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Donaghadee - Down - B/W

general view

Donaghadee (from the Irish: Domhnach Daoi meaning 'Daoi’s Church') is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland, situated on the east coast, about 18 miles from Belfast and about eight miles north east of Newtownards. The fishing port lies on the Ards Peninsula about five miles south east of Bangor. It had a population of 6,470 people in the 2001 Census. The town boasts a number of pubs, including Grace Neill's - the oldest pub in Ireland, opened in 1611 as the ’King’s Arms?


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Photo Details

  • County: Down
  • Town: Donaghadee
  • Scene:General view of town looking atThe Moate and Copelands
  • Date: 1920 (estimate)


  • Digitally remastered
  • 10' x 8' printed on quality photo paper
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  • Read aboutDonaghadee below


Donaghadee (from the Irish: Domhnach Daoi meaning 'Daoi’s Church') is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland, situated on the east coast, about 18 miles from Belfast and about eight miles north east of Newtownards. The fishing port lies on the Ards Peninsula about five miles south east of Bangor. It had a population of 6,470 people in the 2001 Census. The town boasts a number of pubs, including Grace Neill's - the oldest pub in Ireland, opened in 1611 as the ’King’s Arms?

Places of interest

Harbour and lighthouse

Donaghadee is probably best known for its lighthouse and harbour. There has been a haven for ships at Donaghadee (locally known colloquially as the 'Dee') for centuries, and there has also existed a harbour since at least the 17th century. Viscount Montgomery's harbour (1626; improved 1640), superseding what had hitherto been probably only a small jetty, was built and maintained as a result of the Royal Warrant of 1616 which limited travel between the Ards and the Rhins of Galloway to this port, and that at Portpatrick also owned by Montgomery. It was described by Harris in 1744 as 'a curving quay about 400 feet long and 22 feet wide built of uncemented stones'. It ran from the shore at the north end of the Parade in a broad arc, bent against the open sea, towards the southern end of the present north pier. Much patched and decrepit, the quay was virtually rebuilt, though along the original line, between 1775 and 1785 by the landlord, Daniel Delacherois, probably with the help of John Smeaton, the distinguished civil engineer who had apparently made earlier more elaborate plans for extending the harbour, and who had just rebuilt Portpatrick harbour. The old quay remained until after the completion of the new harbour, and then, despite its continued favour by local fishermen, was removed for local wall building about 1833. (It appears in the 1832 drawing but not on the first O.S. map of 1834).

Original plans by John Rennie
Original plans by John Rennie

The foundation stone of the new harbour was laid by the Marquis of Downshire on 1 August 1821. The initial plans and surveys for this ambitious undertaking had been made by John Rennie Senior, the celebrated engineer whose works included Waterloo, Southwark and London Bridges over the Thames. He, however, died within two months of work beginning, and was succeeded by his son, John, later Sir John Rennie, who had as his resident engineer a fellow Scot, the seasoned marine builder, David Logan, who had assisted Robert Stevenson at the Bell Rock Lighthouse (1807-1810). The new harbour had to have greater depth to accommodate steam packets. Rock blasted from the sea bed, within the harbour area and further south in what became known as the Quarry Hole at Meetinghouse Point was used to form the outer slopes of the two piers; but the inner faces were built of limestone from the Moelfre quarries of Anglesea. This 'Anglesea marble' lends itself to the finest ashlar dressing and the new piers remain a triumph of stone carving. The flights of steps display special skill in the deep diagonal binding of each solid step, providing a typically robust engineer's response to the wear of seaboots and waves alike. The harbour consists of two independent piers running north westwards out to sea; parallel nearer the shore, they converge at the outer ends to form a harbour mouth 150 feet wide. At low tide the water in the harbour is fifteen feet deep.

Donaghadee Town
Donaghadee Town
Donaghadee Town
Donaghadee Town

The Moat

The Moat in Donaghadee was built to house the explosives for the blasting involved in the construction of the harbour. It is one of the most prominent features of the town. The Motte, or the Moat as it is known, dates back to 1818. Today it is part of a park, giving views across the town and seawards towards the Copeland Islands. The original mound was of Norman origin, when a motte and bailey stood on the site. It was initially used as a defensive structure, and provided an excellent look-out post.

