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Location of Inishowen (in red)
Inishowen peninsula

Inishowen (Irish: Inis Eoghain, meaning "Island of Eoghan") is a peninsula in County Donegal, Ireland. It is also the largest peninsula in all of the island of Ireland. Inishowen is a picturesque location with a rich history. The peninsula includes Ireland's most northerly point, Malin Head, along with Lagg sand dunes, some of the highest in Europe, as well as Grianán an Aileach, a royal fort constructed by the Clan Uí Néill in the sixth century. The Grianán stands at the entrance to the peninsula.

Towns of Inishowen[edit]

The main towns and villages of Inishowen are:


Inishowen is a peninsula of 884.33 square kilometres (218,523 acres), situated in the northernmost part of Ireland. It is bordered to the north by the Atlantic Ocean, to the east by Lough Foyle, and to the west by Lough Swilly. It is joined at the south to the rest of County Donegal, the part known as Tír Conaill, and by County Londonderry. Historically, the area of County Londonderry west of the River Foyle also forms part of Inishowen, the Foyle forming a natural border. After the last ice age it was an island. Most of Inishowen's population inhabit the peripheral coastal areas, while the interior consists of low mountains, mostly covered in bogland, the highest of which is "Sliabh Sneacht" (from the Irish, meaning Snow Mountain) which is 619 metres (2,030 feet) above sea level. Other major hills are located in the Malin Head peninsula, as well as the Urris Hills in west Inishowen. Due to its geography, Inishowen usually has relatively more moderate weather conditions, with temperatures slightly lower than other parts of Ireland in summer, and slightly warmer in winter, especially during periods of extended cold weather.

Looking across the mouth of Lough Foyle to Dunagree Point and Inishowen Head.

Inishowen has several harbours, some of which are used for commercial fishing purposes, including Greencastle, Bunagee and Leenan. A seasonal ferry service crosses the Foyle, connecting Greencastle with Magilligan in County Londonderry, while another crosses the Swilly, connecting Buncrana with Rathmullan. The village of Fahan has a privately built marina.

There are several small outlying islands off the Inishowen coast, most notably Inishtrahull and Glashedy islands, both uninhabited, although the former was inhabited until the early twentieth century. Inch, located in Lough Swilly, is technically no longer an island, as it has a causeway connecting it to the mainland at Tooban, south of Fahan.

Lough Swilly is a fjord-like lough, and was of strategic importance for many years to the British Empire as a deep-water harbour. It is also famous as the departure point of the Flight of the Earls. Lough Foyle is important as the entrance to the river Foyle, and the city of Derry, but is much more shallow than Lough Swilly, and requires the use of a guide boat to guide ships to and from the port of Derry.

A large area of land, most of which now forms part of Grianán Farm, one of the largest farms in Ireland, was reclaimed from a shallow area of Lough Swilly, stretching from the village of Burnfoot to Bridgend and Burt. The outline of this land is plainly visible due to its flatness proving a marked contrast to the more mountainous area surrounding it.


Inishowen sunset
The Grianán of Aileach is a stone fort on the Inishowen peninsula.
Buncrana is the largest town in Inishowen and second largest in County Donegal.

Predating the formation of County Donegal by centuries, the area was named Inis Eoghain (the Island of Eoghan) after Eógan mac Néill, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages (Niall Naoigeallach, a High King of Ireland), whose name was also used for Tyrone (Irish: Tír Eoghain). Inis Eoghain is also the ancient homeland of the Mac Lochlainn clan (descended from the tribe of Eoghan), a clan that grew so formidable that they eventually came under siege by a Limerick King, who came north to Aileach, and ordered the destruction of Aileach fort, and that each soldier was to carry away a stone from the fort in order to prevent its rebuilding. Later, after the decline of the Mac Lochlainn clan, the chieftainship of Inis Eoghain was usurped by the Ó Dochartaigh clan, as they lost their own homeland in the Laggan valley area of Tír Conaill.

