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Buncrana

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Overview





Buncrana is a sizable town on the Inishowen Peninsula on the eastern shore of Lough Swilly, about ten miles south of the entrance, in the north of Ireland. Buncrana Bay provides an anchorage, with the possibility to temporarily come alongside the town pier when weather and tides permit.

Buncrana is a sizable town on the Inishowen Peninsula on the eastern shore of Lough Swilly, about ten miles south of the entrance, in the north of Ireland. Buncrana Bay provides an anchorage, with the possibility to temporarily come alongside the town pier when weather and tides permit.

The bay makes a tolerable anchorage in calm settled weather but is uncomfortable and can even be dangerous in strong winds from the northwest. Straightforward navigation is required for access which is possible at any state of the tide, in all reasonable conditions, night or day.
Please note

Rathmullan Roadstead, a couple of miles southwestward, affords better shelter should conditions suddenly change.




1 comment
Keyfacts for Buncrana



Last modified
October 24th 2018

Summary

A tolerable location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Water hosepipe available alongsideGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableLaundry facilities availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaBus service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometres


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsNavigation lights to support a night approachUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: fish farming activity in the vicinity of this locationNote: could be two hours or more from the main waterways



Position and approaches
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Haven position

55° 7.595' N, 007° 27.861' W

This is the head of the pier at Buncrana where a red and white light column, 5 metres in height, stands to exhibit a light Iso. WR 4s 11m10M.

What is the initial fix?

The following Lough Swilly Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
55° 17.800' N, 007° 35.030' W
This is an approach position for the lough that keeps a vessel clear of Fanad and Dunaff Heads where there can be some confused seas. It is also close south of the first waypoint of the Lough Swilly Route.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in northwestern Ireland’s coastal overview for Erris Head to Malin Head Route location. A set of waypoints to assist when running up lough can be found in the Lough Swilly route Route location.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Buncrana for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Macamish Bay - 1.3 miles WNW
  2. The Lough Swilly Marina - 1.6 miles SSW
  3. Rathmullan - 1.8 miles SW
  4. Scraggy Bay - 2.9 miles NW
  5. Dunree Bay - 2.9 miles NW
  6. Crummie's Bay - 3.4 miles NNW
  7. Lenan Bay - 4.4 miles NNW
  8. Portsalon - 4.4 miles NW
  9. Ramelton - 5 miles SW
  10. Culmore Bay - 5.3 miles SE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Macamish Bay - 1.3 miles WNW
  2. The Lough Swilly Marina - 1.6 miles SSW
  3. Rathmullan - 1.8 miles SW
  4. Scraggy Bay - 2.9 miles NW
  5. Dunree Bay - 2.9 miles NW
  6. Crummie's Bay - 3.4 miles NNW
  7. Lenan Bay - 4.4 miles NNW
  8. Portsalon - 4.4 miles NW
  9. Ramelton - 5 miles SW
  10. Culmore Bay - 5.3 miles SE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

Resources search



How to get in?
Buncrana
Image: Ireland from the sky


The large town of Buncrana is situated on the eastern shore of Lough Swilly, on the Inishowen Peninsula, approximately six miles south of Dunree Head in the north of Ireland. It is considered the unofficial capital of the Inishowen Peninsula being its principal town and the economic centre of the peninsula. It is situated near the head of Buncrana Bay and has a concrete pier extending out 300 metres into the bay. Mill River, which winds through the town, empties into the lough immediately south of the pier.

A depth of less than a metre will be found alongside the pierhead but a patch of 3 metres can be found halfway up the southeastern side. Space alongside tends to be limited as the wall gets congested during the busy summer months so a temporary berth at an auspicious moment is the best one could aspire to. Buncrana Bay has ample space, depth and excellent holding.

Buncrana Bay as seen from the south
Image: La Priz via CC BY ND 2.0


Convergance Point Approaches to the Lough Swilly can be found in northwestern Ireland’s coastal overview for Erris Head to Malin Head Route location. A set of waypoints to assist with the run up the lough as far as Fanad can well-developed in the Lough Swilly route Route location.

Light buoy, QY, marking the head of a sewer outfall
Image: Richard Webb via CC BY-SA 2.0
The entire length of Lough Swilly is marked with various easily identified navigation lights along the main deepwater shipping channel. The fairway is about 3½ miles wide at its entrance from which it gradually narrows to a width of 1 mile abreast of Dunree Head which is situated 5 miles within the Lough. The navigable width of the fairway is then reduced to about a ½ mile or less between the shore or shoals on each side for the remaining 5 miles to Buncrana.

