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Location of Inishowen (in red) Inishowen.png
Location of Inishowen (in red)

Inishowen (Irish : Inis Eoghain, meaning 'island of Eoghan') is a peninsula in the north of County Donegal in Ireland. Inishowen is the largest peninsula on the island of Ireland. [1]


The Inishowen peninsula includes Ireland's most northerly point, Malin Head. The Grianan of Aileach, a ringfort that served as the royal seat of the over-kingdom of Ailech, stands at the entrance to the peninsula.

Towns of Inishowen

Five Finger Strand Trawbreaga Stitch 02 (3777308805).jpg
Five Finger Strand

The main towns and villages of Inishowen are:


Detail on a map of Inishowen peninsula Inishowen peninsula.PNG
Detail on a map of Inishowen peninsula

Inishowen is a peninsula of 884.33 square kilometres (218,523 acres), situated in the northernmost part of the island of Ireland. [2] 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 the island and is mostly in County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. The south-eastern part of the peninsula lies in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, having been transferred from County Donegal at the behest of the London companies as part of the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century. The peninsula is separated from the rest of Northern Ireland by the River Foyle.

After the last ice age the peninsula 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 Slieve Snaght which is 619 metres (2,030 feet) above sea level. Other major hills are located in the Malin Head peninsula, [3] 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-head-donegal.jpg
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 Londonderry Port.

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, showing a marked contrast to the more mountainous area surrounding it.


The Grianan of Aileach is a stone fort on the Inishowen peninsula. Grainan of aileach.jpg
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 Buncrana.jpg
Buncrana is the largest town in Inishowen and second largest in County Donegal

Ptolemy's Geography (2nd century) described a point called Ουεννικνιον (Wenniknion, perhaps from *wen- "friends") which probably referred to Inishowen. [4]

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 Meic Lochlainn (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 Meic Lochlainn, the Norman Earldom of Ulster expanded into Inishowen, founding Greencastle in the process. After the Bruce invasion in the early 14th-century, the Ó Dochartaigh clan (descended from the tribe of Conaill), gradually conquered it 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 Meic Lochlainn, 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 County 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 Áed Méith and found himself unable to conquer the western part of Ulster. [5]

In 1608 Sir Cahir O'Doherty, the Chief of the Name of Clan O'Doherty and Lord of Inishowen, launched O'Doherty's Rebellion by burning Derry. After the defeat of the uprising, most of Clan O'Doherty's territory was awarded to Arthur Chichester. In July 1990, an O'Dogherty Clan gathering was held and Ramon Salvador O'Dogherty of Spain was ceremonially installed as Chief of the Name at a ceremony in Belmont House, Derry. During the ceremony, he was handed the sword which Cahir O'Doherty bore during his death in battle in 1608. [6] [ relevant? ]

Ireland's deadliest road accident happened at Inishowen in July 2010. [7] [8] [9] [10]


At the last Census of Ireland in 2016, Inishowen counted a population of 40,544 [11] Buncrana is the largest town in Inishowen, with a 2016 population of 3,396 in its urban area. [11]


On a national level, Inishowen forms part of the Donegal constituency, which elects five TDs to Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament). At the county level, Inishowen is an electoral area, a Municipal District, electing nine councillors to Donegal County Council. Currently there are three members of Fianna Fáil, two each of Sinn Féin and Fine Gael, one from the Labour Party and one independent. [12]


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 ( 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.


Inishowen sunset Inishowen sunset.jpg
Inishowen sunset
Sheep grazing at Inishowen Head Inishowen Head - - 172897.jpg
Sheep grazing at Inishowen Head
Lighthouse at Dunagree Point Lighthouse at Dunagree Point, Inishowen - - 83445.jpg
Lighthouse at Dunagree Point

Inishowen is at the starting (or ending) point of the Wild Atlantic Way. [13]

The Inishowen 100 tourist route [14] is an approximately 100-mile signposted scenic drive around the peninsula. It takes in or passes nearby many of the tourist sights and places of interest on the peninsula. [15] 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 an 18-hole golf course.

The route then 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, past Five Fingers Strand and then up onto cliff top viewpoint at Knockamany Bens, then down again to sea level with the route looking out into the Atlantic, before heading to Ireland's most northerly point Malin Head.

