PORTSTEWART

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

PORTSTEWART, a sea-port and town, in the parish of BALLYACHRAN, liberties of COLERAINE, county of LONDONDERRY, and province of ULSTER, 3 ½ miles (N.) from Coleraine, to which it has a penny post; containing 475 inhabitants. It is situated at the foot of a branch of the great basaltic range of promontories, and commands an extensive view of the estuary of the Bann, the entrance into Lough Foyle, and the promontory of Downhill, with the peninsula of Ennishowen in the distance. The exertions of the proprietors, John Cromie and Henry O'Hara, Esqrs., have raised this place, in the space of a few years, from a group of fishermen's huts to a delightful and well frequented summer residence. Its principal street, which commands the view already described, consists of well-built hotels and shops, having the mansion of Mr. Cromie near its centre; at a little distance to the south is another street of smaller houses, and westward are a number of detached villas, lodges, and ornamented cottages, chiefly built for bathing-lodges by the gentry of the surrounding counties.

In this portion is a castle, built in 1834 by Mr. O'Hara, on a projecting cliff over the sea, the road to which is cut in traverses through the rock on which it stands, thus giving it the character of a chieftain's fortress of the feudal ages. A mail coach passes through the town every day; numerous vehicles ply to Coleraine; and steamers frequently arrive from Liverpool, the Clyde, Londonderry, and occasionally from Belfast. A mile from the town is the parish church of Agherton; divine service is also performed in a school-house in the place. There are a meeting-house for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, and a chapel for Wesleyan Methodists. The town is plentifully supplied with wild fowl, round and flat fish and herrings, of which last one of the most productive fisheries is off this port and on the coast of Ennishowen.

The air here is serene and pure, the scenery grand and picturesque, the country well cultivated, planted, and embellished with elegant mansions, the principal of which, besides those already noticed, are Cromore, the seat of John Cromie, Esq.; Flowerfield, of S. Orr, Esq.; Low Rock, of Miss McManus; and Blackrock, of T. Bennet, Esq. The vicinity presents a variety of objects of geological interest, especially at the castle and near the creek of Port-na-happel, where there is a rock of the colour and appearance of Castile soap, which, on being burnt, emits a sulphureous smell, and leaves a purple cinder: here also are large layers of zeolite, steatite and ochre among the rocks of basalt. Not far from the town is the old channel of the Bann, from which the new channel has shifted nearly a mile westward: between both are large drifts of sand blown in from the sea, and covering many acres of excellent land.

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