Aerial View of Donaghadee.
Donaghadee is located in County Down
Location within County Down
Population6,869 (2011 Census)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBT21
Dialling code028
PoliceNorthern Ireland
FireNorthern Ireland
AmbulanceNorthern Ireland
UK Parliament
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°38′N 5°32′W / 54.63°N 5.53°W / 54.63; -5.53

Donaghadee (/ˌdɒnəxəˈd/ DON-ə-khə-DEE,[4] from Irish Domhnach Daoi)[1] is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies on the northeast coast of the Ards Peninsula, about 18 miles (29 km) east of Belfast and about six miles (10 km) south east of Bangor. It is in the civil parish of Donaghadee and the historic barony of Ards Lower.[1] It had a population of 6,869 people in the 2011 Census.[5]


Donaghadee c.1914
The former Donaghadee Town Hall

The name 'Donaghadee' comes from Irish Domhnach Daoi, which has two possible meanings: "church of Daoi", after an unattested saint, or "church of the motte".[1] Originally the site of a Gaelic ringfort, the Anglo-Normans built a motte-and-bailey castle on the site after they conquered the area in the late 12th century.[6]

In the early 17th century, Hugh Montgomery settled Scottish Protestants there as part of the Plantation of Ulster, and it began to grow into a small town.[1] The former Donaghadee Town Hall is a converted merchant's house which was completed in around 1770.[7]

The town featured in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. On the morning of Pike Sunday, 10 June 1798 a force of United Irishmen, mainly from Bangor, Donaghadee, Greyabbey and Ballywalter attempted to occupy the town of Newtownards. They met with musket fire from the market house and were defeated.[8]

Donaghadee was used in the 1759–1826 period by couples going to Portpatrick in Scotland to marry, as there was a daily packet boat. During this period, Portpatrick was known as the "Gretna Green for Ireland".[9]

The lifeboat station at Donaghadee harbour, founded in 1910, is one of the most important on the Irish coast. The Sir Samuel Kelly is a noted lifeboat once based in Donaghadee and now on show and preserved at the harbour for her efforts over 50 years ago. On 31 January 1953, the lifeboat rescued many survivors in the Irish Sea from the stricken LarneStranraer car ferry, MV Princess Victoria.[10]

Donaghadee railway station, which was open for passenger traffic from 1861 to 1950, was on the Belfast and County Down Railway.


On Census day (27 March 2011) there were 6,869 people living in Donaghadee (2,997 households), accounting for 0.38% of the NI total.[5] The Census 2011 population represented an increase of 6.1% on the Census 2001 figure of 6,470.[11] Of these:

Lifeboat stations

Donaghadee is one of Northern Ireland's lifeboat stations.[10]

Places of interest

Donaghadee Harbour and lighthouse

Harbour and lighthouse

Main article: Donaghadee Lighthouse

Donaghadee is known for its harbour and lighthouse. The initial plans and surveys for the harbour were made by John Rennie Senior. He died within two months of work beginning, and was succeeded by his son, John, later Sir John Rennie: the work was completed in 1825. The lighthouse, which was built in limestone was completed in the late 1830s.[12] During the COVID-19 Quarantine, people, usually younger people would place painted stones which would show support to the National Health Service (NHS), major parts of Donaghadee, milestones or just fun drawings. They were removed in late-2020 but in mid-2022 a small bench in the motte was painted with smaller designs of the stones.

The Motte

Donaghadee Motte

The Motte or Moat in Donaghadee was originally a motte-and-bailey castle built by the Anglo-Normans in the late 12th century. The folly or castle on top of the motte was built by Daniel Delacherois in the early 19th century. It was used for storing the gunpowder, used for blasting, when the new harbour was being built between 1821 and 1834. Today it is part of a park, giving views across the town and seawards towards the Copeland Islands.[6]

Photograph of Donaghadee Parish Church
Donaghadee Parish Church

Other activities

Scenic walks include the marine walk at The Commons, which comprises a 16-acre (65,000 m2) semi-cultivated open space with bowls, tennis, several exercise equipment, putting and an adventure playground. There are several restaurants and pubs in the town, including Grace Neill's, opened in 1611 as the "King's Arms", and which claims to be the oldest bar in Ireland (a claim also made by other pubs, including by Sean's Bar in Athlone).[13]



The Copeland Bird Observatory is situated on Lighthouse Island, one of the three islands not far, and to be seen, from Donaghadee. It collects data on the migrating birds and by ringing them records the movements of the migratory species.[14] The islands are an internationally important site for breeding Manx Shearwater and Arctic Tern.[15]


Among the algae recorded from Donaghadee are Gastroclonium ovatum, Callophyllis laciniata, Fucus ceranoides, Desmarestia ligulata, Hordaria flagelliformis, Codium fragile ssp. atlanticum and Cladophora pygmaea.[16] Flowering plants have been recorded from Donaghadee and are listed with details by Hackney (1992).[17]


Donaghadee Male Choir was founded in 1932. It began as a small local chorus performing in churches and other local functions. The choir has performed internationally and has a membership of over 70 people.[18]

In the media

Donaghadee was the basis for the fictional town of Donaghadoo in the children's television series Lifeboat Luke, which was animated by the Donaghadee animation studio Straandlooper.[19] The town was also used as a set for some of the film Mickybo and Me.[20]