On the North Eastern coast the route passes through Culdaff village and Culdaff Bay (another Blue Flag beach), Tramone Bay, and Kinnagoe Bay. Further East, it reaches Lough Foyle and then Greencastle (a port used by fishing boats and a landing point for the car ferry from Magilligan in Northern Ireland). Then, as the road heads South along Lough Foyle, it passes through Moville town, Quigley's Point and the village of Muff.[ citation needed ]


The Famine Village on the Isle of Doagh in Lagacurry takes visitors on a tour from famine days of the 1840s to the present. It includes thatched cottages, a large walk through museum, and guided tours of life in an isolated place living on the edge. [16]

Fort Dunree Dunree Fort - panoramio.jpg
Fort Dunree

Fort Dunree Military Museum is located at the site of the former coastal defence and fortification Fort Dunree built to defend Lough Swilly during the Napoleonic Wars. The museum includes restored guns, a military camp and underground bunkers. [17]

The Inishowen Maritime Museum & Planetarium was founded in 1994 by maritime history enthusiasts who raised funds to buy the Old Coast Guard Station on Greencastle Harbor. The museum includes photographs and artifacts. [18] A planetarium is housed in an extension built to the museum, and there is a memorial to those lost at sea from the Inishowen Peninsula in front of the museum.


Gaelic games

Inishowen has a number of Gaelic football clubs which represent the various parishes on the peninsula. Each club has different football teams for both sexes and a variety of age groups. While hurling is played at underage level by all the clubs there is, of yet, no adult team fielded on a regular basis by any of them. [19] Local clubs include Beart CLG (in Burt), [20] Buncrana GAA club, [21] Carndonagh GAA club, [22] Malin GAA club, [23] Moville GAA club, [20] Naomh Pádraig GAA club (Muff), [24] and Urris GAA club. [25]

Association football

The Inishowen Football League (IOFL) is an amateur league for football (soccer) clubs in the Inishowen peninsula.

Other sports

Inishowen Rugby Club is based at Carndonagh.

Other sports in the area include cycling, [26] golf, [27] horse riding, kayaking, shooting (for example at North Inishowen Gun Club ), surfing and rock climbing. [28]

Related Research Articles

Clonmany Village in Ulster, Ireland

Clonmany is a village in north-west Inishowen, in County Donegal, Ireland. The area has many local beauty spots, while the nearby village of Ballyliffin is famous for its golf course. The Urris valley to the west of Clonmany village was the last outpost of the Irish language in Inishowen. In the 19th century, the area was an important location for poitín distillation.

Carndonagh Town in Ulster, Ireland

Carndonagh is a town on the Inishowen peninsula in County Donegal, Ireland, close to Trawbreaga Bay. It is the site of the Donagh Cross, believed to date to the 7th century. The Irish name, Carn Domhnach, means "the cairn or mound of the church".

Fort Dunree

Fort Dunree is a coastal defence fortification located on the west side of the Inishowen peninsula, County Donegal, Ireland.

Buncrana Town in Ulster, Ireland

Buncrana is a town in County Donegal, Ireland. It is beside Lough Swilly on the Inishowen peninsula, 23 kilometres (14 mi) northwest of Derry and 43 kilometres (27 mi) north of Letterkenny. In the 2016 census, the population was 6,785 making it the second most populous town in County Donegal, after Letterkenny, and the largest in Inishowen.

Lough Swilly

Lough Swilly in Ireland is a glacial fjord or sea inlet lying between the western side of the Inishowen Peninsula and the Fanad Peninsula, in County Donegal. Along with Carlingford Lough and Killary Harbour it is one of three glacial fjords in Ireland.

Moville Town in Ulster, Republic of Ireland

Moville is a coastal town located on the Inishowen Peninsula of County Donegal, Ireland, close to the northern tip of the island of Ireland. It is the first coastal town of the Wild Atlantic Way when starting on the northern end.

Greencastle, County Donegal Town in Ulster, Ireland

Greencastle, is a commercial fishing port located in the north of the Inishowen Peninsula on the north coast of County Donegal, Ireland on Lough Foyle. Nowadays, given the decline in the fishing industry, it resembles more closely a 'typical' Donegal holiday village. It is located a few miles from Moville and is about 20 miles from Derry. Greencastle's name comes from the castle in the area, which, in turn, may have derived its name from the green freestone with which it was built. The castle, originally built by the Anglo-Normans, is also known as Northburgh Castle.

The Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway Company was an Irish public transport and freight company that operated in parts of County Londonderry and County Donegal between 1853 and 2014. Incorporated in June 1853, it once operated 99 miles of railways. It began the transition to bus and road freight services in 1929. It closed its last railway line in July 1953 but continued to operate bus services under the name Lough Swilly Bus Company until April 2014, becoming the oldest railway company established in the Victorian era to continue trading as a commercial concern into the 21st century. Following a High Court petition by HM Revenue and Customs, the company went into liquidation and operated its final bus services on 19 April 2014.


