ardglass
Marina
Bathing
House
Place
Russell
Qu
ay
St
Ardglass
(South)
Harbour
St
re
da
Kil
stle
Ca
ne
La
Green Road
Ardglass
Harbour View
Place
Castle
d
oa
nR
ee
Gr
k
e Par
Castl
At one time, the Downpatrick,
Killough and Ardglass railway
ran directly into Ardglass
harbour.
Dromara
B10
Scarva
Loughbrickland
5
From the later 1800s, Ardglass
enjoyed a thriving export
market, processing herring and
white fish and selling to local
markets and Russia, Germany
and the USA.
Banbridge
A1
34
B1
Ardglass has more medieval
tower houses than any other
Irish town. They were built to
protect it from the O’Neills
and Ulaid clans.
Ardglass is also the site of
the oldest trading complex
in Ireland. The remains of
the fortified Newerk (or New
Works) are still visible at
Ardglass Castle, which is now
part of the town’s Golf Club.
A2 7
After the Norman invasion in
the 1170s, Ardglass became
one of two Norman ports
in Ulster. The other was
Carrickfergus.
Ardglass went into decline
until 1800, in favour of
Belfast and Newry. William
Ogilvie’s purchase of Ardglass
manor in 1810 was the key
to the town and harbour’s
revival. As landlord, Ogilvie
helped develop the harbour,
pier, lighthouse and village
streetscape, as well as the
town’s reputation as a spa. The
lighthouse at the North Dock is
a replacement, as the original
blew down in 1838. Thanks to
Ogilvie, by the 1830s Ardglass
was the main fishing port
in the North of Ireland.
1
A5
A2
7
yg
B7
B7
B7
A2
8
tor
Vic
B a ll
Island
Taggart
Dromore
B3
Markethill
e Rd
onag
Blacks
taff
Rd
Islandmore
Cl
Gilford
Tandragee
A51
A2
8
The Ward
For more than 2,000
years, Ardglass has been
an important fishing and
defensive port. From the
Bronze Age, Ardglass
formed part of the Gaelic
kingdom of Ulaid (Ulster is
named after this kingdom).
The Ulaid kept their fleet in
Strangford Lough and were
High Kings of Scotland and
Ireland, until the O’Neill fleet
defeated them at the battle
of Mull of Kintyre in 637.
Jordan’s (or Shane’s) Castle,
overlooking the harbour,
was the Norman citadel,
supported by a defensive
curtain of other buildings like
Cowd Castle and Margaret’s
Castle, both near Ardglass
Golf Club. This type of
defensive building is unique
to Lecale, appearing from
Strangford to Dundrum. Its
strength made Lecale the last
surviving Norman colony in
Ulster in the 1400s.
Armagh
A 28
Dunov
er Rd
Stump R d
Pars
Strangford
Lough
Conley
Island
B
B6
B77
B
77
B2
A50
Hill Street
Unloading the
catch of crabs
The Ulaid resisted Viking
invasion for 200 years, and
were involved in a famous sea
battle off the Ardglass coast
in 1022. After defeating the
Vikings and capturing many of
their ships, the Ulaid sailed to
the Vikings’ Dublin base and
devastated the city in 1026.
A29
Historic Ardglass
Tudor armies arrived after
the O’Neills seized Ardglass
and ownership passed to the
Fitzgerald Lords of Kildare. The
Fitzgeralds protected Ardglass
and much of Lecale from
plantation, but in 1637 they sold
trading rights to the crown.
Hillsborough
A1
Craigavon
A
Mahee
Island
Rd
B6
A3
A3
Portadown
A3
8
B17
d
yR
d
Chapel
Island
Ardmi
llan
A7
M1
Lurgan
view
Sea
arry
A3
M1
A4
A23
A26
M1
R
A2
Ba
l
ur
ob
W
e
St ard R
d
Mt e w
er
Cu
Rd
nnin
gbu
0
Man
s
A2
mb
Co
Carryduff
t Rd
brig h
Kil
2
rn Rd
A20
A2
A55
Lisburn
d
he
ug
Abb
ey
wo
od
ill Rd
indm
ney H i ll
in
A48
Holy
nR
W
h
A21
A2
B allymon
ey R d
ne Rd
Kyle s to
Belfast
Lough
Ardglass
Golf Club
Region
35
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Ardglass
Built heritage
The curved crescent near
the marina is part of the
town’s conservation area.
