Fanad Head Lighthouse – in the far north of Ireland

Last updated on May 16, 2024

In the far north of Ireland, you’ll find an extremely good-looking photo motif on a cliff right by the sea.

You’ll find it again and again on social media, and rightly so, because it’s really attractive – the Fanad Head Lighthouse on the north coast of Ireland.

Fanad Head Lighthouse
Fanad Head Lighthouse (photo by Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)


What you tend not to see on social media are the incredibly beautiful coastlines that you can experience on the small coastal roads of the Fanad Peninsula on the way to the lighthouse.

The small coastal road on the east side of the peninsula is particularly incredible. It winds along the sea in many bends, often very close to the water. On the other side of the bay you can see the beautiful Inishowen Peninsula with Malin Head, the northernmost point of the island of Ireland.

To drive this beautiful coastal road, simply follow the R247 from Ramelton to Rathmullan. After Rathmullan, at Clondallon, the R247 turns inland, but stay on the coast and follow the R268 via Portsalon to Fanad Head and the lighthouse.

Small coastal road at the Fanad Peninsula
Small coastal road at the Fanad Peninsula (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

On the way back, you can then drive along the west coast of the Fanad Peninsula, and of course the tour also works in the opposite direction.

The good-looking lighthouse itself is beautifully situated on a rocky promontory directly on the Atlantic, which makes it a popular photo motif. But all in all, the crowds of visitors here on the north coast of County Donegal are very manageable.

Sea side of Fanad Lighthouse
Sea side of Fanad Lighthouse

I visited the lighthouse on one of my motorbike trips and took a leisurely day trip around the Fanad Peninsula – and that was definitely one of my personal highlights in Ireland!

We come from Germany, but have lived in Ireland as a second home for several years now. In the summer, we run our motorbike rental business south of Dublin ( and our guest rooms. We have travelled to the island many times and therefore know it well.

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Background to Fanad Head Lighthouse

It happened in December 1811: A sailing ship ran aground on a rock in a storm near Fanad Head and was badly damaged. A little further on, near Portsalon, it ran aground. The only survivors were the ship’s dog and the captain’s parrot. Over 200 bodies were washed up on the coast and buried there. The wreck was later found in Ballymastocker Bay.

It was the HMS Saldanha, a sailing frigate with three masts, which was completed in 1809 and officially commissioned as a service ship of the British Royal Navy in 1810. With 36 guns and a crew of 264, she patrolled the Irish coasts in pursuit of French warships and privateers.

The Fanad Head lighthouse was built to prevent further shipwrecks in the future. It was put into service on Saint Patrick’s Day 1817 and has warned ships of the dangerous cliffs of the north coast ever since.

At Fanad Head Lighthouse
At Fanad Head Lighthouse (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

The lighthouse was extended again in the 1870s, in particular the tower was raised to make it more visible over greater distances.

At that time, the lighthouse was operated by a principal keeper and an assistant keeper who lived at the lighthouse with their families. In later years, the lighthouse was automated.

A visit to Fanad Head Lighthouse

Today you can visit the lighthouse. Admission doesn’t cost much and is definitely worth it. You can stroll around the lighthouse on your own and take photos, or join the guided tour inside the lighthouse.

Incidentally, there are also three cottages there today that can be booked for overnight stays. You can find more information here:

Take some time to walk along the cliffs around the lighthouse, which offer wonderful views of the coast. But be warned, the surf right on the cliffs can be fierce!

Man on a cliff at Fanad Head Lighthouse
Man on a cliff at Fanad Head Lighthouse (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

What the Fanad Peninsula has to offer

On the aforementioned coastal road via Rathmullan to Portsalon you will find Ballymastocker Beach, a dream (!!!) of a beach.

Directly behind it, beautifully built into the dunes, is the Portsalon Golf Club with hotel, where you can play a round. See:

If you like kayaking, you can also go on a guided paddle tour along the coast from Portsalon, see:

Ballymastocker Beach at Fanad Peninsula
Ballymastocker Beach at Fanad Peninsula (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Whiteshore Beach, a little to the west of Fanad Head, is also wonderful for a swim or a walk on the beach.

And with so much wild Atlantic Ocean, you can also go surfing. See:

Portsalon is also a good address for an overnight stay.

Knockalla Fort at the coast of Fanad Peninsula
Knockalla Fort at the coast of Fanad Peninsula (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

A little way behind Carrickart you will find Doe Castle right on the water – small, but very pretty and with a romantic history.

You can also combine the tour around Fanad Head with a visit to Letterkenny, Londonderry/Derry or the Inishowen Peninsula (Malin Head), which you have already seen on the other side of the bay at Rathmullan.


The north has a lot of beauty to offer! The Fanad Peninsula is a gem among the peninsulas of Ireland and the Fanad Head Lighthouse is a jewel among the sights on the Irish coast.

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Too much praise and exaggeration? I don’t think so, because that’s exactly how I felt on my tour around the Fanad Peninsula.

I hope you feel the same way – have fun at Fanad Head Lighthouse!

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Picture credits cover picture: Fanad Head Lighthouse, photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg (,,

Uli Written by:

Hello and welcome to my blog. Originating from Germany, my family and I now live in Ireland (at least part time). We have travelled this amazing isle many times and know many parts of it very well. In this blog, I would like to share valuabe tips and information for your next trip to Ireland with you. Enjoy the content, yours, Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg