Quaint townland which is found in Co Down set new high temperature as it surpassed 38-year-old record
It is the little known part of Northern Ireland that has suddenly entered the history books.
The shores of Strangford Lough could have easily been mistaken for a Spanish seaside resort at the weekend after temperatures reached record highs — peaking in the townland of Ballywatticock.
It was here that a near 38-year-old record for the highest temperature was broken.
The quaint townland can be found by driving along the Ards Peninsula and heading towards Portaferry, with the rolling hills of North Down and Scrabo Tower overlooking in the distance — but it is a case of blink and you will miss it.
Ballywatticock is tucked off the main Portaferry Road near the village of Loughries, and with only a handful of houses and a primary school a short distance away, it has seldom been in the spotlight.
But all that changed on Saturday when the local weather station clocked the hottest temperature ever in Northern Ireland, reaching 31.2 degrees Celsius.
The previous highest temperature recorded was 30.8 degrees Celsius on June 30, 1976 and July 12, 1983.
The locals are so proud of this new record-breaking temperature that they even amended the 30mph speed sign on the way into the townland to 31.2mph, the only sign which adorns the name ‘Ballywatticock’.
The sign itself was the outcome of a ‘silent sign protest’ only a few years ago by local residents who were campaigning for the townland to be recognised and not to be forgotten.
The name Ballywatticock actually means ‘Watticock’s town’ and, within the past few months, there has even been a property boom in the area, with a number of new build homes erected in the townland, called ‘Finlays Lane’.
The properties, which are being sold by Simon Brien Residential, have been described on their website as being located in a “beautiful rural setting which is only a stone's throw from the shores of Strangford Lough”.
Perhaps now the estate agents might add “hottest place in Northern Ireland” to its best-selling properties.
Keith Brown is one of the new owners, after purchasing a house on Finlays Lane only four weeks ago with his girlfriend Nicole Considine.
The couple previously lived in Newtownards but said that they moved to the townland “to live in the beautiful countryside near Strangford Lough”.
“It was a bit odd hearing Ballywatticock on the news after it was announced as the hottest ever place in Northern Ireland, because no one really knows where this is!” Keith told Belfast Telegraph.
Rachel Martin, an agricultural journalist, lives in a neighbouring townland and explained that the recent attraction to the area is partly due to its “microclimate” of warmer weather.
“Any farmer will tell you that we have a bit of a microclimate on the Ards Peninsula because we sit out that bit more easterly than the rest of Northern Ireland and are surrounded by sea,” she said.
“It means we get slightly milder winters but also means the peninsula is one of the driest parts of Northern Ireland.
“At the moment farmers, in particular, are struggling to get enough water for their stock; the grass is really starting to crisp up as we have entered a drought here in the east,” she added.
“It’s a beautiful part of the world and I am proud to be from the Ards Peninsula. It’s great to see our local heritage recognised through the use of the townland name which is now associated with a weather record.”
Rachel said that it has been so hot recently that she has even been able to grow chilli peppers on her front doorstep.
But not all residents were pleased to see the high temperatures, and some even admitted to spending most of Saturday indoors.
Ruth Johnston has lived in Ballywatticock for 44 years and told the Belfast Telegraph that she would normally travel to Spain for her summer holiday but has been unable to do so for the past two years due to the pandemic.
“I’m a bit of a sun-worshipper and love getting away to the sun but haven’t been able to get away because of all the restrictions,” she said. “I found the weather on Saturday very hard to stick, so I sat indoors for quite a while.
“I think it’s a bit different when you’re away beside a pool compared to your own back garden in this heat!” she added.
“But it is great to see the good weather, and also for Ballywatticock to be put on the map because of the recent record-breaking temperatures.”
On Sunday the UK recorded the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures exceeding 30C in both England and Wales.
Both regions beat records for the year set on Saturday, and forecasters predict it could be even warmer this week.
In England, 31.6C (88.88F) was recorded in Heathrow, overtaking Saturday's 30.3C (86.54F) recorded in Coton in the Elms, Derbyshire. Wales recorded 30.2C (86.36F) in Cardiff, compared with 29.6C (85.28F) reached in Usk, Monmouthshire, on Saturday.
Northern Ireland and Scotland did not beat records on Sunday, with highs of 25.5C (77.9F) in Thomastown, Co Down and 26.1C (78.98F) in Threave, Scotland.