Introduction to the Mourne Maritime Visitor Centre

Kilkeel HarbourThe Mourne Maritime Visitor Centre is situated in the Nautilus Centre overlooking Kilkeel harbour, which is home to Northern Ireland’s largest fishing fleet.

There has been a tradition of fishing in the area since the first settlers made Mourne their home. Over the years farming and fishing were interlinked as depending on the season most local farmers also had a small skiff boat to chase the herring and the abundant fish stocks. Kilkeel harbour grew from the mid 18th century and became a port for local schooners to export potatoes, granite and grain and import coal and supplies.

The maritime centre charts the history of the local harbour and the development of fishing and maritime links through the years.  Children can visit our wheelhouse and have a go at steering into Kilkeel port or they can play our interactive games. The “Anna” is our largest exhibit and you can get a feeling how hard fishermen’s lives were, when it had to be launched with just fishermen lifting it into the harbour. There are also displays on boat building, changes in fishing, deep sea mariners, shipwrecks & disasters and the role of the RNLI. Outside the Nautilus Centre is the Memorial to all those who have been lost at Sea and the Memorial Book commemorating all those lost at sea can be viewed in the Maritime Centre.

Mourne Maritime Visitor CentreThe Families at Sea Exhibition is a great way to trace your relatives, with the fishing and maritime histories of over 20 local families on display. This project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and NITB.

If you have any family that were connected to fishing or were mariners at the beginning of the 19th century we have over 100 photographs and details of those that were registered on display. It is very interesting you can still see family resemblances from the pictures.

In addition to the details that we have on display about each family’s history this website allows for additional family history to be listed.

Kilkeel harbour is a bustle of activity. You can watch the boats coming in and out, loading on supplies, offloading their catch to the fish market, fishermen mending their nets, or watch “Salt & Pepper” the resident seals watching out for a tasty handy snack. Kilkeel Lifeboat Station is also located at the harbour. Why not visit the Mourne Maritime Visitor Centre and learn some the interesting seafaring stories, enjoy a walk along the harbour, and combine it with a visit to the Kilkeel Tourist Information Centre, Mourne Seafood Cookery School and Kilkeel Development Association who are all located in the Nautilus Centre.