Inishowen has many historical monuments, dating back to early settlements, and including the ruins of several castles, and the fort at Grianán Aileach. The ancient Grianán Ailigh fort at Burt was the one time seat of the High Kings of Ireland, including both High Kings of the Mac Lochlainn Clan, who held power in Inis Eoghain for many centuries. It was restored in the nineteenth century, although some damage in recent years has resulted in the partial collapse of the south side wall. Among the main castle ruins of Inishowen are Carrickabraghey on the Isle of Doagh, the Norman Castle at Greencastle, Inch Castle, Buncrana Castle and Elagh Castle.

In 1196, John de Courcy, an Anglo-Norman knight who had invaded Ulster in 1177, defeated the King of the Cenél Conaill and most of Donegal was at his mercy. Two years later he returned to devastate Inishowen. However, in subsequent campaigns de Courcy was defeated by the O'Neill clan led by their chief Aedh Meith and found himself unable to conquer the western part of Ulster.[1]

Ireland's deadliest road accident happened at Inishowen in July 2010.[2][3][4][5]


At the last Census of Ireland in 2006, Inishowen counted a population of 31,802, a growth of 8.4% over 1996.[6] Buncrana is the largest town in Inishowen, with a 2006 population of 3,394 in its urban area.[6]


On a national level, Inishowen forms part of the constituency of Donegal North East, which elects three TDs to Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament). At the county level, Inishowen is itself an electoral area, electing seven councillors to Donegal County Council.[7] Buncrana town residents also elect representatives to the Buncrana Town Council, one of only three Town Councils in Donegal (the others belonging to Letterkenny and Bundoran). At the 2009 local elections three members of Fine Gael were elected, two members from Fianna Fáil and one each from Sinn Féin and the Labour Party.


In addition to the radio stations and newspapers available elsewhere in Donegal, there are several media outlets that are based solely on the peninsula, including two newspapers (the Inish Times and the Inishowen Independent, both of which are published in Buncrana) and one online daily local news service ( Inishowen is also home to the only community station in the county (Inishowen Community Radio, based in Carndonagh). The traditional news source for Inishowen is the Derry Journal, published in nearby Derry city, since 1772. It still serves the peninsula as a paper of record.


Sheep grazing at Inishowen Head
Lighthouse at Dunagree Point

The Inishowen 100 tourist route [8] is an approximately 100-mile signposted scenic drive around the peninsula. It takes in or passes nearby most of the tourist attractions and places of interest on the peninsula.

It starts at Bridgend where there is a lay-by with a large map and information boards. The first leg of the coastal route is along the coast of Lough Swilly. It passes Inch Island, Fahan (a blue flag beach), Fahan 18-hole Golf Course, Buncrana Town, Tullyarvan Mill (An interpretive centre tracing over 250 years of textile production in the Buncrana area.). It continues along the western coast on Lough Swilly.

The routes passes Dunree beach, Dunree Fort (military museum) and then turns inland for Mamore Gap (between the Urris Hills and Raghtin More mountain), Leenan Bay, Dunaff, Head, Tullagh Bay (a blue flag beach), through the villages of Clonmany and Ballyliffin. Ballyliffin has a well-respected 18-hole golf course.

After Ballyliffin the route passes the Isle of Doagh (where there is a famine museum and an interpretive centre). Next is Carndonagh - the second largest town in Inishowen, after which the route turns North again through Malin Town (famous for having won its category in Ireland's Tidy Towns competition several times), past Five Fingers Strand and then up onto cliff top viewpoint and car park at Knockamany Bens, then down again to sea level with the route looking out into the open Atlantic, before heading for Banba's Crown a peninsula off the peninsula, that is home to Irelands more Northerly point Malin Head.

On the North Eastern coast passes through Culdaff village and Culdaff Bay (another Blue Flag beach), the remote Tramone Bay, Kinnagoe Bay. As the coastline turns towards the East it reaches Lough Foyle and Shroove on the mouth of the Lough and then Greencastle (a port used by fishing boats and landing point for the car ferry to and from Magilligan in County Derry, Northern Ireland). Then as the road heads South along Lough Foyle it passes through Moville town, Quigley's Point and the Village of Muff where the road turns right and heads back to Bridgend where the journey started.


