The magnificent Fanad Lighthouse is one of my favourite places to visit in Donegal.
There’s something special about this place. Especially when you visit during off-season, as the chances are you’ll have the whole place to yourself.
Fanad Head Lighthouse is an incredible sight perched on the edge of the dramatic coastline of northern Donegal. The working lighthouse dates back to 1817 and has been open to visitors since 2016.
In the guid below, you’ll discover everything that you need to know about visiting Fanad Head Lighthouse and the stunning Fanad Peninsula.
Table of Contents
About Fanad Lighthouse in Donegal
Fanad Lighthouse is perched on the edge of Fanad Peninsula, which lies between Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay on the northern coastline of County Donegal.
Where the name comes from
There’s little consensus on where the name Fanad comes from, but some believe that is derived from the old Gaelic word Fana which means “sloping ground”.
A whole lot of history
Fanad Head Lighthouse has been a working lighthouse since 1817 and now welcomes visitors who come to enjoy the view and learn about the history of the lighthouse.
The area has a long history of human settlement back to the Bronze Age, with around 700 people currently living on the peninsula.
Lots to see and do nearby
It’s not far from Malin Head, the northernmost point of mainland Ireland and is often visited together as part of a trip on the Wild Atlantic Way.
There are plenty of things to do around the Fanad Peninsula, including hiking, kayaking, golfing and fishing.
Fanad Head Lighthouse Facts
- Fanad is one of 11 working lighthouses in County Donegal and has been voted as one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world.
- The lighthouse tower is 22 metres high from the foundation to the top, not including the lantern, and there are 76 steps inside the tower.
- The lighthouse staff originally included a principal keeper and an assistant who lived inside with their families.
- By 1978, only a principal keeper remained in Fanad Lighthouse and when he retired in 1983, he stayed on as the only part-time attendant.
- There are fully guided tours available to learn about the lighthouse as well as unique accommodation onsite for visitors in restored lightkeeper’s cottages.
Things To Know Before Visiting Fanad Head Lighthouse
If you’re planning on visiting Fanad Head Lighthouse on your Donegal road trip, there’s a few things to know in advance.
Below, you’ll find info on where to park, the lighthouse tours and how to see it without actually going inside.
1. Where to park
There is plenty of parking right next to the lighthouse, which is great for anyone with limited mobility as they can easily see the lighthouse from the car park. The car park is free to use.
There are guided tours available at Fanad Lighthouse which is the best way to get the most out of your visit. They operate year-round and last for around 45 minutes.
They begin in the interpretive centre at the bottom of the lighthouse and finish with a climb to the top of the tower into the lightroom which has spectacular panoramic views of the Atlantic coast.
During the tour you’ll learn about the history of the lighthouse, the stories of the keepers and their families, tragic shipwrecks along the coast and how lighthouses have changed since the 19th century.
3. If you don’t want to do the tour
You can still view the lighthouse from the car park without doing a tour or you can simply wander around the coastline around the area to get different views of the lighthouse and the stunning ocean.
Be careful if you’re walking about here as, unsurprisingly enough, the cliff edge is unguarded and very crumbly in places.
Fanad Lighthouse Accommodation
Somehow we missed the Fanad Lighthouse accommodation in our guide to the best Donegal cottages to rent for a break away.
There are three lightkeeper’s cottages that have been restored with a stylish yet cosy touch, including a warm fire.
Dunree View sleeps two, Inistrahull View sleeps up to four and Tory View can sleep four or more, so there’s something to accommodate everyone.
The cottages are self-catering so you can use the fully equipped kitchen and dining room. There’s no Wi-Fi available, but it offers the perfect opportunity for a digital detox while you listen to the waves crashing at night.
There is a minimum two-night stay, but you also get a complimentary guided tour of the lighthouse.
Things to do near Fanad
One of the beauties of visiting Fanad is that there’s plenty of things to see and do a handy drive away.
Below, you’ll find our favourite places to visit nearby, from beaches and scenic drives to historical sites and more.
1. Portsalon Beach (17-minutes away)
The mighty Portsalon Beach is a short, 17-minute drive from Fanad Head Lightouse (it’s on the east side of the peninsula).
2. Boyeeghter Strand (38-minutes away)
3. Walks, walks and more walks
There’s plenty of places to head for walks near Fanad. Ards Forest Park (44 minutes) is a personal favourite, but there’s also plenty of Glenveagh National Park walks to try (45 minutes) and there’s also the Mount Errigal Hike (52 minutes)
FAQs About Visiting Fanad Lighthouse
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the Fand Lighthouse accommodation to the on-site tours.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Can you stay in Fanad Lighthouse?
Yes, there is unique accommodation available at Fanad Lighthouse in restored lightkeeper’s cottages.
When was Fanad Lighthouse built?
Fanad Lighthouse was proposed in response to a shipping tragedy with the wrecking of HMS Saldanha in 1811. It was designed by George Halpin, a prominent engineer of the time and construction begin in 1815. It was completed and first lit on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1817.
How far is Fanad from Letterkenny?
Fanad Lighthouse is just 42km north of Letterkenny or a 45-minute drive.