Fanad Head, County Donegal

Fanad Head stretches bravely into the swirling Atlantic Ocean at the northern tip of Ireland

Fanad Head Peninsula Scenic Tour

As you travel further north on the island, it feels as if civilisation has been left far, far behind. You’re entering a world that lives and breathes through its land and seascapes…let us introduce you to the Fanad Head peninsula.

It’s easy to recognize the main attraction on this peninsula: Fanad Head Lighthouse, which was conceived as essential to seafarers following a tragedy over 200 years ago. In December 1811, the frigate Saldanha sought shelter from a storm, heading towards Fanad as it frantically fought the raging wind and waves. Sadly, reaching shore safely never happened, and the ship was wrecked off the northern coast – its only survivor was the ship’s parrot.

Soon after, the Fanad Head Lighthouse was built to help weary sailors on their journey. It’s still there today, standing on a rocky outcrop blinking out to sea. The Saldanha’s bell allegedly found a new home in Portsalon’s church tower, while the ship’s salvaged timbers bear the weight of the roof in Ramelton’s Town Hall.

Spectacular coastline

To limit your Fanad Head journey to its lighthouse, though, would be to ignore the spectacular landscapes that this headland has borne from its uninterrupted clash with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of this epic scenery is the Great Arch, a stunning viewing spot that will shine out from your Wild Atlantic Way photo album; and a brilliant place to catch sight of the Head’s water-based residents, including grey seals and whales.

It’s not all rough weathering along the shoreline, though, as beach lovers will testify when they discover Ballymastocker Bay, near Portsalon. Once named ‘most beautiful beach in the world’ by British newspaper, The Observer, this blue-flag beach can do wonders to persuade you to don your swimsuit and head into the waves.

Golf and great food

Despite leaving civilization behind for a circuit of Fanad Head, some creature comforts can never be forgotten. Perhaps you’re itching to tackle the elements with your golf clubs? Then visit Portsalon Golf Club, an outstanding links course that Golf Digest ranked 25th in its 100 great golf courses of Ireland. Afterwards, reward yourself with a bowl of steamed mussels in the cosiness of Sarah’s Restaurant, overlooking Lough Swilly in Portsalon.

Fanad Head knows what it is to face the elements, with crumbling cliffs, breaking waves and expansive seascapes…take it all in before heading back onto the Wild Atlantic Way.

Geographical coordinates: 55.275617, -7.6345941 (note, if you use your car’s GPS to go directly to this point, you may not always remain on the Wild Atlantic Way route.)