Throughout the year Inishowen hosts a wide selection of festivals and events with something to surprise and entertain all ages and tastes. From music, art, drama to cultural, historical and sporting events not forgetting lots of frolics and fun for the little ones


The Inishowen International Folk Song & Ballad Seminar is an annual festival of traditional singing held each March in the villages of Ballyliffin and Clonmany. Drawing traditional singers from Ireland, Scotland, England, USA and other countries across the globe, it is a wall-to-wall weekend of informal sessions, performances, workshop, & lectures. It is an opportunity to hear singers from many traditions and to take part in a warm and supportive singing atmosphere. All details of the upcoming festival as well as other activities of the Inishowen Traditional Singers' Circle are available on

The Donegal Gathering 2013

The Donegal Gathering 2013, a key initiative of the Donegal Diaspora project will bring together young and old, from near and far, for a truly unique experience. This year-long tourism initiative will showcase some of the major cultural events and festivals that will happen throughout County Donegal during 2012, extending a heartfelt welcome to both native emigrants planning a homecoming holiday, and first-time explorers embarking on a truly unique adventure. We will showcase the best that Donegal has to offer a visitor throughout the year. Events will be happening throughout Inishowen and Donegal to celebrate 'The Donegal Gathering'.

Carndonagh Easter Monday Parade 1 April 2013

CARNDONAGH is getting ready for the return of its 3rd Annual Easter Parade. A local committee was recently formed to revive the old tradition in the North Inishowen market town to give people a boost of fun and colour in the recession.This family-friendly event will include a parade, fancy dress and a number of fun activities including Best Easter Bonnet competition..

Donegal Fleadh Cheoil 10–12 May 2013

Fleadh Cheoil Dhún na nGall with Competitions, Concerts, Festivals, Sessions and Dancing to be held in Culdaff, Inishowen

The Magnificent 7th Guth Gafa Film Festival, Malin 9–19 May

Guth Gafa, The Magnificent Seventh, will take place in two locations between 9 and 19 May 2013. The hub of the 7th International Documentary Festival and main screening venues will be in Malin village, and a series of satellite film events will be held in Derry. With a 6 year track record attracting the newest and best award-winning international and Irish documentary films to the North-West, Guth Gafa explores themes of human rights, social issues and the environment.

Féile Grianán Áiligh 21–22 June 2013: A Cultural Celebration at Grianán of Áiligh

Féile Grianán Áiligh celebrates the importance that the Grianán of Áiligh Fort has in Irish history. The Féile will tell the story of the arrival of St. Patrick, who baptised "Prince Eoghan" (Owen), son of Niall of the Nine Hostages and Ri of Ireland, who came to Aileach and gave his name to Inish Eoghain (i.e. Island of Eoghan). This will be done through folklore/storytelling, ancient song, music, dance and carnival/drama/pageant in and around the Fort on the day. It will also consist of many exhibits, such as Basket Making, Wattle Making, Yarn Spinning, Falconry, Blacksmith /armoury, illustrating the life of the area at that time in history. Buncrana St Patricks Weekend Festival 15–17 March 2013

As part of ‘The Gathering Ireland 2013’ Buncrana St. Patrick’s Festival are inviting thousands of people around the world to participate in one of the Northwest’s Largest St. Patrick’s Day Celebration.Come along and enjoy the craic, people and atmosphere. Soak up the vibrant atmosphere; feel the energy, wave to the audience along the 1 km route and best of all once you have finished you can marvel at the spectacular street performances, music and parade. Build lifelong memories, display your Irish pride, celebrate all that is good about Ireland and being Irish (even if you are just an honorary Irish person for one day!) and savour your unique journey through historic Inishowen – the journey of a lifetime! We hope to see you there!

Colgan Heritage Weekend 27–30 June 2013

The Colgan Heritage Festival will be an occasion for emigrants and locals to enjoy an array of events with special emphasis on the life and times of the Franciscan monk John Colgan who was born in Carndonagh and after whom our parish hall was named. This is the 4th year of the festival and it has been gaining in strength since its inception in 2010.Our theme for this year will be ‘Hearth and Home- Bringing them back’ and our programme will include walks, talks, story- telling, traditional song and dance, concert, drama, film craft fair and country market to be held out doors in Diamond followed by exhibition by Inishowen Carnival Group.

