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Discover the Maritime History of Groomsport with New Self-Guided Walking Tour Map

3rd September 2023
Groomsport Harbour
Groomsport Harbour Credit: Amanda McWhinney

Groomsport is a small village on the North Down coast about two miles east of Bangor but in no way overshadowed by the larger town. It and its inhabitants have always had strong maritime links.

The original Gaelic name for the village, Port an Ghiolla Ghruama means Gloomfellow Port and the Irish has been half-anglicised as Gilgroomsport. The port was, before the 17th century, the main point of embarkation for Scotland until nearby Donaghadee was developed as the mail packet route across the North Channel to Portpatrick on the Mull of Galloway.

All this history and more is now available as a self-guided walking tour using the tour map recently launched by Discover Groomsport, a charity focussing on the history and heritage of the village. The substantial interest in the village has been demonstrated by the fully booked guided walking tours held weekly in July and August.

A self-guided walking tour using a tour map launched by Discover GroomsportA self-guided walking tour using a tour map launched by Discover Groomsport

Groomsport was the departure point of the ship Eagle Wing, which carried Presbyterians seeking religious freedom, the first attempt by Ulster-Scots / Scotch Irish folk to get to America. 140 men, women, and children were aboard the ship, which had to turn back after eight weeks at sea due to bad weather. By the mid-19th century, Groomsport had a relatively large fishing fleet and housed a lifeboat station in its sheltered bay. The lifeboat station is now home to the Cockle Island Boat Club who run sailing races and events throughout the season.

The tour also includes important buildings in the village, such as the Coast Guard’s Watch House, the first lifeboat house in Belfast Lough and the fishermen’s cottages at Cockle Row.

The map and guide were designed by local artist, Dan Parsons, and it was printed with the help of a Heritage Project Grant from Ards and North Down Council. You can find it in a box outside the Cockle Row cottages at the Harbour and in the Tower House Visitor Information Centre in Bangor. It has a QR code linked to the website.

More information here

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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