The Victorian Bathing House
is opposite the play park. It
provided privacy to female
bathers when Ardglass was
a popular, sophisticated
Victorian spa, with hot and
cold vapour baths and an
elegant hotel for those
taking the waters.
Ardglass' highest landmark,
Isabella’s Tower, is visible
from the Downpatrick Road
on the way into the port. It
was once a coastguard’s
watch tower, which local
landowner Beauclerk built
in 1851 for his daughter.
Workers discovered
funeral relics from a Bronze
Age burial site during
construction.
The harbour today
Historians believe the hill
is a prehistoric carn – a
man-made monument to an
ancient warrior or chief.
Activity still centres on the
harbour and marina.
Today, the local catch is
mainly prawn, herring and
mackerel. The tidal North
Dock has the nickname ‘God’s
pocket’, while the South Dock
is called the ‘Sawpit’.
Ardglass harbour has berths
for about 40 local fishing
boats and the marina also
welcomes yachts sailing the
Irish Sea.
It’s a good location to wait
for the best tide to navigate
the Narrows - the entrance to
nearby Strangford Lough.
Discover maritime Ardglass
The Ardglass Tourism and Marine Heritage Centre in Bath
Street is open in summer, with more information inside about
the town’s maritime history. There is a mobile app of Ardglass’
heritage trail at www.ardglass.eu, as well as hundreds of
maritime photographs, with links to a Facebook site where
visitors can identify people, places and boats.
You can download the Co Down Heritage Trails and
Strangford Lough and Lecale apps on either apple or android,
and find out more at visitstrangfordlough.co.uk
or visitmournemountains.co.uk
Ardglass harbour
Bathing House
From Ardglass, visitors can enjoy more of the beautiful Lecale
coastline. Coney Island’s beach is just a short journey away, as
is the town of Killough. St John’s Point lighthouse lies towards
the Mourne Mountains from Killough. This route will also lead
on to Rossglass, Minerstown and Tyrella beaches.
37
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Kilkeel
Copeland
Islands
A2
yR
W
pe
Up
ill Rd
indm
ney H i ll
in
A48
la
Kil
Abb
ey
Rd
Rd
Rd
l ydra
in R
Ca
rd
d
as
bo
rou
gh
Rd
lly
e
Rd
Ba
Qu
h
le Rd
cast
N ew
A21
1
A2
y Rd
M
y
G
Rd
ons
mm
Rd
ur
t
Rd
Killar d Rd
Chur
chto
wn R
d
Cre
wR
d
g
Guns
Island
Rd
Ardglass
B
A
Poin
B3
d
o
re Rd
Glen R d
Or c h ard
all
yli
3
bb
Inch A ey Rd
75
B1
Rd
ea
A2
sC
L
il
Co
Ard
Tyrella
7
A2
mo
A2
B3
Roa
d
dd
Sca
B1
A29
Ba
B i shop
is
76
B1
Rd
tle
as
Aug
hna
hoo
ry
d
Ballyhor nan R
d
ne
Bo
800
B180
B1
50
Bryansford
B25
A2
t Rd
Dundrum Bay
0
8
Newcastle
B
B7
8
B1
Rd
ra
d
ks R
tric
Pa
d
lR
St
Portavogie
A2
r Ha l
Gores
Castle Island
Island
Me a rne Rd
Rd
ia
Bog Rd
d
Rd
stone
rer
g
er R
art
Qu
rin R
ufe
gd
Ri n
d
B25
Kilcoo
A20
A2
R
ay
4
A2
Town/Area Map
A22
A7
Dundrum
B8
Hilltown
B22
7
B88
B
Mayobridge
Camlough A25
Rd
kill
yn a
Tull
A7
B25
A25
A25
A25
Bessbrook
Belleek
el a
Salt
Island
A25
Castlewellan
Rathfriland
A2
A2
yg
Portaferry
Strangford
c
B7
3
B3
B8
B7
B7
Newry
Creggan
A2
A1
Warrenpoint
Rostrevor
9
Forkhill
Omeath
M1
u
Mo
Killowen
N1
A37
Annalong
lR
ou
t
e
B113
Meigh
B25
B134
B1
Mullaghbane
35
A2
B30
Cullyhanna
B27
rn
eC
oa
st
a
Region
Ballymartin
A2
Carlingford Lough
Kilkeel
Carlingford
Ne
wc
as
tle
St
re
et
Dundalk
rid
ge
St
re
et
ad
Ro
or
Mo
Visitors can also buy fresh
seafood right at Kilkeel harbour,
at Heather’s Fresh Fish at The
Harbour Store. The town’s Spar
supermarket also stocks locally
caught seafood, promoting
products that are fished in County
Down, rather than shipped to it.