Buncrana Music Festival 11–14 July 2013

The new Buncrana Music & Arts Festival will celebrate the artistic talent and energy the town has always been renowned for, with an amazing variety of local, national and international artists. The programme will be crammed with events including concerts, workshops and drama sketches. 2013 will see late night gigs with the top class artists from all over the country. The fun and frolics of festival time in Buncrana include a full Carnival style party with kids from all over Donegal making their way through the Main Street in Buncrana before moving to Swan's Park where there will be a family party with live music and entertainment. There will be a feast of entertainment in one of Ireland's gems, Buncrana, the gateway to the beautiful Inishowen Peninsula.

DylanFest on the Lough, Ireland's only annual festival of Bob Dylan music, takes place in Moville where bands from all over Europe and visitors from all over the world congregate to play and hear Bob Dylan music. The DylanFest takes place in the pubs, the streets of the town, on the shores of Lough Foyle and in the picturesque grounds of the hostel at Gulladuff House.

BeatlesFest on the Lough takes place every year when bands from all over Europe come and play in the streets and pubs of Moville.

Clonmany Music Festival 4–11 August 2013

Sunday 4 August signals the start of the much loved annual Clonmany Festival. We are now in our 46th year. Once again this family event is a week of summer fun for all ages. This is Irelands longest running and best known family festival and is situated in the beautiful village of Clonmany. Year after year thousands of holiday makers and locals alike enjoy the many events, live music, natural beauty and facilities which go hand in hand with the festival. From raft races and cycling events to treasure hunts and talent competitions, the festival has something to offer everyone and is an event which you will find yourself returning to again and again.

Muff Festival 2–5 August 2013- "The Homecoming"

Muff Festival 2013 welcomes you to a feast of family fun, sports, spectacle, live music and dance. This four day extravaganza hosts a veritable galaxy of daft competitions, street partying, parades and pageantry. An eclectic programme of over 30 events is staged over the August bank holiday weekend.

Malin Head - Sports Day 15 August

Malin Heads main day for sport and drinking

National Heritage Week 17–25 August 2013

National Heritage Week is from 17–25 August. Pick up your copy of the National Heritage Week Event Guide. Complete event listings for Inishowen can be viewed shortly, in the August section of Festival and Events. Whale watching, Heritage Trails, Historical Talks and Tours.

October Charles Macklin Autumn School Culdaff 10-14 Oct 2013

Charles Macklin (26 September 1690 – 11 July 1797), originally Cathal MacLochlainn, was an actor and dramatist born in Culdaff, a village on Inishowen Peninsula of County Donegal. He was one of the most distinguished actors of his day, equally in tragedy and comedy. He gained his greatest fame in the role of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. The Charles Macklin Autumn School was founded in 1990 with Brian Friel as patron with Events including concerts, book launches, lectures, music recitals, writing workshops, art exhibitions and lunchtime talks.



  1. ^ DeBreffny, D & Mott, G (1976). The Churches and Abbeys of Ireland. London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 60–61. 
  2. ^ According to The Irish Times, "National Roads Authority road safety expert Stephen Lambert said last night's death toll was the highest number of fatalities in a single crash since records began in 1961".
  3. ^ Watts, Alex (13 July 2010). "Funeral Plans For Men Killed In Irish Crash". Sky News (BSkyB). Retrieved 13 July 2010. 
  4. ^ "Funerals for Donegal crash". BBC News (BBC). 15 July 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  5. ^ "Eight-death crash 'worst on record'". Irish Independent (Independent News & Media). 12 July 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "Census 2006 Preliminary Report". Central Statistics Office Ireland. 2006. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  7. ^ "Donegal County Council Members". Donegal County Council. 2004. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 
  8. ^ "Inishowen 100 driving route". Ride with GPS. 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2014-10-11. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Morton, O. 2003. "The macroalgae of County Donegal, Ireland". Bull. Ir. Biogeog. Soc.; No. 27: 3-164.
  • Seán Beattie, Ancient Monuments of Inishowen, North Donegal. Lighthouse Publications, Carndonagh, Inishowen, County Donegal, 1994 & 2009.