There’s been a ferry across the Strangford Lough Narrows between Portaferry and Strangford for four hundred years (reputed to be the oldest continuous ferry crossing in the world) but five years ago, in celebration of the Christmas season, there appeared a much-transformed ferry, the Carol Ship writes Betty Armstrong. The mundane car and passenger ferry became, with the support of Ards and North Down Council, local traders and volunteers, a sparkling vessel with lights and decorations, and now five years later the event of which the ship is the centre, is enjoyed by thousands of people. This year Portaferry's new Eurospar was the major sponsor.
Slotted neatly on the two evenings of 6th and 7th December before the forecast Storm Atiyah was due to unleash its fury on Northern Ireland, the event included the ‘bigger and brighter than ever’ Carol Ship, the brainchild of the Portaferry and Strangford Trust charity, which aims to promote the incredible maritime heritage of the area.
For two nights Christmas music rang out across the Lough and, on each sailing from 4.30 to 9.15 p.m., a different choir or group provided Christmas music. School choirs, folk groups, church choirs and various musicians took part. In Portaferry and Strangford villages, there were decorated houses, monuments and even boats. In Portaferry, there was the Christmas Tree Trail and a Parade of Lights,
Polish Christmas food in The Narrows Bistro and free Children's Activities and mulled wine and mince pies in the Sailing Club Hub. There was something for everyone - even Santa on a skiff! And in Strangford, a fabulous Victorian Fair was held in a heated marquee on The Green and Bells Traditional Funfair was there too. Merry Opera rounded off the festivities last night (Saturday) with Handel's Messiah, in Portaferry’s Arts and Heritage Centre, Portico, a restored church.