Buncrana Bay is entered between Neds Point and Lisfannen Point, 1¾ miles southward. The pier extends southwestwards a mile south of Ned's Point and has a prominent red and white light column, 5 metres in height, standing near its head that exhibits a light Iso. WR4s 11m10M. A light buoy, QY, marks the head of a sewer outfall about 500 metres southwestward of the pier head.


Lough Swilly Ferry approaching Buncrana
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


Vessels approaching from the south should note the position of the Carrickacullin group of rocks that dry to 3.2 metres but cover at high water. They are situated a ¼ of a mile northwest of Lisfannan Point and very much in the path of a vessel moving between the Fahan Channel and Buncrana pier. Take care not to obstruct the Lough Swilly Ferry which operates between Rathmullan and Buncrana, approximately May to September, a journey time of 45 minutes.

The ferry slip on the north side of the pier
Image: Brian Deeney of Donegal Cottage Holidays


Haven location Anchorage may be obtained anywhere in the bay according to draught but the recommended mooring is in the outer part of Buncrana Bay, northwest of the town's pierhead. Holding is excellent in sand and mud.

Buncrana Pier
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00



Why visit here?
Buncrana derives its name from the Irish words Bun Cranncha meaning 'foot of the River Crana'. It is the second most populous town in County Donegal, after Letterkenny, and the largest on the Inishowen peninsula.

Buncrana is the historic home of the O'Doherty clan and it originally developed around the tower known as O'Doherty's Keep at the mouth of the River Crana, although the town moved to its present location just south of the river in 1718.

Theobald Wolfe Tone
Image: Public Domain
The Lough's natural shelter, its impressive depth which is deep enough to allow quite large vessels to come safely in, and its remoteness have caused Lough Swilly to have seen more than its fair share of intrigue and adventure. It has been an important naval port from earliest times and has played host to some pivotal events in Ireland's turbulent history. None more so than in 1798, prior to the outbreak of the Napoleonic wars, when Buncrana would play centre stage.

In the rebellion of that year, it was chosen to be the natural landing place by a French fleet carrying Theobald Wolfe Tone and 3,000 troops to assist in the uprising. Wolfe Tone is regarded as the father of Irish republicanism and at the time was the leader of the United Irishmen and the 1798 Irish Rebellion itself. The small French fleet were unfortunately intercepted by an English squadron from Buncrana and a fierce fight commenced with the English fleet off Lough Swilly. Tone, on board the warship Hoche, refused Bompart's offer of escape in a frigate and was taken prisoner when he Hoche surrendered.

Tone and the French crew were brought ashore and imprisoned in a small castle near Buncrana where he was recognised. He was then taken to Dublin, where he was sentenced to be hanged. He asked that 'the court should adjudge me to die the death of a soldier, and that I may be shot'. Reading from a prepared speech, he defended his view of a military separation from Britain and explained his motives: I entered into the service of the French Republic with the sole view of being useful to my country. To contend against British Tyranny, I have braved the fatigues and terrors of the field of battle; I have sacrificed my comfort, have courted poverty, have left my wife unprotected, and my children without a father. After all I have done for a sacred cause, death is no sacrifice. In such enterprises, everything depends on success: Washington succeeded – Kosciusko failed. I know my fate, but I neither ask for pardon nor do I complain. I admit openly all I have said, written, and done, and am prepared to meet the consequences. As, however, I occupy a high grade in the French army, I would request that the court, if they can, grant me the favour that I may die the death of a soldier.'


Buncrana nestled into the unspoilt Inishowen Peninsula
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00



Thinking, correctly, that there was but little prospect, he slit his own throat with a penknife before he could be executed. As such Wolfe Tone terminated the insurrection of 1798, of which he was the prime mover and its last victim. The grave of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763—1798) is at Bodenstown, not far from Celbridge. Every year Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein hold commemorations there to the honour of 'the father of Irish Republicanism'. The ruins of the castle where Wolfe Tone was held can still be seen by the shore, a little to the northwest of Buncrana.


The shore green overlooking the Lough with its new sundial
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


Despite the suppression of the 1798 Rebellion, the British were all the more convinced that another successful attempt would be made on the Lough. This led to the building of a series of fortifications guarding the different approaches and landing points within the lough which were completed between 1800 and 1820. Immediately prior to the First World War the War Office improved the Napoleonic forts and their armaments as well as adding another fort at the entrance to the lough at Lenan Head with 9-inch (23 cm) guns (12-mile range) – the largest in Ireland at the time. It was this high degree of fortification and the natural seagoing properties of the Lough that lead to the small fishing harbour of Buncrana becoming a naval base during the First World War.