Urris is a valley to the west of the parish of Clonmany, in County Donegal, Ireland. It comprises the townlands of Crossconnell, Dunaff, Kinnea, Leenan, Letter, and Urrismenagh. It sits on the eastern side of Loch Swilly and it is bounded to the south-east by the Urris hills, and to the east by Binion hill. To the north, there is Rockstown bay and Tullagh peninsula. There are two entrances to Urris; the Gap of Mamore, and Crossconnell.

Dunree Townland in Ulster, Ireland

Dunree is a townland in north-west Inishowen, in County Donegal, Ireland. Part of the civil parish of Desertegney, the townland has an area of approximately 0.8 square kilometres (0.3 sq mi), and had a population of 33 people as of the 2011 census.

Burt, County Donegal Parish in Ulster, Ireland

Burt is a parish in County Donegal, Ireland, on the main road between Letterkenny and Derry.

Inishowen Football League

The Inishowen Football League (IOFL) is an amateur league for football clubs in the Inishowen peninsula of Ireland. There are three divisions, with a promotion-and-relegation system in operation. This three-division setup, introduced in 2016, replaced a structure that had been in place for twenty years.

Carndonagh railway station

Carndonagh railway station is a disused station that served the town of Carndonagh and surrounding area in County Donegal, Ireland. It was the terminal station on the branch line of the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway Line that served the northern part of the Inishowen peninsula. This extension was known as the Buncrana to Carndonagh branch line, and measured 18.5 miles. The line was sometimes also known as the Carndonagh extension.

Clonmany railway station

Clonmany railway station served Clonmany in County Donegal, Ireland.

Wild Atlantic Way Irish coastal 2500 km road route

The Wild Atlantic Way is a tourism trail on the west coast, and on parts of the north and south coasts, of Ireland. The 2,500 km driving route passes through nine counties and three provinces, stretching from County Donegal's Inishowen Peninsula in Ulster to Kinsale, County Cork, in Munster, on the Celtic Sea coast.

R238 road (Ireland)

The R238 road is a regional road in Ireland. It is a ring road around the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal. The R238 is also part of the main road from Derry to Buncrana. Sections of the road form part of the Wild Atlantic Way. In July 2010, the road was the site of Ireland's worst road crash resulting in eight deaths.

Paul Callaghan is an Irish Gaelic football coach and former goalkeeper for the Donegal county team. First called into the senior county team in 1991, he was reserve goalkeeper when the team won the Sam Maguire Cup the following year by defeating Dublin in the final.

The Donegal Intermediate Ladies Football Championship is an annual LGFA competition organised by Donegal LGFA among the top ladies football clubs in County Donegal.

Inishowen West Barony in Ulster, Republic of Ireland

Inishowen West, also called West Inishowen or Innishowen West, is a barony in County Donegal, Republic of Ireland. Baronies were mainly cadastral rather than administrative units. They acquired modest local taxation and spending functions in the 19th century before being superseded by the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898.

Inishowen East Barony in Ulster, Republic of Ireland

Inishowen East, also called East Inishowen or Innishowen East, is a barony in County Donegal, Republic of Ireland. Baronies were mainly cadastral rather than administrative units. They acquired modest local taxation and spending functions in the 19th century before being superseded by the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898.


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  2. Colhoun, Mabel R. 1995. "The heritage of Inishowen: its archaeology, history and folklore." (Londonderry): North West Archaeological and Historical Society.
  3. Homer, Peter. A Brief History of Malin Head. Inishowen Maritime Museum & Planetarium. 2014.
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  5. DeBreffny, D; Mott, G (1976). The Churches and Abbeys of Ireland. London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 60–61.
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  7. 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".
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  11. 1 2 "Census 2016". Central Statistics Office Ireland. 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  12. "Councillors for the Municipal District of Inishowen". Donegal County Council. 14 April 2016.
  13. "Wild Atlantic Way". Archived from the original on 27 April 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  14. "Inishowen 100 driving route". Ride with GPS. 4 July 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  15. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 April 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. Doagh Famine Village. /
  17. Fort Dunree
  18. Inishowen Maritime Museum & Planetarium
  19. [ bare URL ]
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  21. [ bare URL ]
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  27. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 April 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. "Outdoor pursuits sports in Inishowen Donegal". Retrieved 14 May 2019.

Further reading