1 Sketrick Island,
Newtownards BT23 6QH

There can be few houses (public or private) in the north with a more picturesque view than that overlooked by Daft Eddy’s on Sketrick Island, Co. Down.

Sit at the window of the lounge bar, and you are looking down upon the fine remains of Sketrick Castle, the fashionable yachting bay of Whiterock, the waters of Strangford Lough, the drumlins and winding roads of Down.

The yachting theme is taken up inside the bar, with numerous photos, drawings, and paintings of yachts in full sail and a variety of other sailing ships and boats. Two superb large models demand your interest, one a replica of the famous galleon The Santa Maria, the other – belonging to the chef – a strikingly detailed model of The Elizabeth of Dublin, which came close to beating the legendary Cutty Sark.

It’s no wonder, in such a magnificent setting, that the owner of Daft Eddy’s, a committed conservationist, has plans for a Nature Trail and public access to this delightful island. The question most asked by visitors (and there are literally thousands each year) is how the bar got its name.

Daft Eddy was the illegitimate son of one of the Londonderry family from the other side of Strangford Lough. In 1842, the baby was left, wrapped in a blanket, on the doorstep of a family called White who lived on Island Mahee, and fortunately was found before he could die of exposure.

The Whites undertook to adopt and rear him, for which they were paid £50 a year by the Londonderry gentry. They named him Eddy. As a young man, Eddy fell into bad company, in the form of smugglers bringing brandy and cigars up Strangford Lough. Eddy would meet them in his lugger and bring the contraband goods through the maze of small islands up to Sketrick Island, or sometimes in emergencies, leave it for collection later on Chapel Island.

The revenue officers, on their larger and more unwieldy cutters, could never catch him, and it’s said he made use of a souterrain from Sketrick Castle in his illegal operations. At this time Eddy was in his late twenties and was courting the daughter of a magistrate in Kircubbin, across the Lough.

The crunch came when the smugglers of Down were plotting to murder this magistrate, and Eddy, to save the father of his beloved, turned King’s evidence and betrayed them. The outcome was a shootout in Newtownards, in which Eddy was fatally wounded in the side by a musket ball.

He was buried in Tullynakill graveyard, and on his tombstone appeared the simple words “To Eddy”. No, he wasn’t crazy, in spite of his name, which the local people gave him because he was always about at night with a lantern.

If someone asked what the light was, bobbing about among the islands in the dead of night, the reply was usually “It’s only Daft Eddy”. An unusual, and very considerate, feature of Daft Eddy’s today is that the toilets contain showers to allow customers just off a boat after a long sail to freshen up.

Not so daft, after all!