The harbour affords good shelter in all reasonable weather and tidal conditions, though it can be affected by swell breaking off the Murvagh Spit. Keeping to the well marked buoyed channel, attentive navigation is required for access as in parts the channel is narrow and shallow.
Keyfacts for Donegal Town Harbour
Summary* Restrictions applyA good location with attentive navigation required for access.
Position and approaches
Haven position54° 37.780' N, 008° 12.276' W
this is the position at Salt Hill Quay.
What is the initial fix?
Not what you need?
- Killybegs - 8.2 nautical miles W
- Mullaghmore - 13 nautical miles SW
- Teelin - 14.8 nautical miles W
- Church Pool & Portnoo - 15.5 nautical miles NNW
- Dawros Bay - 16 nautical miles NW
- Glen Bay - 19.7 nautical miles WNW
- Inishmurray - 19.9 nautical miles SW
- White Strand Bay - 19.9 nautical miles W
- Malin Beg Bay - 20.3 nautical miles W
- Rathlin O'Birne Island - 21.6 nautical miles W
How to get in?The 'Erris Head to Malin Head' coastal description provides approach information to the suggested initial fix. Vessels approaching from the south should select the northeast bound sequenced description; vessels approaching from the north should select the southwest bound sequence; western approaches may use either description.
Donegal, Irish : Dun na nGall meaning 'Fort of the Foreigners' referring to the Vikings who landed there, is a busy shopping and tourist town in the south of County Donegal where the River Eske flows into Donegal Bay, on the west coast of Ireland.
The very narrow entrance channel to Donegal Harbour is in the northwest corner of Donegal Bay abreast of Rock Point and is entered between Doorin Point in the north and Rossnowlagh Point in the south. This narrow channel formed by the estuary of the River Eske provides fair access as it winds between extensive sandbanks and islets, and Donegal town is situated about 5 miles upstream from the harbour entrance. The harbour affords secure anchorages but the channel up to the town, 1.25 miles northeast of Ballybole Island, is both shallow and narrow between sandbanks and is only suitable for dinghys. It is advisable to enter Donegal Harbour on a rising tide and preferably before half tide when Blind Rock in the entrance is visible, and caution should be taken as tidal streams are reported to be very strong in the harbour at times.
The entrance channel has recently been re-surveyed and marked with new lit buoys and beacons, and about a mile down river from Donegal town quays some visitors moorings have been laid. The entrance is usually well sheltered from swell and is only dangerous in very poor conditions, but sometimes the swell can break out far off Murvagh Spit in apparently safe conditions, and the approach is reasonable up to Salt Hill Quay which is about 3.75 miles inside the harbour east of Doorin Point.
The most popular anchorage location is the deep water area of Salt Hill Road lying between south and east of Salt Hill Point in depths of 3 to 5 metres. When the banks are covered the anchorage is exposed to a heavy swell in winds from the southwest to the east, and at such times a yacht may take shelter inside Salt Hill Quay on the north side of Salt Hill Point. The quay dries but has depths of nearly 3 metres alongside at highwater and is in good repair except for a few broken fenders.
An alternative sheltered anchorage when winds are from the west is to proceed to southeast beyond Green Island and anchor in the channel in depths of 4 to 5 metres off Murvagh Point approx. 1.5 miles east of Salt Hill Point. A note of caution though, tidal streams in this vicinity can be very strong.
There are a number of other sheltered anchorages in very pretty surroundings in the narrow channel northeast of Green Island varying in depths from 3 to 5 metres. The farthest eastern anchorage which is a little southwest of Ballybole Island affords better shelter in east or southeast winds and has a depth of 4 metres. From here it is only a short dinghy trip up to Donegal town harbour quays and a yacht should not proceed upstream from this location. The channel to Donegal town harbour where there are two quays on the south side, can only be entered by a dinghy preferably before half flood. There is a depth of 0.3 metres alongside the New Quay, and the Old Quay which is closer to the town, dries.
Why visit here?Despite its name Donegal is not the County Town which is Lifford further north and inland. It is however the business centre of the southern half of the county and with its many facilities and attractions it is a popular tourist destination.
In the 8th century the town was invaded by the Vikings who used it as a port, and this invasion is where the town got its Gaelic name Dun na nGall which means Fort of the Foreigners. In the grounds where O'Donnells/Donegal Castle now stands the Vikings built a garrison in the town. It continued as a port until the 1960's when the last commercial boat left the harbour sailing to Scotland with its load of telegraph poles.