A24
A26
B1
33
A2
Newtownhamilton
T
The Mourne Maritime Visitor
Centre, Nautilus Centre, has
panoramic views of the harbour,
as well as exhibitions that
reveal more about life onboard
a fishing boat. A permanent
exhibition inside deals with
‘Tracing your Mourne
/ roots’. The
le
st
ca the Mourne
Ki
centre also houses
n
d
tt
ee el
y’
Gr nfi
s
sc
Ro
ro
Seafood Cookery
To ra School, with
ad
gg
C
rd
opportunities to learn how to
cook the local catch. Facilities
for visitors also include Kilkeel
Visitor Information Centre and the
Families at Sea display.
Katesbridge
B a ll
e Hill Rd
Walla c
Downpatrick
B1
10
A5
0
A 29
B2
The Spa
B7
B7
Loughbrickland
A1
tor
Vic
Blacks
taff
Rd
Islandmore
B7
Dromara
B10
e Rd
onag
Island
Taggart
B7
Scarva
Crossmaglen
o Ro
stre
A2 n harbour
Visitors to the
can watch
vor
ewr
y ro
ad
the fishermen land their catch
and get a photo at the Big Fish
sculpture. The Seafarers’
Memorial
ive
Dr
ide
at the harbour isHiallsmore
serious
artwork. It's a reminder of the daily
risks that seafaring workers face
and commemorates those who
lost their lives at sea.
A24
0
A5
Local scallops
processed in Kilkeel
Banbridge
A2
8
Dunov
er Rd
Stump R d
Pars
Strangford
Lough
Conley
Island
Cl
B7
A 29
Seascope, Kilkeel’s most
recent visitor attraction,
is a marine hatchery
research centre where visitors
can get as close as they dare to
local lobster.
1
A5
A2
7
B3
Markethill
5
Kilkeel is home to Northern
Ireland’s largest fishing fleet,
and all roads lead to the busy
harbour. Today the main
catch is prawn, with crab and
lobster on the increase. Oyster
and mussel farming is also a
growing industry nearby.
Gilford
Tandragee
A51
A2
8
34
B1
The majority of Northern
Ireland’s prawn catch is also
processed in Kilkeel.
Dromore
A50
A2 7
Armagh
A 28
A
as
nc
ee
Gr
B
B6
B77
B
77
Mahee
Island
Rd
B2
eB
The Squar
ad
Ro
ey
on
Ro
Gerry Smyth's thriving
business builds fibreglass
fishing boats at Kilkeel harbour
Kilkeel’s fish processing
factories produce scampi,
kippers, oysters, mussels,
scallops, crab and
sustainable white fish,
such as haddock, gurnard
and pollack.
6
A2
A29
A3
arry
Ardmi
llan
B6
Hillsborough
A1
Craigavon
B30
oad
tain R
Moun
Kilkeel’s strong maritime
tradition endures today. Still
a bustling port, the town
supports many onshore
industries centred on the
harbour, including boat
building and engineering.
Fishing is a major part of the
local economy. Commercial
activity at the harbour also
features marine engineers,
an ice factory, a fish market
and ship repair works.
A3
8
B17
9
A4
Lurgan
A3
Portadown
Mil
lR
oa
d
Kilkeel is the seafood
capital of the Mournes,
nestled alongside the
Irish Sea and the famous
mountains. In 1890, more
than one-third of all the
herring landed in Ireland
came through Kilkeel. As
well as fishing, the town was
built on two other industries
- farming and granite.
M1
Road
nagh
Cargi
The seafood capital
of the Mournes
A3
M1
A4
A23
A26
M1
d
yR
d
Chapel
Island
et
re
St
tle
R
A2
Ba
l
ur
ob
W
e
St ard R
d
Mt e w
er
Cu
Rd
nnin
gbu
0
Man
s
A2
mb
Co
Carryduff
t Rd
brig h
Kil
2
rn Rd
A20
A2
A55
Lisburn
d
he
ug
Rd
od
ha
ns
ra
rG
wo
Holy
nR
W
h
A21
A2
B allymon
ey R d
ne Rd
Kyle s to
Belfast
Lough
Kilk
eel
Ha
Ha
rbo
ur
Kn
oc
kc
hr
ee
Av
en
ue
Ma
ns
eR
oa
d
Kilkeel
Harbour View
Ro
ad
rbo
ur
39
Fishing Heritage of Portavogie, Ardglass & Kilkeel
Kilkeel
Seafarers’ Memorial
Local walking trail
One of the last-quarried
pieces of famous Mourne
granite forms the Seafarers’
Memorial at Kilkeel harbour,
a monument to fishermen
lost at sea.