Donaghadee is seen in the films Robot Overlords starring Gillian Anderson,[21] Divorcing Jack,[22] Killing Bono[23] and Mo the Mo Mowlam story, starring Julie Walters.[24]

Donaghadee features as the fictional town of Port Devine in the BBC drama Hope Street which first aired in 2021.[25]

Donaghadee is mentioned several times in the song Forty Shades of Green, written by Johnny Cash in 1959.[26]


Donaghadee Rugby Football Club, which was formed by the Rev. Coote, played its first match against Bangor on 7 November 1885.[27]

Donaghadee Football Club are junior football who play their home matches at Crommelin Park in the town. For the 2014–15 season they were members of Division 2C of the Northern Amateur Football League.[28] An earlier club of the same name held membership of the same league from 1948 to 1953. Donaghadee FC and Donaghadee 11s were both promoted from their respective leagues in 2016/17.[29]

Donaghadee Ladies' Hockey Club have two teams which play in Ulster Hockey leagues: The 1XI play in Senior League 3, while the 2XI are in Junior 8.[30]

Donaghadee Sailing Club (which underwent redevelopment and in May 2009 with a new clubhouse opened).[31]

Notable people

See also: Category:People from Donaghadee

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ a b c d e "Donaghadee". Place Names NI. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  2. ^ Wricht, Jhone. "Tha spairk o it". Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots. Ulster-Scots Academy. Archived from the original on 6 August 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  3. ^ McDonald, Fiona. "Fae Cowie's Craig". Ulster-Scots Language Society. Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  4. ^ Pointon, GE (1990). BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 76. ISBN 0-19-282745-6.
  5. ^ a b "Census 2011 Population Statistics for Donaghadee Settlement". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Archived from the original on 7 May 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  6. ^ a b Donaghadee History Archived 23 November 2021 at the Wayback Machine. Visit Donaghadee. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  7. ^ "Former Town Hall, 24 High Street, Donaghadee, Co. Down (HB24/07/004)". Department for Communities. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  8. ^ "Newtownards Walking Leaflet" (PDF). Ards and North Down Borough Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  9. ^ "The "Gretna Green" for Ireland: Irregular Marriages at Portpatrick, Wigtownshire 1759-1826". Dumfries & Galloway Family History Society. 1997.
  10. ^ a b "Princess Victoria (IV) Disaster Remembered 50 years on 31st January 1953 – 31st January 2003". 20 May 2005. Archived from the original on 23 April 2009. Retrieved 2 August 2008.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  11. ^ "Census 2001 Usually Resident Population: KS01 (Settlements) – Table view". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). p. 3. Archived from the original on 23 September 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Donaghadee". Commissioner of Irish Lights. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  13. ^ "Grace Neill's: Welcome to Ireland's most haunted bar, home to an "evil" spirit-- and we don't mean whiskey". Irish Post. 13 September 2019. Archived from the original on 26 August 2021. Retrieved 26 August 2021. Grace Neill's bar in County Down, built in 1611, claims to be the oldest bar in Ireland. That claim is disputed [,.] Sean's Bar in Athlone
  14. ^ "Copeland Bird Observatory". Archived from the original on 16 May 2021. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  15. ^ Copeland Islands. "Copeland Island Bird Observatory". Copeland Bird Observatory. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015.
  16. ^ Morton, O. 1994. Marine Algae of Northern Ireland. Ulster Museum ISBN 0-900761-28-8
  17. ^ Hackney, P. (Ed) 1992 Stewart & Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland Institute of Irish Studies and The Queen's University of Belfast ISBN 978-0853894469
  18. ^ "Donaghadee Male Choir back at Ardhowen after 10 year gap". Impartial Reporter. 7 May 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  19. ^ "STRAANDLOOPER". Retrieved 2 May 2013.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "Film focuses on hope in troubled times". BBC News. 22 March 2005. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  21. ^ "Giant killer Robot Overlords loose on the streets of Bangor". Belfast Telegraph. 4 February 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  22. ^ "Divorcing Jack". Troubles Archive. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  23. ^ "Killing Bono". Northern Ireland Screen. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  24. ^ "Mo". Northern Ireland Screen. 12 January 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  25. ^ Nisbet, Megan (1 February 2022). "Where is Hope Street filmed? Locations for new BBC daytime drama". WalesOnline. Archived from the original on 5 February 2022. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
  26. ^ Cash, Johnny. "Forty Shades of Green Chords". Ultimate Guitar.
  27. ^ "Club History". Donaghadee Rugby Football Club. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  28. ^ Donaghadee F.C. Archived 9 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine at the NAFL site
  29. ^ "NAFL history (Roll of Clubs from 1923)". Archived from the original on 28 January 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  30. ^ "Donaghadee Ladies Hockey Club". Archived from the original on 9 February 2022. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  31. ^ Donaghadee Sailing Club Website Archived 20 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine; accessed 26 May 2014.
  32. ^ Martin, Charlotte (17 April 2004). "MY LIFE IN TRAVEL: Bear Grylls". The Independent. London, UK. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 3 June 2009.
  33. ^ "Lifeboat which saved 33 during Victoria tragedy to be restored". Belfast Telegraph. 7 December 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  34. ^ "Sarah Grand". Ulster History Circle. 12 April 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  35. ^ "A force for change this lady, by name and nature". The Irish Times. 24 November 2001. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  36. ^ "A Sporting Life: Taylor made". Belfast Telegraph. 5 July 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2022.