Donaghadee Motte and Bailey
Donaghadee Motte and Bailey
Donaghadee Moat
Donaghadee Moat

Other Activities

During the summer Nelsons boats runs a licensed service to the Copeland Islands

Visitors can also enjoy a number of scenic walks, including the marine walk at The Commons, which comprises a 16-acre semi-cultivated open space with bowls, tennis, putting and an adventure playground.

As noted, Donaghadee contains a number of highly regarded pubs and restaurants. Grace Neill's on Main Street is, according to the Guinness World Records, the oldest public house in Ireland and has now incorporated a restaurant to the premises, which in 2004 received the Michelle Erdvig 'Dining Pub of the Year'. Along the seafront is Pier 36, a restaurant and pub which has managed to accumulate a number of awards in its relatively short history including 2006's Pub of the Year in the awards organised by Federation of the Retail Licensed Trade. Pier 36 also recently expanded to provide accommodation for visitors to the town, and as such is one of the few places that provide dedicated lodging in Donaghadee.

Other pubs in the town include:
?Ocean Drive
?Katie James
?The Moat Inn


Donaghadee has facilities for a number of sports including cricket, women's hockey, football and rugby teams that compete in local leagues.

Donaghadee Rugby Football Club

The formation of a rugby club in Donaghadee in 1885 came during a period of rapid growth for the game thoughout Ireland. A review of sport in the Newsletter in December that year concluded; “Football has rapidly worked its way into the very front rank of our outdoor sports. The two codes of football ?rugby and association ?can claim a very large and increasing constituency in this country and the first half of the season has afforded ample evidence that, apart from the increasing numbers, our players are making remarkable strides in the science of the game.?/P>

It was against that background that the new Donaghadee Club, formed by the Rev. Coote made its first match against Bangor on November 7, 1885. The game ended in a draw.

From DRFC website:

'The game was played in Donaghadee, possibly on the field behind the Church of Ireland Rectory ?in other words on the very same place the Donaghadee club uses to this day.'

Donaghadee Golf Club

Donaghadee Golf Club was founded in 1899 and is part links and part open parkland. The course features little in the way of rough but several water hazards lurk to catch the stray shot. The 18th hole is a finishing hole with out of bounds on both left and right, while the sea breeze can provide an extra challenge to visitors. This area of the County Down coastline and Donaghadee in particular provides views over the nearby Copeland Islands. The 16th tee is an excellent vantage point and the hills of south east Scotland can be visible in the distance on a clear day. The club also provides catering facilities in the clubhouse.

From this golfing guide:

'Donaghadee Golf Club is worth a visit for the golf enthusiast. It is an 18-hole part links and parkland course. Clubhouse has the essential bar and restaurant to keep the visitors and members refreshed. A snooker room is available to keep visitors busy. A pro shop tends to the shopping needs of the visitors. Club and trolley hire facilities are also available. The 18th hole at this course can be a bit intimidating due to the water hazards.'


  • Irish Rebellion of 1798 - On the morning of Pike Sunday, 10 June 1798 a force of United Irishmen, mainly from Bangor, Donaghadee, Greyabbey and Ballywalter attempted to occupy the town of Newtownards. They met with musket fire from the market house and were defeated.
  • The lifeboat station at Donaghadee harbour, founded in 1910, is one of the most important on the Irish coast. RNLB Sir Samuel Kelly is a famous lifeboat once based in Donaghadee and now on show and preserved at the harbour for her gallant efforts over 50 years ago. On 31 January 1953 the lifeboat rescued 32 survivors in the Irish Sea from the stricken Larne–Stranraer car ferry, MV Princess Victoria.
Donaghadee Parish Church
Donaghadee Parish Church

2001 Census

Donaghadee is classified as a Small Town by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (ie with population between 4,500 and 10,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 6,470 people living in Donaghadee. Of these:

  • 19.4 were aged under 16 years and 26.3 were aged 60 and over
  • 47.5 of the population were male and 52.6 were female
  • 5.2 were from a Catholic background and 90.0 were from a Protestant background
  • 3.3 of people aged 16-74 were unemployed.

Donaghadee in the Media

Donaghadee served as the basis for fictional town Donaghadoo in the children's television series 'Lifeboat Luke'.