Portstewart - Named after the family whose 18th Century estate included the harbour – is a quieter and more sedate resort. It is linked to its neighbour Portrush by road and the Port Path, a three-mile coastal walk complete with interpretive displays highlighting the natural history features to be observed. The town has a picturesque harbour and promenade and to the west is the sweeping two-mile stretch of Portstewart Strand. This was once home to Neolithic and early Iron Age people whose flints, arrowheads and pottery shards have been excavated from beneath the sandhills.
Portstewart is an attractive town for shopping and eating out and has a flourishing arts and cultural scene with the well established and very active Arts Centre, Flowerfield leading the way along with several art galleries and shops situiated along the Promenade. Famous for it’s ice cream, visitors can sample a variety of home-made flavours at a number of ice-cream parlours, the famous 'Morelli's Ice Cream' among them.
A simple fishing village until the early 19th century, Portstewart, under the new ownership of John Cromie, set about developing it as a ‘watering place’. He built ‘good houses’ to accommodate summer visitors and when the railway arrived in 1855 the expansion of Portstewart really took off. Local landowners however glad of the business the railway brought, did not want the railway lines to cross their land so the station was built a mile away from Portstewart, with a steam tram linking it to the Promenade.
Increasingly popular as a holiday centre during the 20s and 30s, Portstewart also remained a busy fishing port right up to the Second World War with a new harbour being built for the fleet. The sight of the fishing smacks setting off with the sun sinking behind the Innishowen hills in Donegal helped inspire the songwriter Jimmy Kennedy to pen the poignant ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’.
A prominent feature of the town is O’Hara’s Rock Castle, built in 1834 and later converted into a school, still in use today as part of Dominican Convent School. Beneath this building begins a magnificent cliff walk leading to Portstewart Strand and along the way is a holy well from which St Patrick is reputed to have drunk (Tober Patrick).
At the crescent youngsters and families can enjoy a superb play pool and outdoor entertainment complex, complete with bandstand and tiered seating. Idyllic artificial lakes have motorised ‘bumper’ boats for hire, while active kids can expend their energies on climbing frames, slides and see-saws. Other recreational facilities include bowls, tennis and football at The Warren and there is a 9-hole and two excellent 18-hole golf courses.
The Causeway Coast Way, one of a series of eight Waymarked Ways throughout Northern Ireland, is an exhilarating walking route following the dramatic north Ulster coastline from Portstewart to Ballycastle. The 52km waymarked route incorporates the Port Path (Portstewart Strand to Whiterocks, Portrush) and the Causeway Coast footpath. The route passes along sandy beaches, rocky bays, high cliffs, seaside resorts and small fishing villages, offering a great variety of coastal scenery within the designated Causeway Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
An illustrated guide, detailing the route and providing relevant associated information, is available from local tourist information centres.