Portadown is an industrial town historically in County Armagh in Northern Ireland, but since 2015 part of the Armagh-Banbridge-Craigavon District. Its population in 2011 was about 22,000. Its eastern parts are called Craigavon for the new town that was only partially built there.
Standing at the south tip of Lough Neagh, Portadown was traditionally a linen-processing town that became a transport hub. In 1741 the Newry Canal linked Lough Neagh, Portadown, and the sea below Newry. In the 19th century the Dublin-Belfast railway arrived - the line swings inland through Portadown to avoid the hills south of Belfast. In 1965 construction began for a new town, Craigavon, intended to stretch from Portadown to Lurgan. Some housing estates were built but the project flopped as investment and employment drained from the area, perhaps a blessing in disguise as the design was based on ugly Cumbernauld in Scotland. It also offended potential Catholic residents that the place was named after Lord Craigavon (1871-1940), first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, who sought "a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people".
The sectarian rift deepened during "The Troubles", with a steel wall dividing embittered Catholic and Protestant sections of the community. One local flashpoint was the Drumcree conflict, about the rights of Orange Order parades to bang their drums along a particular route, as they had since 1807 when those districts were farmland and the cows didn't mind, and to continue doing so although (and perhaps especially because) these were now housing estates with a mostly Catholic population. That conflict was dampened by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement between Britain and the Republic of Ireland. The GFA has enabled Belfast and Londonderry to relaunch themselves as destinations, but Portadown in common with the rest of Armagh has not yet done so.
1 Portadown railway station is northwest side of town centre.
Ulsterbus 551 runs hourly from Belfast via Lisburn, Moira and Lurgan to Craigavon, 80 min; it doesn't reach Portadown.
Bus 75 runs every couple of hours between Dungannon and Portadown, taking just under an hour. Change at Dungannon for Omagh, Strabane and Cookstown.
Bus 63 takes an hour between Newry and Portadown. There are six M-F and four Sat.
Bus 62 runs from Banbridge via Gifford to Portadown, taking 35 min. It runs M-F hourly and Sa every couple of hours.
You need wheels to reach Ardress House: Bus 67 Portadown-Dungannon goes that way but only twice a day.
Ulsterbus 46 / 47 shutttles between Portadown, Craigavon and Lurgan every 15 min.
National Cycleway 9 runs mostly on-road from Belfast to Lisburn, Craigavon and Portadown then off-road to Scarva and Newry. Route 94 circles Lough Neagh. Route 91 goes all the way cross-country to Armagh, Monaghan and Enniskillen.
- 1 Ardress House, 64 Ardress Road, Annaghmore BT62 1SQ, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Closed ufn. 17th-century house with elegant 18th-century decoration and a traditional farmyard.
- 2 Dan Winter's House, 9 Derryloughan Road, Loughgall BT61 8PH, ☏ . M-Sa 10:30-18:00, Su 14:00-18:00. 18th-century farmhouse near the site of the Battle of the Diamond; in its aftermath, the Orange Order was founded here. Donation.
- 3 The Nuclear Bunker on Dungannon Rd 3 miles northeast of town was a Royal Observer Corps underground lookout and shelter. Here they would monitor the course of a nuclear attack, fill in forms and officially stamp them, and regret the fate of civilians on the surface who hadn't followed official advice on how to "Protect and Survive". Part of a network of 58 bunkers in Northern Ireland, it operated 1958-1991. In 2010 it re-opened as a museum but it's closed in 2020.
- 4 Oxford Island: see Lurgan for this lakeside nature reserve.
- The Argory: see Dungannon for this plush 1824 mansion to the northwest.
- Newry Canal is no longer navigable, but there's a good towpath for walking or cycling. Moneypenny's Lock is a picturesque lock-keeper's house two miles south of town.
- 1 Portadown Golf Club, 192 Gilford Rd, Portadown BT63 5LF, ☏ . White tees 6118 yards, par 70 - can you clear the river at the ninth? Round £20.
- Omniplex Cinema is on Highfield Rd in Craigavon.
- Watch soccer at Portadown FC, who play in the NIFL (Danske Bank) Premiership, the game's top tier in Northern Ireland. Their stadium is Shamrock Park, capacity just under 4000, southwest edge of town along Armagh Rd.
Battle of the Diamond
In the 1780s, the north of County Armagh was mostly Protestant and the south was mostly Catholic. Sectarian fighting broke out, and the two sides formed gangs. The Diamond is a crossroads on the Loughgall-Portadown road, where on 21 Sept 1795 there was a shoot-out between some 300 Protestant "Peep o' Day Boys" and a similar number of Catholic "Defenders", who'd occupied Dan Winter's farmhouse. The Protestants had a better ridge-top position and suffered no fatalities; estimates of Catholic losses range from 6 to 48. Afterwards the Peep o' Day Boys headed to a nearby pub and founded the "Orange Order" to unite all Protestant factions. Over the following winter, they systematically smashed up Catholic houses and linen looms and drove them out of the county.
- Portadown retail park is Meadows Shopping Centre on the river west bank. Tesco here is open M-Sa 06:00-00:00, Su 13:00-18:00. It doesn't have fuel.
- Craigavon retail area is Rushmere Shopping Centre off Central Way.
- There's a slew of cheap eateries along High St: Chinese, Indian, pizza, kebabs, the usual.
- 1 Wee Barneys, 6 Bridge St, Portadown BT62 1JD, ☏ . Tu-Th 10:00-15:00, F Sa 09:00-16:00. Popular daytime fish and chips cafe.
- 2 Zio, Millennium Court, 41 William St, Portadown BT62 3NX, ☏ . Daily 12:00-22:00. Med food, good selection and kids menu, gets consistently good reviews.
- Pot Belly: see Banbridge for this Irish restaurant in a converted mill near Gifford.
- 1 Bannview Bed and Breakfast, 60 Portmore St, Portadown BT62 3NF, ☏ . Opened in 1977 as a sports complex, then accommodation was added and eventually became the main business. Bannview now has 23 rooms en suite for B&B. B&B double £85.
- 2 Seagoe Hotel, 22 Upper Church Lane, Craigavon BT63 5JE, ☏ . Clean welcoming well-run hotel next to the hospital. B&B double £85.
As of Aug 2020, the area has good mobile and 4G coverage with EE and O2, but Portadown has some blank spots with Three and Vodafone. 5G has not reached this area.
- Belfast: don't just hurry through in transit from the ports, it's a fine city deserving several days to explore.
- Armagh has long been the ecclesiastic capital of Ireland, with two cathedrals, and a prehistoric "fort" that was clearly a religious centre.
- Derry - or Londonderry if you prefer - is a fascinating place within historic walls.