Fanad Lighthouse: 5 Things You Didn’t Know

A Donegal delight nestled between an exquisite fjord and a serene sandy bay, Fanad Head Lighthouse boasts tales of sunken treasure, architectural history, warships and more.

First lit on 17th March 1817, here are five things you didn’t know about this coastal beacon.

1. Troubled Waters, Part 1

Fanad Head Lighthouse was constructed after a Royal Navy warship, the HMS Saldanha — named after a British naval victory on the Cape of Good Hope — sank with all its men in 1811 in Lough Swilly. The warship typically patrolled waters off Ireland’s south coast during the Napoleonic wars, and sailed to Lough Swilly to be relieved.

2. Halpin’s Handywork

Fanad Head Lighthouse was designed by George Halpin, one of the most influential engineers in Irish history. Appointed Inspector of Lighthouses and responsible for the construction of over 50 lighthouses dotted along the Irish coastline in the 19th century, Halpin was also responsible for Dublin Port and many of the capital city’s bridges.

Fanad's dramatic scenery

3. Troubled Waters, Part 2

In 1917, the SS Laurentic, an ocean liner in use as a part of the Merchant Navy during World War I, was sunk by two mines laid by a German U-boat at the mouth of Lough Swilly. This second great shipping disaster in the region took 354 lives and left some 20 gold ingots — onboard to purchase munitions in Canada — on the freezing seabed to this day.

4. Fjord Escort

Lough Swilly, despite its name, is not a lake but is in fact one of three glacial fjords in Ireland, along with Carlingford Lough (in Louth) and Killary Harbour (in Connemara). It was also the site of the famous “Flight of the Earls”, when the Earl of Tyrone and the Earl of Tyrconnell fled Ulster for continental Europe at the start of the 17th century, hoping to gather an army to fight the invading British forces.

5. Divine Interiors

As with many of the constructions by George Halpin, Fanad Head is far from simply functional. The grand structure is built with granite from North Hall in Co. Dublin and is replete with diamond shaped windows and a spectacular spiral staircase through the main tower.

Not only that, but it is now home to three self-catering cottages that you can stay in and play lightkeeper on this spectacular stretch of rugged Atlantic coastline.

Soak up the views

Ready for your Fanad Lighthouse getaway?

Find out more about it and the many other Great Lighthouse of Ireland.

Stories

Take a lighthouse trail, win an unforgettable road trip!

Stay

Bring on Summer: Connacht & Leinster Lighthouses

Stay

Super Summer: 5 Munster Lighthouse Experiences