Portmagee, give me any port but Portmagee, a natural harbour on the Iveragh Peninsula County Kerry Ireland.
Portmagee, “give me any port but Portmagee” was a famous saying by an old sailor, who was born in Portmagee and ended up as a publican in Birmingham England, who I might add reminded me of Father Christmas. He liked his drop of tipple especially a port and brandy and always spoke of the town when he had one too many, which was fairly often.
I must admit I found the harbour of Portmagee very amiable, a little quiet, as I was there in January and I missed the boat to Valencia Island. As the landlord of the bar I was drinking in said.
“When you’ve missed the boat, you’ve missed the boat, may as well stay here and have another Guinness”
Maurice, it was his turn, rushed to the bar, now when I say “rushed” I exaggerate; the landlord caught him as he came back from the loo.
Talking about “loo” there’s a great pub in Glengarriff called “The Blue Loo” if you ever go to Glengarriff call in there, its the first one as you enter the town from the Kerry side, but that particular bar is in County Cork and we are in County Kerry a good 70 miles from there.
Back to Portmagee, or as they say in Irish “ An Caladh” is a small fishing village on the edge of the Iveragh peninsula in County Kerry south of Valentia Island. The name in Irish means 'the ferry', referring to its purpose as a crossing point to the island.
This small harbour village was the place to be in the old days. Smuggling, shipwrecking and fishing were once the chief interests of this village on the Portmagee channel, named after the local smuggler, Theobald Magee.
Theobald Magee was an officer in King James’s army at the battle of the Boyne in 1690 before setting up home and a very lucrative smuggling business in Portmagee.
Now I would love to know, was it called Portmagee before Mr Magee settled there?
If you know, please let me know.
Portmagee is a pretty, working fishing village so you are guaranteed a fresh fish lunch there. You will regurally see pods Dolphins in the harbour. The village has a fine natural harbour and modern pier to serve the fishing trawlers. You can also take a trip to Great Skellig from the pier, the journey takes about 2 hours, past the puffin of puffins Island and the huge gannet colony off Little Skellig.
A large boat from Valentia carrying about 175 people provides short 90 minutes cruises around the Island but does not stop off at Skellig Michael.
Mind you the whole experience of Skellig Rock can be seen at the visitor centre.
But to really grasp the reality of The Skelligs take the trip to land there and climb the steps.
A road behind the village leads steeply to Ballinskelligs via the Coomanaspig Pass (1000ft), one of the highest places in Ireland accessible by car.
By the way when you go to Portmagee stop off at The Bridge Bar, there is live music and the Craic every night during summer, and the landlord leads in the singing and dancing on Thursdays. Best of all Maurice has “left one in” behind the bar for you.
I have been to The Bridge many, many times during my travels. It has a warm, welcoming atmosphere set by Gerard, the owner, and well lived up to be his staff.
The seafood is fantastic and, given the location, fresh as can be. I also enjoyed the roasts (lamb and beef) and, of course, the vege soup! The last time I went it was off season they only had live Irish music Friday and Sunday nights but what I heard I enjoyed (though it was geared towards dancers so lots of jigs and reels but not much for me to sing along to....which, for the sake of others there, may have been a good thing! :) ). When I get back to that beautiful corner of the world I will indeed get back to The Bridge Bar.
The Moorings is another great bar. I spent two years in a bar there - and had only two pints of Guinness! But that's not as abstemious as it might sound. I went to Portmagee on New Year's Eve one year to watch a 400 year old festival in which the Old Year, in human form, is escorted up and down the main street by torch-bearing acolytes before being shot dead (figuratively) to be replaced a singing, tuxed, New Year. And I watched from one year to the next warmed by the ale and hospitality of the Moorings. Great fun and a great little hostelry.
If you really love sea food then The Fishermans Bar is a small spot facing the harbor - traditional no frills decor, with a real fire burning in the grate. A real working mans pub. Great to try and eavesdrop over the local Gaelic banter of sports. Menu on the blackboard - I had the seafood platter, probably caught by some of the locals in the pub- which was great. I did not recognize all the fish that I tried- but it was all good. Pub owner is always polite and obviously enjoying the company of his mates in the pub.
The level of food is what you would expect in a top class restaurant - but we got it in a beautiful local pub restaurant overlooking the Bay in Portmagee - also the Staff were so lovely & friendly.
If you have any interesting info on Portmagee please email us, thanks, Tom and Maurice.
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