With Easter now a distant memory we’re starting to focus on summer, and particularly summer holidays. Spain would be lovely, Bali would be better, but we forget that there is unrivalled beauty right on our doorstep!
This week we’ve decided to celebrate Donaghadee - although a small harbour town, this Co. Down spot has a large part of our hearts. Situated right on the coast on the Ards Peninsula, Donaghadee is quaint and quiet but makes up for what it lacks in size with breathtaking views, an authentic sense of community, charming streets and a rich history waiting to be rediscovered.
Here’s just five of the reasons we suggest exploring Donaghadee this summer.
From the limestone harbour to the commanding Norman moat, and from the parish church to the traditional buildings repurposed from town halls and ale houses to impressive restaurants and shops, there is history down every street.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Donaghadee Harbour was Northern Ireland’s principal port before Belfast became the major city. Trade with the mainland was based here and because it was so busy an official harbour was built in 1626 to service the boats that worked between Donaghadee and Great Britain’s mainland.
During the 200 years of its time in the spotlight, the harbour experienced thousands of travellers and livestock. During the plantation thousands of penniless migrants arrived searching for a new start. Soldiers landed tasked with pacifying the country. Post from the UK and Europe first touched Donaghadee soil before it made its way with joyous or unfortunate news throughout the region.
While much less active now, the harbour still shines in summer, with fishing trips operating from the harbour and the south pier offering a delightful walk for visitors.
The Copeland Distillery, from the team behind the famed Copeland Gin, will open the doors of its first distillery this summer. Set to become the area’s most-popular tourist attraction, the Copeland Distillery will boast a working gin and whiskey distillery, a visitor centre and an events space all over-looking The Copeland Islands which the brand is inspired by.
Once the islands were farmed by families who lived year-round on the island but in the 1930’s most decided to move to the mainland, tired of being cut off by winter storms and hungry crop eating rabbits. The Copeland Distillery will be sharing much more of this island history as part of its visitor experience.
The Distillery is currently offering whiskey fans the opportunity to become part of the ‘The 125’ which offers private investors the chance to purchase 125 casks of its first-ever whiskey. The whiskey will be hugely influenced by its location with the sea breeze seeping into every cask as it matures.
Each of the investor’s names will be etched on ‘The 125’ wall, signalling their investment and immortalising their important commitment to the Distillery’s journey. Each cask owner will receive an official certificate of ownership and ‘The 125’ members card unlocking exclusive access to future events at the Distillery and private tours. Members will also have the opportunity to visit their cask and request samples as it matures.
Distillation will begin later this year with each cask filled and matured for the next five years. But fear not, you can visit your cask regularly and take in those incredible Copeland Islands views while you wait on your whiskey cask to reach maturity. For more information visit copelanddistillery.com.
Speaking of views, Donaghadee has them by the boat load. As the town is located at the closest point to Scotland it offers unspoiled views out to the horizon. On clear days, the Scottish coast and the Isle of Man are easy to see. And the best place to enjoy these views? The Moat of course!
One of the most prominent features of the whole town is the Motte, or the Moat as it is known, which dates back to 1818 and towers over the town. Later in its story it provided protection against the Viking raids. Today the Moat is part of a park, giving views across the town and seawards to the Copeland Islands and, on clear days, to the Scottish coast and the Isle of Man.
Towering over the harbour at 16ft, the crisp white lighthouse was erected in 1836. The first on the island of Ireland to be converted to electricity, unfortunately the Donaghadee lighthouse is not open to the public but can be enjoyed for its contribution to the landscape.
When you think Donaghadee nowadays, food and drink is one of the first things you think! The nautical-inspired Pier 36 not only offers stylish surroundings and first-class atmosphere, it also offers an impressive menu championing the best local ingredients and technique. We recommend a cocktail in its beer garden overlooking the harbour at sunset.
In the running as Ireland’s oldest pub, Grace Neill’s dates back to 1611 – Donaghadee’s busiest time. It has been visited by smugglers, pirates, sailors and soldiers over the years and well worth a visit for its stellar drinks menu, mouth-watering bistro menu and entertainment evenings.
One Shore Street was founded by London-living duo who returned to Donaghadee to realise their dream of owning a seaside B&B. And it sure is dreamy! Dating back to the 1800s the building has undergone a complete transformation, but you can see straight away how much care has been taken to retain and restore many original features to ensure the heritage of the building lives on.
While the sublime decor and hospitality are one thing, its events calendar sets this venue apart with partnerships with Northern Ireland’s most-talented chefs and coveted brands.