The pedestrianised plaza in the centre of the town is called The Diamond, though it is actually triangular, where markets were held until 1967. The Obelisk which is to be found in The Diamond commemorates four monks called the Four Masters who in the 17th century compiled and wrote the Annals of the Four Masters. This was the first systematic coverage of Irish history from 2242BC to 1616AD and it remains one of the most important historical writings in Ireland. The four monks would travel around Ireland during the summer months gathering information both historical and mythological and return to the Friary in Donegal town and would spend the winter months writing up the information gathered. The ruins of the 15th century Franciscan Friary can be seen at the end of the pier in Donegal, and manuscripts of the works can be viewed at the Royal Irish Accademy and Trinity College and University College in Dublin.
O'Donnells/Donegal castle was built in the 15th century by Red Hugh O'Donnell who was the Principal of the great royal family who ruled the kingdom of Donegal from 1200 to 1600. The castle was built on a bend on the River Eske for defensive reasons, the river protecting it on two sides. On Lough Eske just outside the town there is a tiny island and on it is the remains of the castle's keep where the O'Donnell clan held their prisoners. Hidden behind trees and shrubs is a wall, all that is left of the keep. The Franciscan Friary of Donegal was founded in 1474 and was richly endowed by the Lady Nuala O'Connor and the Lady Nuala O'Brian, wives of the successive O'Donnell chieftans. Its present ruined state dates from 1601 when it was turned into a fortress by Niall Garbh O'Donnell, and the Friary and its possessions were confiscated in 1607 following the 'Flight of the Earls.'
Down near the harbour there is a large anchor which is thought to date from the 18th century. The plaque at the anchor reads : 'This anchor probably belonged to the frigate Romaine which was one of a French squadron out of Brest on the 16th September 1798 in support of General Humbert's army in Mayo. Wolfe Tone sailed with the squadron. Following engagements with English naval forces off the Donegal coast, the Romaine and two sister ships anchored in Donegal Bay on the 13th of October 1798. Learning of Humbert's surrender and observing English militia on shore, the Romaine cut her cable, leaving behind her anchor, and sailed back to France.'
Donegal town is small enough to walk almost everywhere and just out of the centre of the town on the Killybegs road there is a pleasant walk of about 2 miles known as 'Bank Walk' which runs along the west bank of the River Eske leading to Donegal Bay. To find it walk down Bridge Street and after Dunnions Pub cross a bridge and take an immediate left and you will see a tree lined path in front of you. The end of the walk has a bench that is a scenic place to enjoy and relax for a little while. If you would prefer to cycle there are a couple of bike hire shops in the town centre.
One of the more popular attractions is the 'Waterbus' that gives one hour tours of the bay leaving from Donegal town harbour under Captain Billy Bustard who provides a great colourful narration of the trip detailing the history of many of the sites including the battle scarred ruins of the Friary.
Lough Eske is one of Ireland's loveliest lakes, lying beneath the Blue Stack mountains, it gives rise to the Eske River which enters the bay at Donegal town harbour. The roads that encircle the lake are safe to walk or cycle and provide striking views of the lake as it reflects the changing moods of the mountains and sky. Angling for salmon and trout is available in both the lake and the river.
Donegal is famous for handwoven tweeds and embroidery and examples of these can be found in several of the many shops around the spacious open pedestrianised central area which is surrounded by hotels, pubs and bars, nightclubs, restaurants and coffee houses, together with the towns banks and post office. The town is blessed with excellent local bus services and there are also direct services to Dublin, Derry, Sligo and Galway, but the nearest railway station is at Sligo.
For the visiting sailor Donegal is a charming and picturesque town with a pleasant vibrant centre which has excellent facilities, services and attractions making it a good base from which to explore the area.
What facilities are available?The town of Donegal has many facilities to offer including fuel by jerry can, Gas refills, Wi-Fi and internet access available, an extensive range of shops, banks and post office, hotels, pubs and bars, nightclubs, restaurants and coffee shops, car and cycle hire available, and good bus services both local and national.
With thanks to:inyourfootsteps.com site research
The following videos present an overview of what the county has to offer.
The following video presents a RIB tour of Donegal bay.
The following video presents a photo montage of the harbour.
Add your review or comment:
Please log in to leave a review of this haven.
Please note eOceanic makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, we have not visited this haven and do not have first-hand experience to qualify the data. Although the contributors are vetted by peer review as practised authorities, they are in no way, whatsoever, responsible for the accuracy of their contributions. It is essential that you thoroughly check the accuracy and suitability for your vessel of any waypoints offered in any context plus the precision of your GPS. Any data provided on this page is entirely used at your own risk and you must read our legal page if you view data on this site. Free to use sea charts courtesy of Navionics.