Belfast Telegraph

Springtime sunshine spreads a little bit of 'Portmagic' ahead of The Open

Victoria Steen with Milo and Ivy
Victoria Steen with Milo and Ivy
The Open sign at the entrance to the town
Reporter Claire Williamson at Barry’s Amusements
Katie and Fraser Sinclair with Rory, Beth and Mary
The Harbour Bar
Big Dipper at Barry’s
Royal Portrush
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

They call it "Portmagic" - and with less than 100 days to go before the historic return of The Open to Portrush, it's all go in the seaside resort.

The family-favourite holiday spot welcomes thousands each year, rain or shine.

For many, they don't wait for the summer, and make the trip all-year round.

It is currently undergoing a makeover, which includes a new train station, as the town prepares for the arrival of golfing royalty from July 18 to 21 at Royal Portrush.

But for some of the best-known places in Portrush, there is confidence they will reap the benefits for many years to come.

One of them is The Harbour Bar, which is no stranger to welcoming famous faces.

Manager and Portrush legend Willie Gregg says it will be the "unofficial" 19th tee and green.

The 62-year-old said: "The magic of Portrush started decades ago, from our Morelli connection with the ice cream, the Trufelli connection with Barry's, and the general acceptance of visitors to Portrush.

"But it has accelerated by jet stream at the moment."

Willie says that is in part down to the railway, which are bringing people "from all over Northern Ireland to come to Portrush for the day".

He added: "Every single business in the town has gone up a gear.

"They have put their heart and soul into it."

Willie believes it will be the best thing to happen to Northern Ireland as a whole.

He added: "We are getting worldwide representation and PR like we never had before.

"Millions of people are going to see Portrush at its best. We have a manicured golf course, and we will have a manicured town."

His role will be making sure everybody (and their dog) is welcome in The Harbour Bar.

"Portrush is going to be super busy long before the golf and long after it," he added.

"The Harbour Bar is going to be the unofficial 19th tee and green for The Open.

"We are going to try and look after everybody, should you be a golfer or a professor or a guy that's saved up all year to come to Portrush, you will all be looked after equally."

He added: "Northern Ireland has been seen around the world for the wrong reasons for far too long.

"I call Portrush the capital of the Gold Coast, which stretches from Magilligan Point to Ballycastle - we are the capital.

"The whole town is being refurbished, from footpaths to shop fronts to promenades. It's a glorified building site, everybody is getting ready."

It's no surprise that Portrush was extra busy at the weekend as it heralded the opening of Barry's Amusements for Easter - something that was welcomed by young and old.

Owner Kristina Trufelli said they had barely advertised the reopening and they couldn't believe the numbers on Saturday.

"Some people say it's the smell, some says it brings memories," she said.

"Generations come here; thankfully and we get grandparents who bring their grandchildren and it continues on.

"We are a small amusements park, we are nothing compared to across the water, but we are unique."

She added: "I can't believe how many people are here."

Kristina says The Open will "show off Portrush in a lovely light".

She said: "There's a lot of work being done, we are getting the railway station, which is great. Portrush will shine."

Among those visiting at the weekend was Judith Warren with husband Brian and their children Noah (7) and Bella (5) from Randalstown.

She said: "It's the nostalgia of it.

"This is where we were brought when we were kids and you want your children to have the same experiences you had."

Tommy Finlay (70), who was having a day out with wife Catherine and their grandchildren Faye (4) and Clara (14 months), said: "It was 65 years ago when I was first here.

"It's family-orientated and that's part of the attraction."

Enjoying the sunshine was Katie Sinclair (38) with husband Fraser (38) and their children Rory (9), Beth (6) and Mary (2).

Katie, who is originally from Holywood but now lives in Glasgow, said: "Portrush has the beaches, all the stuff that's good for the kids - and the ice cream.

"Every summer we were here as kids. I think everyone in Northern Ireland did."

She added: "It's the smell and the noise (in Barry's), it hasn't changed a bit and the second you walk in the excitement hits you."

But for Victoria Steen (32), who was enjoying a day out with children Milo (8) and Ivy (6), it's not just Barry's that they come to Portrush for.

"The kids love it, they love coming down looking through the rocks, going on the skateboard when it's nice weather, we come down all-year round," she said.

Just across from the amusements is Koko coffee shop, which boasts a stunning sea view.

Owner Mark Love says they are already feeling the benefits of The Open coming and expect it to continue.

They want to remind people that Portrush is still open when the tournament is on.

Mark said: "During The Open we are hoping to open earlier and stay open later at night.

"We are also looking at getting a restaurant license to serve food and drinks in the evening.

"I'm confident Portrush is a destination for everyone.

"We've noticed every year it gets busier and busier and this year is no different."

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