Lough Swilly & Shipwrecks
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.