Courtesy of Dunfanaghy Photography


Dunfanaghy or Dún Fionnachaidh (translation - fort of the fair-haired warrior in Irish) is a small town which lies on Donegal's North West coast. The centre of Dunfanaghy is a small square with a market house built in 1847 and a quay built in 1831 which was formerly used to export corn. It was a thriving commercial centre until the early twentieth century. The town holds four churches and is also home to a golf club, several art galleries and craft shops, and a museum, situated in part of a former workhouse, which describes the effects of the Irish Potato Famine on Dunfanaghy (see linked article).

Historically there have been two big storms that have had a major effect on the Dunfanaghy area. The first was in 1818 which destroyed a Scottish fishing fleet of some 100 boats as they tried to enter the harbour. Of the entire feet, only 1 boat returned to Scotland. In the days following the tragedy the bodies of the crewmen were washed up in the harbour and on local beaches. Many of the bodies were interred in what is now known as the Famine Graveyard. In 1917 a second storm blew sand from the sand dunes across the inlet completely silting it up and creating ‘The New Lake’. However the storm also destroyed the entrance to the harbour and almost immediately ended Dunfanaghy’s role as a bustling fishing port.

For 33 years, from 9th March 1903 until 3 June 1940, Dunfanaghy was linked to the rest of the world by The Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway. The passenger service in the railway closed on 3 June 1940, but the freight service continued until 6 January 1947.

Approximately 10 kilometres from Dunfanaghy, there is a small stone bridge known as ‘The Bridge of Tears’. It contains a plaque written in Irish which roughly translated into English states: “Friends and relatives of the person emigrating would come this far. Here they parted. This is the Bridge of Tears”. Long before the building of the railway in the area, for emigrants this was the most common route leading to Derry, and to the ships which would take them on to their destinations of England, Scotland, Australia and America. The relatives of those emigrating would accompany them along the long walk up towards Muckish Gap, and the bridge was where they would part ways, in those days almost sure that they would never see each other again.

Dunfanaghy is famous for its fishing port and today its fishery comprises of three lakes: Sessiagh Lough, Port Lough and the New Lake. These are controlled by the Dunfanaghy Angling Association. The lakes are all noted for their wild brown trout with the New Lake thought to be one of the best brown trout fisheries in the county. The season on the Lakes starts on the nearest weekend to St. Patrick’s day, but the lakes are not usually fished until April.