Ned's Point Fort
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


It was known militarily as ‘HMS Hecla’ and all British Naval Atlantic operations moved here after defences at Scapa Flow were breached by a German U-boat, which had caused devastation and havoc to the fleet anchored there. A boom was placed across the Lough, between Macamish Point and Ned's Point, supported by a number of trawlers to prevent a U-boat attack happening again here. Behind this, the Royal Navy anchored elements of the Grand Fleet, an amalgamation of the pre-war Home and Atlantic Fleets, and used the Lough as a gathering or staging point for Atlantic convoys. After the Irish War of Independence, the lough was also one of the Treaty Ports specified in the Anglo-Irish Treaty until its final handing over at Fort Dunree in 1938. The remains of one of Buncrana's fortifications can be seen today at Ned's Point overlooking the anchorage. The fort remains substantially intact, along with the practice batteries.


Buncrana Pier at dusk
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


Today Buncrana is the principal town and economic heartbeat of the Inishowen Peninsula. It provides a rich variety of culture, amenities and is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the northwest largely due to its proximity to Derry and its well-developed tourist industries. With its rugged coastline and breathtaking scenery amidst its unspoilt natural environment, it has been referred to as a snapshot of Ireland in miniature. The scenic mountain ranges and rambling hills offer numerous routes for hill walkers and hikers. Buncrana has some of the finest beaches in Ireland, from secluded private coves to blue flag family perfect strands to let kids out to roam.


Sunset as seen from the beach fronting Buncrana
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


From a sailing point of it provides a useful anchorage in settled conditions and the pier makes a convenient temporary berth for those intending on making the best of the provisioning capabilities that a town with a population of over 7,000 can provide.


What facilities are available?
Buncrana has a variety of facilities for the visiting yachtsman including provision stores, hotels, restaurants and bars, a bank and post office, a laundrette, Doctors, Kosgas, and deisel and petrol available by jerry can. Freshwater refill is available from a hose at the pierhead. There is also a local bus service and a ferry across to Rathmullan. City of Derry airport is conveniently situated on the A2 road towards Coleraine approx. 20 miles from Buncrana.


With thanks to:
Graham Wilkinson.


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Please zoom out to see the 'initial fix' for this location.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.




Buncrana, Lough Swilly, Donegal, Ireland
Image: eOceanic thanks Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


The shore green with its new sundial overlooking the Lough
Image: eOceanic thanks Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


Fishing boats alongside the inner end of Buncrana pier
Image: eOceanic thanks Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


Lifeboats alongside Buncrana pier
Image: eOceanic thanks Louise Price via CC BY SA 2.0


Buncrana Pier at dusk
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Buncrana Pier at dusk
Image: eOceanic thanks Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


Buncrana at dusk
Image: eOceanic thanks Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00




Aerial views of Buncrana




A short promotional video of Buncranna


About Buncrana

Buncrana derives its name from the Irish words Bun Cranncha meaning 'foot of the River Crana'. It is the second most populous town in County Donegal, after Letterkenny, and the largest on the Inishowen peninsula.

Buncrana is the historic home of the O'Doherty clan and it originally developed around the tower known as O'Doherty's Keep at the mouth of the River Crana, although the town moved to its present location just south of the river in 1718.

Theobald Wolfe Tone
Image: Public Domain
The Lough's natural shelter, its impressive depth which is deep enough to allow quite large vessels to come safely in, and its remoteness have caused Lough Swilly to have seen more than its fair share of intrigue and adventure. It has been an important naval port from earliest times and has played host to some pivotal events in Ireland's turbulent history. None more so than in 1798, prior to the outbreak of the Napoleonic wars, when Buncrana would play centre stage.

In the rebellion of that year, it was chosen to be the natural landing place by a French fleet carrying Theobald Wolfe Tone and 3,000 troops to assist in the uprising. Wolfe Tone is regarded as the father of Irish republicanism and at the time was the leader of the United Irishmen and the 1798 Irish Rebellion itself. The small French fleet were unfortunately intercepted by an English squadron from Buncrana and a fierce fight commenced with the English fleet off Lough Swilly. Tone, on board the warship Hoche, refused Bompart's offer of escape in a frigate and was taken prisoner when he Hoche surrendered.

