THE eyes of the golf world might be looking towards the town of Portrush for its famous links course’s place on the 2019 major calendar, yet this ancient seaside town has plenty more to showcase than 18 of the world’s most spectacular golf holes.
Set on a mile-long peninsula in County Antrim at the northern-point of Northern Ireland, Portrush is a coastal town in the truest sense, with glorious beaches, towering cliffs overlooking the North Channel at Ramore Head, and a vibrant, active fishing culture.
We take a closer look at what you can expect if ever you find yourself at Portrush
A SHORT HISTORY
THE small seaside town of Portrush has a rich heritage as a fishing town dating back to the mid-17th century.
While always small in terms of population, it was rich in relative wealth among the township according to papal taxation records of the time.
By the 19th century after the opening of a railway line – the Portrush Junction Railway, which made accessibility to the town more convenient – Portrush had become a popular Northern Ireland tourism spot.
Famed for its sandy beaches and nearby Giant’s Causeway – a spectacular ancient collection of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns – the town added The Country Club golf course to its attractions in 1888, renamed the Royal Portrush Golf Club just seven years later.
The town was one of few in Northern Ireland to manage to stay relatively clear of ‘The Troubles’ throughout the 1960s and most of the 1970s.
Today, it remains a small, tourist town famous for its sandy beaches and abundant fishing, and is home to less than 7,000 permanent residents.
Portrush still caters to tourists with a bustling main street filled with restaurants, arcades, shops and bars.
POSSIBLY Northern Ireland’s most famous natural attraction, the Giant’s Causeway is a sight to behold.
The result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption, this natural wonder is a collection of thousands upon thousands of interlocking basalt rock colums. It almost looks like a cobblestone street created by the gods making their way out to sea.
While geologists have marked the phenomenon to be 50-60 million years old, there’s a tale of Irish legend involving two mythological giants preparing to battle, to account for the geological marvel.
This world-heritage listed site is a must-visit attraction in the region.
NO TRIP to Northern Ireland is complete without a visit to a historic castle, and there’s one near Portrush that has been standing since the 13th century.
The ruins of Dunluce Castle still stand today, overlooking the rugged coastline, and tourists can tour the medieval fort at their leisure.
While here, why not find your inner knight and venture down the stairwell just outside the castle grounds to the cave beneath Dunluce?
So mystical is this region, Dunluce Castle was said to have been the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’ epic The Chronicles of Narnia series, while it also features as the great castle of Pyke in Game of Thrones.
KNOWN throughout the country for its pristine beaches, none in Portrush are finer than Whiterocks Beach, a spectacular strip of coastline framed by towering white limestone cliffs stretching from Curran Strand to Dunluce Castle.
A popular spot for avid surfers, the beach is also active with walkers and horse riders.
THEN there’s the real reason you’re in town: The Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club.
As far as links courses go, this is right up there with the finest ever laid out, stretching 6690m (7317 yards) across ancient, rugged cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Originally designed by the famed Harry Colt, the course is named after the nearby ruins of the medieval Dunluce Castle.
It offers a genuinely tough test of golf routed through rugged links land, using constant changes in elevation to keep you guessing, while the open nature and directional changes inherent in the layout of holes here mean it’s never too long before you’re playing into a strong headwind or soul-destroying crosswinds.
A 16-year-old local kid named Rory McIlroy once shot a course record 61 here. Don’t expect to get anywhere near it.
A bucket-lister if ever there was, visitors can book themselves a round at Royal Portrush’s Dunluce course for the princely sum of £220 (AU$395).
Worth every dollar. Ø