Cionn Fhánada (Fanad Head)


Fanad Head SPA comprises two areas of extensively managed grassland on the Fanad Head peninsula on the north coast of Co. Donegal. Included within the site is an area of grassland between Kinny Lough and Shannagh Lough, and another area around the village of Doagh Beg on the western shore of Lough Swilly south of Fanad Head.

The principal habitat present is grassland but small areas of scrub and wetlands also occur. The site is a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the E.U. Birds Directive, of special conservation interest for the Corncrake.

The coastline of Fanad is part of the extensive Horn Head to Fanad Head Special Protection area. Bird species of note include: Fulmar, Barnacle Goose, Peregrine, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, Chough, Greenland White-fronted Goose. The Corncrake Special Protection area overlaps with the Ballyhoorisky Point To Fanad Head Special Area of Conservation which is noted for several habitats of European importance.

Fanad Head Catchment Map

There are an estimated 700 people living in Fanad and 30% are Irish speakers. Fanad Head measures approximately 12km from east to west and it lies 33 km north of Letterkenny town in Co. Donegal.

The main activities in the wider area are farming, fishing and tourism. Fanad Head lighthouse was recently renovated and opened to the public, attracting numerous tourists. Fanad Head is also on the Wild Atlantic Way route, and a short distance from Portsalon beach and golf club. There is also some industry in the area, with an organic salmon processing factory in Magheradrumman providing local employment.

Fanad Head also supports nationally important numbers of Corncrake annually (7 calling males, 2014 – 2018 survey mean). It is also one of the few remaining mainland sites supporting Corncrake in the region (Co. Donegal) and is often one of the more densely populated mainland sites. Fanad Head has supported between 5 and 11 birds annually since 2014. 

Total Male Calling Crakes - Fanad


The Fanad Peninsula is located in north Donegal and contains some of the finest scenery in the northwest. The golf course at Portsalon is truly spectacular as is the road which skirts Knockalla Mountain along the Wild Atlantic Way.

​Fanad is a spectacular and diverse peninsula with beautiful beaches and stunning scenery, you’ll also find golf courses, rural villages and towns, historic buildings and ruins, extreme sports and the best in food and drink.

​Access Cionn Fhánada (Fanad Head) from the Knockalla Coast Road and soak up the scenery across the estuary towards the Inishowen Peninsula. As the road ascends, take in one of the most splendid views in Ireland. Admire pretty Portsalon and spectacular Ballymastocker Bay, previously voted the second most beautiful beach in the world. Go sailing on its crystal clear waters, try a spot of windsurfing, play a round of golf or discover the stunning coastal walks.

​Crumbling cliffs, breaking waves and expansive seascapes; enter a world of raw nature and peaceful solitude at Fanad Head. 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…welcome to the Fanad Head peninsula in County Donegal.


It’s easy to recognise 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.

​Following the shipwreck of the HMS Saldanha in the waters of Lough Swilly in 1811, a lighthouse was proposed for Fanad Head. The lighthouse was designed by one of the foremost civil engineers of the time, George Halpin and first lit on 17th March 1817. Its fixed light showed red to sea and white towards the Lough, and could be seen for 14 miles (22 km) in clear weather.

​It’s still there today, standing on a rocky outcrop blinking out to sea. Head on up to the top of the lighthouse and take in the incredible panorama of Fanad Peninsula – you can even spend the night in the lighthouse itself!

Fanad Lighthouse stands between idyllic Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay, has been voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. With its location in the Donegal Gaeltacht (an Irish speaking area) on the eastern shore of the windswept Fanad Peninsula, it’s little wonder that this lighthouse is a Wild Atlantic Way highlight.

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To limit your Fanad Head journey to its lighthouse, though, would be to ignore the spectacular landscapes that has resulted from the headland’s 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.​

It’s not all rough weathering along the shoreline, though, as beach lovers will testify when they discover Ballymastocker Bay, near Portsalon. Once given the number two spot in a survey of the world’s most beautiful beaches in The Observer, this blue-flag beach entices you to don your swimsuit and head into the waves.

Despite leaving civilisation 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 seafood chowder in the cosiness of The Pier Restaurant, overlooking Lough Swilly in Portsalon.

For more Maps and Tourist Information visit:

For more information on the Special Protection Area within this catchment, visit the National Parks and Wildlife Services website