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Portrush (from Irish: Port Rois, meaning "promontory port")[2] is a small seaside resort town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, on the County Londonderry border. The main part of the old town, including the railway station as well as most hotels, restaurants and bars, is built on a mile–long peninsula, Ramore Head, pointing north-northwest. It had a population of 6,454 people as measured in 2011. In the off-season, Portrush is a dormitory town for the nearby campus of the University of Ulster at Coleraine. It neighbours the resort of Portstewart.

On the beach - - 53193.jpg
Planes on the beach during the yearly air show
Portrush is located in Northern Ireland
Location within Northern Ireland
Population6,454 (2011)
Irish grid referenceC855409
• Belfast50 miles (80 km)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBT56
Dialling code028, +44 28
PoliceNorthern Ireland
FireNorthern Ireland
AmbulanceNorthern Ireland
EU ParliamentNorthern Ireland
UK Parliament
List of places
Northern Ireland
55°12′17″N 6°39′08″W / 55.20474°N 6.65222°W / 55.20474; -6.65222Coordinates: 55°12′17″N 6°39′08″W / 55.20474°N 6.65222°W / 55.20474; -6.65222

The town is well known for its three sandy beaches, the West Strand, East Strand and White Rocks, as well as the Royal Portrush Golf Club, the only golf club outside Great Britain which has hosted The Open Championship.

It was the base for the Katie Hannan (this life boat was damaged in 2008, after running aground during a rescue at Rathlin Island, Now based as a training boat for the RNLI), a Severn class lifeboat and Ken and Mary, a D–class inshore lifeboat of the RNLI. Lifeboats have operated out of Portrush Harbour since 1860, and currently stationed there are the Severn class William Gordon Burr and the D-class inshore vessel David Roulston.

Portrush is in the East Londonderry constituency for the UK Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly.



Portrush Chapel, Ireland (1850)[3]

A number of flint tools found during the late 19th century show that the site of Portrush was occupied during the "Larnian" (late Irish Mesolithic) period;[4] recent estimates date this to around 4000 BC.[5]

The site of Portrush, with its excellent natural defences, probably became a permanent settlement around the 12th or 13th century. A church is known to have existed on Ramore Head at this time, but no part of it now survives. From the records of the papal taxation of 1306, the Portrush church – and by extension the village – appears to have been reasonably wealthy. The promontory also held two castles, at varying periods. The first of these, Caisleán an Teenie, is believed to have been at the tip of Ramore Head, and probably destroyed in the late 16th century; the other, Portrush Castle, may have been built around the time of the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century. Nothing survives of either castle.[6]

Following the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the mid-17th century, Portrush became a small fishing town. It grew heavily in the 19th century as a tourist destination, following the opening of the Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine and Portrush Junction Railway in 1855, and by the turn of the 20th century had become one of the major resort towns of Ireland, with a number of large hotels and boarding houses including the prominent Northern Counties Hotel. As well as the town's beaches and the Royal Portrush Golf Club (opened 1888), the nearby Giant's Causeway was a popular tourist destination, with the Giant's Causeway Tramway – at the time, one of the world's longest electrified railways – built in 1893 to cater to travellers coming from Portrush.

The town's fortunes peaked in the late 19th and early 20th century, and declined after the Second World War with the growth of foreign travel. It escaped any involvement in the Troubles until 3 August 1976, when a series of bombings of properties burned out and destroyed several buildings, though with no loss of life.[7] In a second attack in April 1987, two officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) were shot in the back by the Provisional Irish Republican Army while on foot patrol on Main Street.[8]


Portrush is classified as a small town (i.e. with a population between 10,000 and 18,000 people) by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).[9]:11

2011 CensusEdit

On Census day (27 March 2011) there were 6,003 people living in Portrush (2,824 households), accounting for 0.36% of the NI total.[10] Of these:

  • 18.89% were aged under 16 years and 19.09% were aged 65 and over;
  • 51.78% of the usually resident population were female and 48.22% were male;
  • 66.90% belong to or were brought up in a 'Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related)' religion and 24.84% belong to or were brought up in the Catholic religion;
  • 63.43% indicated that they had a British national identity, 32.89% had a Northern Irish national identity and 11.93% had an Irish national identity (respondents could indicate more than one national identity);
  • 42 years was the average (median) age of the population;
  • 15.75% had some knowledge of Ulster-Scots and 4.83% had some knowledge of Irish (Gaelic).