Kilkeel has a self-guided
circular walking trail,
covering the main sites of
interest in the port. The
Lower Square in the centre
features the sculpture
Narrows Journey, depicting
the heritage of the local
fishing, farming and granite
industries.
The same local company also
made the Diana Memorial
Fountain in London’s Hyde
Park and the 9/11 Memorial
Gardens in New York. Mourne
granite is world-famous, and
it was once exported widely.
The graveyard of the Old
Church of St Colman’s in
Kilkeel has a memorial to the
94 people who died in the
maritime disaster involving
the passenger steamer,
the Connemara, and the
cargo ship, the Retriever, on
Carlingford Lough in 1916.
Seafarers are grateful that
Kilkeel has its own RNLI
lifeboat station at the mouth
of the harbour. It is one of five
stations in County Down.
The town centre has many
award-winning fish and chip
shops, cafes and restaurants,
all serving the local catch.
Many of the streets in
cities like Manchester and
Liverpool are paved in
Mourne granite setts.
Nearby attractions are
surrounded by natural
beauty. The Silent Valley
reservoir is ringed by
dramatic peaks. The 13th
century Anglo-Norman
stronghold of Greencastle is
nearby, as is award-winning
Cranfield beach at the mouth
of Carlingford Lough. One of
the last working watermills
in Northern Ireland is beside
Annalong harbour, known as
the Cornmill.
Of course, visitors can also
enjoy thrilling views of the
stunning Mourne Mountains.
Kilkeel is part of a driving trail
called the Mourne Coastal
Route. Brown signs with white
text signpost the route from
the port, guiding visitors
through some of the most
scenic driving in Ireland.
For more information, see
www.visitkilkeel.com
Percy French, who wrote
the well-known song lyrics
“Where the mountains of
Mourne sweep down to the
sea”, frequently stayed in
the old Temperance Hotel
in Kilkeel. The former site of
the hotel is beside Kilkeel
Presbyterian Church on
Newcastle Street.
Mourne
granite
A Percy French painting,
Silent Valley and the Mournes
Ardglass Tourism &
Marine Heritage Centre
12 Bath Street
Ardglass, BT30 7SE
Ards Visitor Information Centre
31 Regent Street
Newtownards, BT23 4AD
T: 028 9182 6846
Downpatrick Visitor
Information Centre
The Saint Patrick Centre, 53a Market
Street, Downpatrick, BT30 6LZ
T: 028 4461 2233
Bangor Visitor Information Centre
Tower House, 34 Quay Street
Bangor, BT20 5ED
T: 028 9127 0069
Kilkeel Visitor Information Centre
Nautilus Centre, Rooney Road
Kilkeel, BT34 4AG
T: 028 4176 2525
Newcastle Visitor
Information Centre
10-14 Central Promenade
Newcastle, BT33 0AA
T: 028 4372 2222
Portaferry Visitor
Information Centre
The Stables, Castle Street
Portaferry, BT22 1NZ
T: 028 4272 9882
Seafish Northern Ireland
seafish.org/industry-support/
regional-teams/seafishnorthern-ireland
Strangford Lough
&Lecale Partnership
T: 028 4272 8886
strangfordlough.org
11970
Thanks to the following people and groups for making this booklet possible Seafish, John Smyth (Ardglass Harbour Master), Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Organisation,
Anglo North Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation, Kilkeel Development Association, Portavogie
Culture & Heritage Society, Ardglass Tourist & Marine Heritage Gilbert McBride and Samuel
Warnock. Photography commissioned by Strangford Lough & Lecale Partnership from Bernie
Brown Photography www.bbphotographic.co.uk.
This Maritime Heritage Tourism Initiative was funded by the European Union and the Department of Agriculture and Rural
Development through Axis 4 of the European Fisheries Fund administered by the South East Area European Fisheries Fund.