Coordinates: 54°22′51″N 5°32′55″W / 54.3809°N 5.5486°W / 54.3809; -5.5486
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Portaferry from the pier towards the north
Portaferry is located in County Down
Location within County Down
Population2,514 (2011 Census)
Irish grid referenceJ594509
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBT22
Dialling code028
PoliceNorthern Ireland
FireNorthern Ireland
AmbulanceNorthern Ireland
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°22′51″N 5°32′55″W / 54.3809°N 5.5486°W / 54.3809; -5.5486
Portaferry from the grounds of Castle Ward, on the opposite bank of Strangford Lough

Portaferry (from Irish Port an Pheire 'landing place of the ferry') is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland, at the southern end of the Ards Peninsula, near the Narrows at the entrance to Strangford Lough. It is home to the Exploris aquarium and is well known for the annual Gala Week Float Parade. It hosts its own small Marina, the Portaferry Marina. The Portaferry – Strangford Ferry service operates daily at 30-minute intervals (7.45 am to 10.45 pm) between the villages of Portaferry and Strangford, less than 1500 metres apart, conveying about 500,000 passengers per annum. It had a population of 2,514 people in the 2011 Census.[1] The town is located within the Barony of Ards Upper.[2]

Pot fishing, mainly for prawns and crabs and licensed shellfish farming takes place within Strangford Lough. Queen's University of Belfast[3] have a Marine Research Laboratory on the shorefront. The town is also home to a research centre for Swedish tidal-kite developer Minesto. The lough is one of the world's most important marine sites with over 2,000 marine species.

There are fine Georgian buildings in the town square, including a Market House, now used as a community centre.

Portaferry Lifeboat is an essential lifeline for local fishermen and yachtsmen. The Atlantic 75 is the fastest seagoing lifeboat in the RNLI's fleet and is capable of speeds up to 34 knots.[4][5]



Algae. Records of algae such as Polysiphonia fibrata, Haraldiophyllum bonnemaisonii have been recorded from Portaferry.[6]


2011 Census[edit]

Portaferry is classified as an intermediate settlement by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (i.e. with population between 2,250 and 4,500 people). On Census day (27 March 2011) there were 2,511 people living in Portaferry. Of these:

  • 20.23% were aged under 16 years and 16.65% were aged 65 and over
  • 50.98% of the usually resident population were male and 49.02% were female
  • 99.44% were from the white (including Irish Traveller) ethnic group
  • 84.15% belong to or were brought up in the Catholic religion and 12.31% belong to or were brought up in a 'Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related)' religion
  • 32.02% indicated that they had a British national identity, 35.68% had an Irish national identity and 37.00% had a Northern Irish national identity



Strangford Lough View From Windmill Hill, Portaferry

The Portaferry area is popular with local and foreign tourists for its beauty, history, wildlife and other visitor attractions. Strangford Lough is the largest sea inlet in the British Isles.

It is Northern Ireland's first Marine Nature Reserve and is renowned as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Special Scientific Interest, with six National Nature Reserves within its reaches. Over 2000 species of marine animals have been found in the lough and internationally important flocks of wildfowl and wading birds converge there in winter. The lough is also the most important site in Ireland for breeding common seals.


Climate data for Lough Cowey (10m elevation) 1991–2020
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 8.5
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 3.1
Average rainfall mm (inches) 78.5
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 13.1 11.2 10.5 10.7 11.4 10.8 11.9 13.1 10.7 12.2 14.1 13.5 143.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 54.7 79.1 117.9 168.7 204.6 169.7 170.3 164.0 135.7 101.4 67.0 49.4 1,482.5
Source: metoffice.gov.uk[10]


GAA sports, particularly hurling are popular in the area and Portaferry GAC were Ulster Club Hurling Champions in 2014. There are two other GAA clubs nearby, Ballygalget and Ballycran, and there is intense rivalry between the three.

Other pursuits are sailing, coastal rowing, angling, wildfowling, and birdwatching. The town has the lough's longest established sailing club.


Portaferry industrial activities include agriculture, fishing, tourism. 'Suki Tea' announced as of 2014 that experimental tea growing will commence in the area, utilising the relatively warm and dry climate, with frost protection from Strangford Lough.

The lough is a centre for experimental marine current turbine technology development. Tidal energy, unlike wind or wave, is a renewable energy resource which can be predicted. In 2008 a twin-rotor 1.2 MW SeaGen was installed and successfully demonstrated this technology until its decommissioning which began in 2017.[11] Swedish company Minesto have tested various versions of their tidal-kite technology in the lough since 2011, and have a workshop and offices in Portaferry.[12][13]

Portaferry played a part in the linen industry. Many of the women in the town were employed to embroider handkerchiefs for Thomas Somerset and Co. one of the major linen companies in Ireland. The company realised that the women were more productive in the summer due to the light, so installed the first electric light outside of Belfast in Ulster. Each house with a working woman was given one light fitting and bulb. There was also a bus service introduced to bring more women from the Ards Peninsula to Portaferry to work in the factory that Somerset built.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Portaferry". Census 2011 Results. NI Statistics and Research Agency. Archived from the original on 22 April 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  2. ^ Townlands.ie: Barony of Upper Ards. https://www.townlands.ie/down/upper-ards/
  3. ^ Marine Laboratory Archived 2 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Portaferry Lifeboat". Archived from the original on 1 April 2004. Retrieved 11 April 2004.
  5. ^ Culture Northern Ireland – Portaferry Lifeboat Station Archived 17 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Morton, O, 1994 Marine Algae of Northern Ireland. Ulster Museum. ISBN 0 900761 28 8
  7. ^ Senyard, J. E. (1972). "Glass, Hugh (1817–1871)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol. 4. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  8. ^ "The Late Hugh Glass". Age. 16 May 1871. p. 3. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  9. ^ Culture Northern ireland – Joseph Tomelty Archived 21 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Climate Normals 1981–2010". Met Office. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  11. ^ "Strangford tidal energy turbine to be removed". BBC News. 27 January 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  12. ^ Garanovic, Amir (15 February 2022). "Minesto hires tidal test support crew". Offshore Energy. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  13. ^ "Strangford Lough test and demonstration site". Minesto. 1 January 2023. Retrieved 18 February 2024.