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On the beach - geograph.org.uk - 53193.jpg
Planes on the beach during the yearly air show
Portrush is located in Northern Ireland
Location within Northern Ireland
Population6,454 (Census 2011)
Irish grid referenceC855409
• Belfast50 miles (80 km)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBT56
Dialling code028
PoliceNorthern Ireland
FireNorthern Ireland
AmbulanceNorthern Ireland
UK Parliament
NI Assembly
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

Portrush (from Irish: Port Rois, meaning 'port of the promontory')[3] is a small seaside resort town on the north coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It neighbours the resort of Portstewart. The main part of the old town, including the railway station as well as most hotels, restaurants and bars, is built on a 1 mile (1.6 km)–long peninsula, Ramore Head. It had a population of 6,454 people at the 2011 Census.[4] In the off-season, Portrush is a dormitory town for the nearby campus of the University of Ulster at Coleraine.

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 in 1951 and 2019.

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 Harbour c.1900
Portrush Chapel, Ireland (1850)[5]

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;[6] recent estimates date this to around 4000 BC.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]


On Census day (27 March 2011) there were 6,454 people living in Portrush (2,824 households), accounting for 0.36% of the NI total.[4] 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)'faiths and 24.84% belong to or were brought up in the Catholic faith;
  • 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 (Gaeilge).


Portrush has an oceanic climate (Köppen: Cfb).

Climate data for Portrush (8 m or 26 ft elevation, averages 1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7.9
Average low °C (°F) 3.2
Average rainfall mm (inches) 85.6
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 17.2 12.6 15.4 11.5 12.1 11.9 13.4 14.4 16.1 17.9 17.8 16.3 176.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 50.9 70.2 109.6 178.2 221.6 175.0 152.9 137.3 124.1 96.1 53.9 37.3 1,407.3
Source: metoffice.gov.uk[11]

Places of interest[edit]

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 three strokes only to drive out of bounds twice on the final day and finish tied for eighth place.
  • For the 2019 Open, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews invested significant funds in the region to improve the rail service and worked with the club to modify the course so it could better host a modern major championship. The 2019 championship had the largest advance ticket sales of any Open ever held.[13]
  • There are two long sandy beaches in the resort: 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). “To the People of the Sea”, a 13 ft (4 m) high bronze sculpture[14] on the East Strand, inspired by the sails of local traditional boats, is by Cork-based sculptor Holger Lönze.
  • Portrush is home to one of Northern Ireland's best known nightclubs. Kelly's has a number of bars and clubs, making up 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 there. The park was put up for sale as a potential development site in May 2021.[15]
  • The Skerries, a series of small rocky islets 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.[16]

The RNLI raft race is am annual event in which contestants must build a raft that can take them from the West Strand beach into Portrush Harbour. The event has been featured on Northern Ireland news broadcasts on several years and is a great credit to the RNLI's popularity locally.[17]

The North West 200 is a motorcycle road race following the triangular route around Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush. Held every May, with events in various engine categories, it attracts crowds in excess of 150,000.[18] The late brothers Joey Dunlop and Robert Dunlop, both born locally, hold records for the most wins in various races, with 13 and 15 respectively.

A panorama of Portrush


The following schools are in Portrush:[19]

  • 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.





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.[22]

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 also[edit]


  1. ^ Dunluce Castle US NI Department of the Environment. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  2. ^ "Port Rois/Portrush". Logainm.ie. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Place Names NI - Home". www.placenamesni.org.
  4. ^ a b "Census 2011 Population Statistics for Portrush Settlement". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  5. ^ "Portrush Chapel, Ireland". Wesleyan Juvenile Offering. London: Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. VII: 31. March 1850. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  6. ^ JSTOR 25506293, p. 244; JSTOR 25513788, p. 238-242
  7. ^ JSTOR 25800527, p. 249
  8. ^ "Cite information" (PDF). www.qub.ac.uk. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  9. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1976". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  10. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1987". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Climate Normals 1981–2010". Met Office. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  12. ^ "Education at The Coastal Zone Portrush". UK: doeni.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  13. ^ Golf magazine, August 2019
  14. ^ "Portrush East Strand Sculpture: To the People of the Sea by Holger Lonze". www.peopleofthesea.info.
  15. ^ "Historic Barry's Amusements in Portrush goes on sale for development". irishtimes.com. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  16. ^ "Web Hosting, Reseller Hosting & Domain Names from Heart Internet". niinternationalairshow.co.uk.
  17. ^ "Portrush Royal National Lifeboat Institution website".[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ "BBC Mobile - BBC Sport - N Ireland - North West 200 - About NW200". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Schools in Portrush". schools-search.co.uk. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  20. ^ Doward, Jamie (21 September 2014). "The real-life triumphs of the gay communist behind hit movie Pride". The Guardian.
  21. ^ https://www.causewaycoastandglens.gov.uk/
  22. ^ "Portrush station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Retrieved 28 August 2007.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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 links[edit]

  • "Portrush" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 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.