For more details see: Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service.[11]

Places of interestEdit

Portrush's West Strand Beach.
  • Attractions in the town include the "Coastal Zone" (formerly the Portrush Countryside Centre),[12] Waterworld swimming complex, and, on the edge of town, the links of the Royal Portrush Golf Club, which hosted the 1951 British Open golf championship, and Ballyreagh Golf Course. At the 1951 British Open golf championship young star Derek McLachlan won the hearts of the local crowd when he led on the third day by 3 strokes only to drive out of bounds twice on the final day of the Open and finish tied for 8th place.
  • There are two long sandy beaches in the town, known as the West and East Strand. White Rocks and Curran Strand stretch on from the East Strand and are backed by dunes. The coast continues past Dunluce Castle to the Giant's Causeway (it was once possible to travel to these attractions from Portrush on the Giant's Causeway Tramway). A 13 ft high bronze sculpture,[13] inspired by the sails of local traditional boats, is located at East Strand ('To the People of the Sea' by Cork-based sculptor Holger Lönze).
  • Portrush is home to one of Northern Ireland's best known nightclubs. The Kelly's complex consists of a multitude of bars and clubs and is Northern Ireland's largest nightclub complex.[citation needed] It includes the nightclub Lush! which attracts many of the world's top DJs and hosts BBC Radio 1 events.
  • Portrush is also home to Barry's Amusements, the largest amusement park in Northern Ireland. Actor James Nesbitt once worked in Barry's.
  • The Skerries, a collection of rocks located just off the coast, are an important habitat for several species, some unique to Northern Ireland.


  • Portrush hosts an annual air show at the beginning of September.[14]
  • The RNLI raft race is a popular annual event. This is a popular competition where contestants must build a raft that can travel from the West Strand beach into Portrush Harbour. The contest has been featured on Northern Ireland news broadcasts on several years. The event is a great credit to the RNLI's popularity in the area.[15]
  • The North West 200 is a motorcycle race which runs through Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush every May, a long-running tourist attraction which has attracted crowds in excess of 150,000 in past years.[16] The late brothers Joey Dunlop and Robert Dunlop have been regular winners at the races: they hold the record for most wins, with thirteen and fifteen respectively.
A panorama of Portrush


The following schools are in Portrush:[citation needed]

  • Portrush Primary School: a primary school with a nursery unit on Crocnamac Road. The school educates around 250 pupils aged 4–11. Portrush Primary was established in 1959.
  • Carnalridge Primary School.
  • Mill Strand Integrated Primary School.
  • St. Patricks Primary School.




  • Royal Portrush Golf Club. The only place outside Great Britain to host the British Open. 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke is the club’s resident professional, and lives in Portrush.
  • Portrush Hockey Club
  • The Northern Ireland Milk Cup uses Parker Avenue in Portrush as one of the pitches for the tournament, and many teams stay within the town itself.
  • All three of Portrush's beaches are frequently used by watersports enthusiasts, in particular surfers and bodyboarders
  • Coleraine council maintain tennis courts, bowling greens and a playground at Ramore Head.
  • Fishing is popular from shoreside or at sea, with fishing boats available for hire at the Harbour.


Portrush railway station was opened on 4 December 1855 and closed for goods traffic on 20 September 1954. The station is the last stop on the Coleraine-Portrush railway line, where travellers can connect with trains to Derry, Belfast and beyond.[18]

Portrush is a busy seaside resort, with a frequent train service run by Northern Ireland Railways connecting with Ulsterbus services linking to Bushmills and the Giant's Causeway.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Dunluce Castle US NI Department of the Environment. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  2. ^ "Port Rois/Portrush". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Portrush Chapel, Ireland". Wesleyan Juvenile Offering. London: Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. VII: 31. March 1850. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  4. ^ JSTOR 25506293, p. 244; JSTOR 25513788, p. 238-242
  5. ^ JSTOR 25800527, p. 249
  6. ^,274001,en.pdf
  7. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1976". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  8. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1987". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Statistical Classification and Delineation of Settlements" (PDF). NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). February 2005. Table 3 / Band C - Large Town. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  10. ^ "Census 2011 Population Statistics for Coleraine Settlement". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  11. ^ Agency, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research. "statistics". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Education at The Coastal Zone Portrush". UK: Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  13. ^ "East Strand Portrush Artwork website".
  14. ^ "Northern Ireland International Air Show website".
  15. ^ "Portrush Royal National Lifeboat Institution website".[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "BBC Mobile - BBC Sport - N Ireland - North West 200 - About NW200". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  17. ^ Doward, Jamie (21 September 2014). "The real-life triumphs of the gay communist behind hit movie Pride". The Guardian.
  18. ^ "Portrush station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Retrieved 28 August 2007.

Further readingEdit

  • Abdelmonem, M.G. Portrush: Architecture for the North Irish Coast. Ulster Tattler Group. ISBN 978-0-9504092-1-4.
  • Deane, Ciarán (1994). The Guinness Book of Irish Facts & Feats. Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-793-2.

External linksEdit

  • "Portrush" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 (11th ed.). 1911.
  • Local Secrets on Things to do in Portrush – A list of the big attractions in Portrush, plus some local secrets to share. Specialist local information for lovers of golf, walking, fishing, riding and surfing.
  • Visit Portrush – Local guide to Portrush, featuring info on accommodation, activities, places to eat, services and travel.
  • Landscapes Unlocked – Aerial footage from the BBC Sky High series explaining the physical, social and economic geography of Northern Ireland.
  • ‘To the People of the Sea’ – Information on and images of the public sculpture on East Strand: three 13 ft high Drontheim yawl sails in bronze.
  • Portrush on the Culture Northern Ireland website.