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Aerial View of Donaghadee.jpg
Aerial View of Donaghadee.
Donaghadee is located in County Down
Location within County Down
Population6,869 (2011 Census)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBT21
Dialling code028
PoliceNorthern Ireland
FireNorthern Ireland
AmbulanceNorthern Ireland
UK Parliament
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°38′N 5°32′W / 54.63°N 5.53°W / 54.63; -5.53Coordinates: 54°38′N 5°32′W / 54.63°N 5.53°W / 54.63; -5.53

Donaghadee (/ˌdɒnəxəˈd/ DON-ə-khə-DEE,[3] from Irish: Domhnach Daoi)[4] is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies on the northeast coast of the Ards Peninsula, about 18 miles (29 km) east of Belfast and about six miles (10 km) south east of Bangor. It is in the civil parish of Donaghadee and the historic barony of Ards Lower.[4] It had a population of 6,869 people in the 2011 Census.[5]


Donaghadee c.1914

The name 'Donaghadee' comes from Irish Domhnach Daoi, which has two possible meanings: "church of Daoi", after an unattested saint, or "church of the motte".[4] Originally the site of a Gaelic ringfort, the Anglo-Normans built a motte-and-bailey castle on the site after they conquered the area in the late 12th century.[6]

In the early 17th century, Hugh Montgomery settled Scottish Protestants there as part of the Plantation of Ulster, and it began to grow into a small town.[4]

The town featured in the 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.

Donaghadee was used in the 1759–1826 period by couples going to Portpatrick in Scotland to marry, as there was a daily packet boat. During this period, Portpatrick was known as the "Gretna Green for Ireland".

The lifeboat station at Donaghadee harbour, founded in 1910, is one of the most important on the Irish coast. RNLB Sir Samuel Kelly (ON 885) is a noted lifeboat once based in Donaghadee and now on show and preserved at the harbour for her efforts over 50 years ago. On 31 January 1953, the lifeboat rescued 32 survivors in the Irish Sea from the stricken LarneStranraer car ferry, MV Princess Victoria.[citation needed]


On Census day (27 March 2011) there were 6,869 people living in Donaghadee (2,997 households), accounting for 0.38% of the NI total.[5] The Census 2011 population represented an increase of 6.1% on the Census 2001 figure of 6,470.[7] Of these:

  • 18.43% were aged under 16 years and 22.03% were aged 65 and over;
  • 51.89% of the usually resident population were female and 48.11% were male;
  • 82.84% belong to or were brought up in a 'Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related)' religion and 6.39% belong to or were brought up in the Catholic faith;
  • 76.58% indicated that they had a British national identity, 31.26% had a Northern Irish national identity and 5.71% had an Irish national identity (respondents could indicate more than one national identity);
  • 44 years was the average (median) age of the population;
  • 11.98% had some knowledge of Ulster-Scots and 2.48% had some knowledge of Irish (Gaelic).

Places of interest[edit]

Donaghadee Harbour and lighthouse

Harbour and lighthouse[edit]

Donaghadee is known for its lighthouse and harbour. For centuries, it has been a haven for ships, and the harbour has been there from at least the 17th century.[citation needed]

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 (120 m) long and 22 feet (6.7 m) 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, a civil engineer who had apparently made earlier more elaborate plans for extending the harbour, and had just rebuilt Portpatrick harbour.[citation needed]

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). The foundation stone of the new harbour was laid by the Marquess of Downshire on 1 August 1821. The initial plans and surveys for this ambitious undertaking were made by John Rennie Senior, the celebrated engineer whose works included Waterloo, Southwark and London Bridges over the Thames. He 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 (46 m) wide. At low tide the water in the harbour is fifteen feet deep.[citation needed]

The Motte[edit]

Donaghadee Motte

The Motte or Moat in Donaghadee was originally a motte-and-bailey castle built by the Anglo-Normans in the late 12th century. The folly or castle on top of the motte was built by Daniel Delacherois in the early 19th century. It was used for storing the gunpowder, used for blasting, when the new harbour was being built between 1821 and 1834. Today it is part of a park, giving views across the town and seawards towards the Copeland Islands.[6]

Photograph of Donaghadee Parish Church
Donaghadee Parish Church

Other activities[edit]

Scenic walks include the marine walk at The Commons, which comprises a 16-acre (65,000 m2) semi-cultivated open space with bowls, tennis, putting and an adventure playground. There are several restaurants and pubs in the town, including Grace Neill's, opened in 1611 as the "King's Arms", and which claims to be the oldest bar in Ireland (a claim also made by other pubs, including by Sean's Bar in Athlone).[8]



The Copeland Bird Observatory is situated on Lighthouse Island, one of the three islands not far, and to be seen, from Donaghadee. It collects data on the migrating birds and by ringing them records the movements of the migratory species.[9] The islands are an internationally important site for breeding Manx Shearwater and Arctic Tern.[10]


Among the algae recorded from Donaghadee are Gastroclonium ovatum, Callophyllis laciniata, Fucus ceranoides, Desmarestia ligulata, Hordaria flagelliformis, Codium fragile ssp. atlanticum and Cladophora pygmaea.[11] Flowering plants have been recorded from Donaghadee and are listed with details by Hackney (1992).[12]


