Standing between idyllic Lough Swilly and sandy Mulroy Bay, Fanad Head Lighthouse has been voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world.
With its location in the Donegal Gaeltacht (an Irish speaking area) on the eastern shore of windswept Fanad Peninsula simply exquisite, it’s little wonder that this lighthouse is a Wild Atlantic Way highlight.
Give yourself plenty of time in this coastal corner. Time to take in the sensational scenery and really explore the wild and wonderful natural world around you – this area is regularly visited by whales, porpoises and dolphins. Learn more about Fanad Head Lighthouse and this remote, rugged area in the cosy visitor centre. Or to truly get away from it all, enjoy a relaxing stay at one of the characterful lightkeepers’ houses.
A quick history
Following the shipwreck of the HMS Saldanha in the waters of Lough Swilly in 1812, a lighthouse was proposed for Fanad Head.
The lighthouse was designed by one of the foremost civil engineers of the time, George Halpin and first lit on 17th March 1817. Its fixed light showed red to sea and white towards the Lough, and could be seen for 14 miles (22 kilometres) in clear weather.
The lighthouse was converted to electric operation in 1975.
The lighthouse was automated in 1983.
Did you know?
The only survivor of the HMS Saldanha tragedy was the vessel’s parrot, which bore a silver collar inscribed with the ship’s name.
Lough Swilly is one of Ireland’s very few glacial fjords.
In 1917 the SS Laurentic, one of the most technologically advanced ships in the British navy, hit two mines just at the entrance to Lough Swilly. The ship quickly sank with the loss of over 300 lives. Her secret cargo of 3,211 gold bars worth £5 million (or over €410 million today) was also lost. In the right sea conditions, you can dive to the wreck of the SS Laurentic. It’s also worth noting that 22 of those gold bars are still missing…
Fanad Head Lighthouse is classified as a sea light, not a harbour light, despite it marking the entrance into Lough Swilly which is a natural harbour of refuge.
It is one of 70 lighthouses operated by the Commissioners of Irish Lights around the coast of Ireland and continues to provide a vital role in maritime safety today.