Perched on the west side of the Inishowen peninsula, Fort Dunree is a coastal defence fortification in Donegal dating back to the early 19th century.
Built to defend Lough Swilly during the Napoleonic Wars, today Fort Dunree is a popular site of historical interest for visitors to this most beautiful corner of Ireland.
In this article, we will offer a comprehensive guide to visiting Fort Dunree, including a little bit about the history of the fort and its surrounding area as well as plenty more.
About Fort Dunree and Dunree Head
Located on the west side of Inishowen peninsula in northern Donegal, Dunree Head is a rocky promontory jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Home to Fort Dunree (which means ‘Fort of the Heather’ in Irish), Dunree Head is renowned both for its natural beauty and as a highly strategic point of military defence down the years.
Since the early 1800s, Dunree Head has been home to Fort Dunree, where a key costa defence bastion was set up.
Dunree Fort was left neglected after peace was reached in the early 1800s, however, much later in 1874, 24 Pounder Guns were introduced to bulk up its defence.
Dunree Head and its famous fort are now a popular destination for people in search of Donegal attractions that boast a wealth of history.
Things to do at Fort Dunree
If you’re exploring the Inishowen Peninsula, a visit to Fort Dunree is a must, and it can easily be paired with a visit to a handful of other nearby attractions (info at the end).
Fort Dunree is packed with exciting activities and things to do for the visitor. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular ways to spend a day at one of Ireland’s best known coastal defence structures.
1. Explore Fort Dunree Military Museum
Fort Dunree Military Museum opened back in 1986 and offers a unique, comprehensive insight into the bastion’s history of over 200 years.
A visit to the site includes a video film presentation in the audio-visual theatre and access to museum displays which exhibit life at Fort Dunree.
The museum seeks to display the fort’s key role in coastal defence, neutrality protection and its range of coastal artillery.
Highlights of the museum include a visit to the underground bunkers that house a collection of artefacts offering a look at the daily operation of the Fort.
2. Soak up the scenery around Dunree Head
As you might expect from the Donegal coast, the scenery at Fort Dunree is incredibly beautiful and dramatic in its scope.
Cliffs plunge into the frothing waters of the Atlantic, green hills tower in the distance. The sky seems to go on forever.
For those with a penchant for both military history and natural beauty, a visit to Fort Dunree is an absolutely essential component of any Donegal trip.
3. Enjoy a coffee with a view
For those who enjoy a distinctly less active day out, The Coffee Cup cafe offers a range of delicious refreshments (along with some very tasty treats!).
Grab something hot to keep your hands toasty as you saunter around Dunree Fort or take a load of in the cafe’s comfy seating area!
4. Give kayaking a crack
The stunning natural beauty, based around the coastal vantage point that Fort Dunree enjoys, means that water sports are popular in the area. Why not give kayaking a go?
Inish Adventures, a top kayak and aquatic adventure school provides everything from Kayaking to Snorkelling to Coasteering at Fort Dunree after the recent redevelopment of the local pier.
Things to see near Fort Dunree Military Museum
There’s plenty to see and do near Fort Dunree Military Museum, from walks and scenic drives to beaches, historical sites and more.
Below, you’ll find a handful of brilliant places to visit near Dunree Fort. Make sure to hop into our Inishowen Peninsula guide, after, to see everything there is to do in the area.
1. Wild Ireland
Wild Ireland, a recently opened (and very unique) animal sanctuary, has given refuge to a number of animals that have been extinct in Ireland for centuries.
Visitors to the Inishowen sanctuary can expect to find everything from bears and wolves to otters, wild boar and more.
It’ll take you 35 minutes to get from Dunree Fort Military Museum to Wild Ireland if you’re driving.
2. Glenevin Waterfall
The beautiful Glenevin Waterfall is one of a handful of hidden gems near Dunree Fort Military Museum that’s worth exploring.
There’s a gorgeous walk from the parking area to the waterfall (takes about 20 minutes) and there’s a coffee truck on-site during the busier months.
It’ll take you 19 minutes to get from Dunree Fort Military Museum to Glenevin Waterfall if you’re driving.
3. Mamore Gap
Mamore Gap is, in my opinion, home to one of the most scenic drives in Ireland. The views on a clear day from this mighty chunk of Donegal will leave you breathless.
The best way, in my opinion, to see Mamore Gap is by heading off on the Inishowen 100, as you’ll see loads more of Inishowen’s top attractions in the process.
It’ll take you 13 minutes to get from Dunree Fort Military Museum to Mamore Gap if you’re driving.