Donaghadee Choir was founded in 1932. It began as a small local chorus performing in churches and other local functions. The choir has performed on stage, radio and television as far afield as the US, Canada, Malta and Bulgaria, where it was the first choir from Ireland to perform behind the former "Iron Curtain".[citation needed] The choir has been successful in competition, with over 40 firsts in the male voice and open sections of festivals in Britain and Ireland.[citation needed] These include Whitby, Morecambe, Wharfedale, Cheltenham, Bangor, Coleraine and the AIMS New Ross Festival, where it achieved one of the highest marks ever given.[citation needed] It has also competed at the International Eisteddfod in Wales. The choir celebrated its 75th anniversary during the 2007/08 season.[citation needed]

In the media[edit]

Donaghadee was the basis for the fictional town of Donaghadoo in the children's television series Lifeboat Luke, which was animated by the Donaghadee animation studio Straandlooper.[13] The town was used as a set for some of the film Mickybo and Me, with dozens of local residents acting as extras.[citation needed]

Donaghadee is seen in the films Robot Overlords starring Gillian Anderson, Divorcing Jack, Killing Bono and Mo the Mo Mowlam story, starring Julie Walters.[citation needed]

Donaghadee features as the fictional town of Port Devine in the BBC drama Hope Street which first aired in 2021.[14]

Donaghadee is mentioned several times in the song Forty Shades of Green, written by Johnny Cash in 1959.


Donaghadee has facilities for a number of sports including cricket, tennis, bowling, darts, golf, women's hockey, football, sailing and rugby with teams that compete in various local leagues.[citation needed]

Donaghadee Rugby Football Club was formed in 1885 during a period of rapid growth for the game throughout Ireland.[citation needed] It was against that background that the new Donaghadee club, formed by the Rev. Coote, made its first match against Bangor on 7 November 1885. The game ended in a draw. The club's grounds are called Donaldson Park.[citation needed]

The golf club in Donaghadee was founded in 1899 and is part links and part open parkland. The club also provides catering facilities in the clubhouse. The golf club won its second all Ireland trophy in 2007. This was the Irish Club Youths. They then won their 3rd All Ireland Title in 2012.[citation needed]

Donaghadee Football Club are junior football who play their home matches at Crommelin Park in the town. For the 2014-15 season they were members of Division 2C of the Northern Amateur Football League.[15] An earlier club of the same name held membership of the same league from 1948 to 1953. Donaghadee FC and Donaghadee 11s were both promoted from their respective leagues in 2016/17.[16]

Donaghadee Ladies' Hockey Club has been around since pre-war times.[vague] They have two teams which play in Ulster Hockey leagues: The 1XI play in Senior League 3, while the 2XI are in Junior 8.[17]

Other sports clubs include Donaghadee Cricket Club (a member of the NCU Senior League),[citation needed] and Donaghadee Sailing Club (which underwent redevelopment and in May 2009 with a new clubhouse opened).[18]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Allen, Harry. 2006.Donaghadee An Illustrated History. ISBN 1870132319
  • Hill, I. 1986. Northern Ireland. The Blackstaff Press. ISBN 0-85640-365-2


  1. ^ Wricht, Jhone. "Tha spairk o it". Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots. Ulster-Scots Academy. Archived from the original on 6 August 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  2. ^ McDonald, Fiona. "Fae Cowie's Craig". Ulster-Scots Language Society. Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  3. ^ Pointon, GE (1990). BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 76. ISBN 0-19-282745-6.
  4. ^ a b c d "Donaghadee". Place Names NI. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Census 2011 Population Statistics for Donaghadee Settlement". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Archived from the original on 7 May 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  6. ^ a b Donaghadee History Archived 23 November 2021 at the Wayback Machine. Visit Donaghadee. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  7. ^ "Census 2001 Usually Resident Population: KS01 (Settlements) - Table view". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). p. 3. Archived from the original on 23 September 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  8. ^ "Grace Neill's: Welcome to Ireland's most haunted bar, home to an "evil" spirit-- and we don't mean whiskey". Irish Post. 13 September 2019. Archived from the original on 26 August 2021. Retrieved 26 August 2021. Grace Neill’s bar in County Down, built in 1611, claims to be the oldest bar in Ireland. That claim is disputed [,.] Sean's Bar in Athlone
  9. ^ "Copeland Bird Observatory". Archived from the original on 16 May 2021. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  10. ^ Copeland Islands. "Copeland Island Bird Observatory". Copeland Bird Observatory. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015.
  11. ^ Morton, O. 1994. Marine Algae of Northern Ireland. Ulster Museum ISBN 0-900761-28-8
  12. ^ Hackney, P. (Ed)1992 Stewart & Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland Institute of Irish Studies and The Queen's University of BelfastISBN 053894469 Parameter error in {{ISBN}}: Invalid ISBN.
  13. ^ "STRAANDLOOPER". Retrieved 2 May 2013.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Nisbet, Megan (1 February 2022). "Where is Hope Street filmed? Locations for new BBC daytime drama". WalesOnline. Archived from the original on 5 February 2022. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
  15. ^ Donaghadee F.C. Archived 9 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine at the NAFL site
  16. ^ "NAFL history (Roll of Clubs from 1923)". Archived from the original on 28 January 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  17. ^ "Donaghadee Ladies Hockey Club". Archived from the original on 9 February 2022. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  18. ^ Donaghadee Sailing Club Website Archived 20 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine; accessed 26 May 2014.
  19. ^ Martin, Charlotte (17 April 2004). "MY LIFE IN TRAVEL: Bear Grylls". The Independent. London, UK. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 3 June 2009.

External links[edit]