Tone and the French crew were brought ashore and imprisoned in a small castle near Buncrana where he was recognised. He was then taken to Dublin, where he was sentenced to be hanged. He asked that 'the court should adjudge me to die the death of a soldier, and that I may be shot'. Reading from a prepared speech, he defended his view of a military separation from Britain and explained his motives: I entered into the service of the French Republic with the sole view of being useful to my country. To contend against British Tyranny, I have braved the fatigues and terrors of the field of battle; I have sacrificed my comfort, have courted poverty, have left my wife unprotected, and my children without a father. After all I have done for a sacred cause, death is no sacrifice. In such enterprises, everything depends on success: Washington succeeded – Kosciusko failed. I know my fate, but I neither ask for pardon nor do I complain. I admit openly all I have said, written, and done, and am prepared to meet the consequences. As, however, I occupy a high grade in the French army, I would request that the court, if they can, grant me the favour that I may die the death of a soldier.'


Buncrana nestled into the unspoilt Inishowen Peninsula
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00



Thinking, correctly, that there was but little prospect, he slit his own throat with a penknife before he could be executed. As such Wolfe Tone terminated the insurrection of 1798, of which he was the prime mover and its last victim. The grave of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763—1798) is at Bodenstown, not far from Celbridge. Every year Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein hold commemorations there to the honour of 'the father of Irish Republicanism'. The ruins of the castle where Wolfe Tone was held can still be seen by the shore, a little to the northwest of Buncrana.


The shore green overlooking the Lough with its new sundial
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


Despite the suppression of the 1798 Rebellion, the British were all the more convinced that another successful attempt would be made on the Lough. This led to the building of a series of fortifications guarding the different approaches and landing points within the lough which were completed between 1800 and 1820. Immediately prior to the First World War the War Office improved the Napoleonic forts and their armaments as well as adding another fort at the entrance to the lough at Lenan Head with 9-inch (23 cm) guns (12-mile range) – the largest in Ireland at the time. It was this high degree of fortification and the natural seagoing properties of the Lough that lead to the small fishing harbour of Buncrana becoming a naval base during the First World War.


Ned's Point Fort
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


It was known militarily as ‘HMS Hecla’ and all British Naval Atlantic operations moved here after defences at Scapa Flow were breached by a German U-boat, which had caused devastation and havoc to the fleet anchored there. A boom was placed across the Lough, between Macamish Point and Ned's Point, supported by a number of trawlers to prevent a U-boat attack happening again here. Behind this, the Royal Navy anchored elements of the Grand Fleet, an amalgamation of the pre-war Home and Atlantic Fleets, and used the Lough as a gathering or staging point for Atlantic convoys. After the Irish War of Independence, the lough was also one of the Treaty Ports specified in the Anglo-Irish Treaty until its final handing over at Fort Dunree in 1938. The remains of one of Buncrana's fortifications can be seen today at Ned's Point overlooking the anchorage. The fort remains substantially intact, along with the practice batteries.


Buncrana Pier at dusk
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


Today Buncrana is the principal town and economic heartbeat of the Inishowen Peninsula. It provides a rich variety of culture, amenities and is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the northwest largely due to its proximity to Derry and its well-developed tourist industries. With its rugged coastline and breathtaking scenery amidst its unspoilt natural environment, it has been referred to as a snapshot of Ireland in miniature. The scenic mountain ranges and rambling hills offer numerous routes for hill walkers and hikers. Buncrana has some of the finest beaches in Ireland, from secluded private coves to blue flag family perfect strands to let kids out to roam.


Sunset as seen from the beach fronting Buncrana
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00


From a sailing point of it provides a useful anchorage in settled conditions and the pier makes a convenient temporary berth for those intending on making the best of the provisioning capabilities that a town with a population of over 7,000 can provide.

Other options in this area


Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Alternatively here are the ten nearest havens available in picture view:
Coastal clockwise:
Dunree Bay - 2.9 miles NW
Crummie's Bay - 3.4 miles NNW
Lenan Bay - 4.4 miles NNW
Malin Harbour or Slievebane Bay - 9.5 miles NNE
Portachurry - 12.2 miles NNE
Coastal anti-clockwise:
The Lough Swilly Marina - 1.6 miles SSW
Ramelton - 5 miles SW
Rathmullan - 1.8 miles SW
Macamish Bay - 1.3 miles WNW
Scraggy Bay - 2.9 miles NW

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Buncrana.






























Aerial views of Buncrana




A short promotional video of Buncranna



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Iain Miller wrote this review on Oct 19th 2017:

A climbers guide to Inishowen http://uniqueascent.ie/inishowen_guide

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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.