Donaghadee is the nearest port to Scotland and in early times was the main landing point in Northern Ireland for travellers from Britain.
Trade across the Irish Sea was based on the Packet Service and in 1626 a harbour was built to facilitate the boats that worked between Donaghadee and Portpatrick, only 35 kilometres away. This however was superseded by the Larne -Stranraer route and Donaghadee fell into decline.
The foundation stone of a new port was laid by the Marquis of Downshire on 1 August 1821. This new improved 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 46 metres wide.
The lighthouse was established in 1836 with a fixed character, that is non-flashing, showing red mainly to seaward and white over the harbour and towards Belfast Lough. The tower is built of cut limestone, fluted, and in its early days was left unpainted in its natural grey colour. Today the tower, including the lantern and dome, is painted white with a black plinth, a decision which was taken some time between 1869 and 1875.
Back at the dawn of the 20th century, the steamship companies were in aggressive competition with each other over their various routes. In order to get their passengers to their destinations in the quickest possible time, many corners were shaved.
One of these involved taking a short cut through Donaghadee Sound instead of the longer, but safer route around Mew Island. Three of the Belfast Steam Company’s ships almost came undone as they struck a “very hard underwater obstruction”- probably uncharted rocks- while using the sound. The Marine superintendent refused to light the buoys in the Sound as he reasoned that it would just encourage more vessels to attempt the short cut. However after his initial refusal, estimated were sought for the cost of illuminating the buoys, but in wasn’t until three years later in 1910, that they were actually lighted.
Location: 54°38.707′ North, 05°31.860′ West.
Elevation: 17 m
Character: ISO WR 4s
Range: W: 31 km. R:24 km.
Donaghadee is one of those handsome medium-sized harbours that are a pleasure to just spend a morning exploring. I got there early with my sketchbook to find the lifeboat in the harbour. The Trent class lifeboat looks very similar to the Severn but is slightly smaller and sits here beneath the elegant fluted limestone lighthouse.
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