Portglenone is a town I last visited probably 15 years ago when I worked with the Met Office. At the time I was travelling around Northern Ireland every summer inspecting weather stations. When the guys behind the Fresh Waters invited me up for a day out I jumped at the chance to revisit the town.
The Fresh Waters campaign is a promotion to highlight Ulster’s most beautiful rivers and explore what they have to offer. Rivers, streams and fresh water areas in and around Portglenone Marina, Drumaheglis, Belturbet and Kilrea are all taking part to promote activities in and around the water to locals and tourists.
With a population of approximately 2000 people, Portglenone is a busy town with many festivals and community events throughout the year. Their annual Big splash event was just the week before my visit and next up is the 15th Gig’n the Bann Cross Community Music and Dance Festival which will take place from the 11th – 14th September 2014.
I was greeted at the Portglenone Enterprise Group offices by Damien who introduced me to the team. They educated me on all the community activities the group works on, and the one thing that came shining through was the large number of projects helping the local community to thrive and grow.
Next on my itinerary was to visit the Marina, yes Portglenone has a Marina! This was a huge surprise to me! After a quick tour of the Marina I was treated to a boat journey along the River Bann by the Community Rescue Service. The Community Rescue Service (CRS) provides a search and rescue response for missing persons throughout the entire region of Northern Ireland. These guys provide a valuable service from the beautiful Portglenone Marina and I hugely appreciate them giving up their time to highlight their work.
We headed out on to the Bann and towards the Lanyon Bridge, designed by Charles Lanyon, the designer of Queen’s University and Crumlin Road Gaol and Courthouse. On the boat Damien talked about the prehistoric significance of the area and the significant flint discoveries.
At this point the Bann is a beautiful river and I can just imagine getting a boat and spending a day discovering the area.
We soon arrived at Portglenone Forest and Norman of the Community Rescue Service and Chair of Portglenone Enterprise Group, showed me a hidden treasure. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Geocaching, but apparently it’s popular here. A quick search on the internet and it’s everywhere…another learning experience thanks to the fresh water area of Portglenone!
Portglenone Forest is an ancient woodland and I’ve been told it’s well worth a visit in Spring during bluebell season as the display is stunning. Maybe save that for next year then.
A short walk through the forest and we boarded the boats again and headed back up the Bann surrounded by beautiful Northern Irish countryside and forests towards that marina, before a quick tour of the town and a visit to the Monastery. Yes, there’s another surprise, there’s a Monastery with monks and a history going back 1000 years.
The trip was finished off with a good old hearty lunch in the Wild Duck Inn. The portions were huge and tasty and great value!
If you are looking for a day out, then why not check out the link to the Fresh Waters facebook page for some ideas surrounding the areas involved in the campaign. It has certainly broadened my knowledge of what the area offers and reminded me of the great undiscovered NI outdoors us City folk never even think about!
P.S. Huge thanks to Damien, Norman and team for being great hosts and for giving up their time to show me around!