Northern Ireland

Portrush revival: Brexit and weak pound 'helping tourism'

Fairground rides
Image caption Portrush has struggled in recent years to draw visitors in the numbers it did in its heyday

The beauty of Northern Ireland's north coast made Portrush the go-to choice for family holidays for decades.

But in recent years it, like many other seaside towns, has struggled.

The advent of cheap flights abroad and a recession meant the County Antrim town was forced to reinvent itself from its 1950s heyday.

And while the weather this year has been as unstable as the political landscape, neither seem to be putting tourists off spending money, with more visitors from the Republic of Ireland providing a welcome revenue stream.

Image caption Even the grey days in Portrush fail to put people off visiting the town

Visitors to the north coast traditionally come from other parts of Northern Ireland, said Naldo Morelli, managing director of Morelli's Ice Cream.

"But this year, I suppose with Brexit and the pound weakening a little bit we've noticed more customers from the Republic of Ireland, so that helps too," he said.

"The Northern Ireland public are very used to having four seasons in one day, so thankfully for us they eat ice cream no matter the weather."

Ice cream whatever the weather

Portrush's reinvention seems to be doing the trick for traders.

"Business is up 5% to 10% across the board, certainly the restaurants have been busy," said Ian Donaghey, the president of the Causeway Chamber of Commerce.

Image caption Visitors to Portrush eat ice cream whatever the weather, Naldo Morelli said

While the weather is not always kind, this is sometimes actually good for local businesses, added Mr Donaghey.

"If the weather is too good it keeps people on the beaches and they don't spend money in the town," he said.

Image caption A drizzly day forces visitors off the beaches and into the amusement arcade, said Ian Donaghey

"What some of the traders would tell you is that they like a sunny morning and a drizzly afternoon because it drives them into Barry's [amusement arcade] and the restaurants and bars."

Image caption More people from the Republic of Ireland have visited Morelli's Ice Cream this year

Soft spot for the north coast

Portrush's much loved amusements and bucket-and-spade shops are still there, but now their neighbours are trendy coffee shops, restaurants and bars.

The town may not have completely shaken off its traditional image, but those who visit do not seem to mind.

Image caption Portrush has reinvented itself but maintains some aspects of its traditional image

Business owners hope a mixture of nostalgia and new attractions will keep people visiting the north coast for the rest of this summer season, and for many years to come.

It seems that come rain or shine, holidaymakers will always have a soft spot for Portrush.

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