Discover the Fanad Peninsula, Gaeltacht Fhánada and Lough Swilly.
Explore Fanad Peninsula
The Fanad Peninsula
Fanad is a peninsula in North Donegal. Looking east across Lough Swilly you see the dramatic Inishowen peninsula, with Malin Head at its tips. To the west, across Mulroy Bay, is the breathtaking Ros Goill peninsula, linked to Fanad by the Harry Blaney bridge since 2009.
Fanad is a rural area where farming has been the traditional occupation. For many years there was a thriving granite quarrying industry here, and you will see beautiful examples of Fanad’s granite while hillwalking or on many of our beaches. To this day Fanad also has a small fishing community.
There will be many highlights to your visit to Fanad. Climb the road at Knockalla hill (by foot or by car) for one of Fanad’s most breathtaking views – Ballymastocker Bay, a beach once voted second most beautiful in the world by the Observer. (But we think it’s the most beautiful!)
Visit the pier at Portsalon for a spot of pier-jumping, a bite to eat or a pint in the olde-world Stores Bar. Charter an angling trip or take a guided kayaking tour to explore the hidden Seven Arches along Fanad’s east coast. Discover Murrin Hill for views as far as the eye can see. And of course, plan your visit to Fanad Lighthouse.
Part of Fanad is a designated Gaeltacht, an Irish-speaking area, and this includes the area where Fanad Lighthouse is located. A local community group, Gaeltacht Bheo Fhánada, are committed to ensuring the Irish language is a living language in the region, and Fanad Lighthouse is the designated language services centre for the area.
In 2015 Gaeltacht Bheo Fhánada won a national Pride of Place award for their work in promoting the Irish language here. Many of Ireland’s Gaeltachtaí are in rural areas where population decline is one of many challenges facing the language.
The story of the Irish language’s decline is a long and complex one. It has suffered due to colonisation, emigration and rural-urban migration. Huge efforts are now being made to ensure that the language is respected and supported in Ireland. It is a unique part of our culture. ‘Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam’ – ‘A land without language is a land without soul’.
We are proud to be part of the Fanad Gaeltacht and hope you enjoying hearing our language when you visit. We are happy to do business and indeed to offer tours ‘As Gaeilge’. Labhair Gaeilge linn!
In Irish, Loch Súilí means the Lake of Shadows, or the Lake of Eyes. Lough Swilly is one of three glacial fjords in Ireland. It is flanked on both sides by beautiful, hilly peninsulas – Inishowen to the east and Fanad to the west.
It has been of strategic importance since ancient times. The Grianán of Aileach is situated near the southern bend of the lough – a restored stone fort believed to have been built in the first century on the site of an early Iron Age hillfort.
One of the most significant events in Irish history happened at Rathmullan, about 30km south of Fanad Lighthouse. In 1607, the Flight of the Earls marked the end of the Gaelic order in Ireland and paved the way for the Plantation of Ulster by English and Scottish settlers.
There is a Napoleonic fort on the Knockalla coast road. It is one of several such forts built around Lough Swilly to defend against French invasion. Directly across from this lies Fort Dunree, also built during the Napoleonic Wars, later becoming a military camp that was used during WW1. For part of WW1, Lough Swilly was used as a place of shelter for the British Grand Fleet under the command of Admiral Jellicoe.
Its strategic location and deep water made it the perfect base for this prestigious fleet, which boasted almost 40 state-of-the-art battleships. Dunree was so important to the British that they kept sovereignty over it as part of the Anglo-Irish Treaty 1921 until 1938. There is a military museum here today, as well as some stunning cliff and coastal walks and a lighthouse.