Lying just below the ‘elbow’ of the Ards Peninsula, Portavogie has the distinction of being the easternmost settlement in Ireland. It is also the second largest fishing port in Northern Ireland. Fishing has been an economic mainstay in the area since the 16th century, when the activity centred on Stable Hole to the north of the present-day port, undertaken by settlers who had come across from the Solway Coast on the other side of the Irish Sea. In those days the boats had to be hauled up onto the sandy beach; it was not until 1906 that a pier was built in Portavogie, although it proved unequal to the weather conditions and had to be replaced in 1955. Further expansion brought the addition of a market and ice making machinery, and in 1985 a new harbour was officially opened by Princess Anne. The main catch consists of prawns and herring, brought by a large fleet of trawlers.
Portavogie celebrates its fishing industry each August with a Seafood Festival. Visitors who are interested in the fishing heritage of the port can find a Heritage Trail on the Visit Ards and North Down website. The trail starts at Puddle Dyke, Stablehole and The Cove and takes in The Prom and the McCammon Rocks, accessible at low tide and frequented by seals. The end of the trail is the site of the former Palmer’s boatbuilding yard. The late Eileen Palmer, a prominent figure in the village in her day and the boatbuilder's wife, set up the Portavogie Fishermen’s Choir, which is still going strong. Further information about the town's past can be found on the Portavogie Culture and Heritage Society website.
|Photo by Ross, via Wikimedia Commons|