Being so far inland and drying for large periods of the tidal cycle the attractive historic town offers complete protection from all conditions. Attentive navigation is required for the final approaches, up the river and its estuary, which requires daylight and a suitable rise of the tide.
Keyfacts for Ramelton
Summary* Restrictions applyA completely protected location with attentive navigation required for access.
Position and approaches
Haven position55° 2.336' N, 007° 38.640' W
This is the position of Ramelton Town Quay.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
Not what you need?
- Rathmullan - 5.2 nautical miles NE
- The Lough Swilly Marina - 6.3 nautical miles ENE
- Macamish Bay - 7.3 nautical miles NE
- Buncrana - 8.1 nautical miles NE
- Scraggy Bay - 8.3 nautical miles NNE
- Dunree Bay - 9.9 nautical miles NNE
- Portsalon - 10.1 nautical miles N
- Crummie's Bay - 10.4 nautical miles NNE
- Sheep Haven - 11.3 nautical miles NW
- Mulroy Bay - 11.4 nautical miles NNW
What's the story here?
Image: Neil Carey Photography
Ramelton is a small town and historic port at the mouth of the River Lennon, 11 km north of Letterkenny and 4 km east of Milford, that is mostly situated on the south bank of the river. It is entered via the Ramelton Channel that winds its way for more than 3 miles through extensive banks of sand and mud of the estuary of the Lennon River.
The historic town quay at Ramelton dries to 1.5 metres and provides alongside berthing for vessels that can take-to-the-bottom. The shallowest depth in the approaches is 0.2 metres but with MHWS 4.3m and MHWN 3.2m, ample water should be available for moderate draft vessels.
How to get in?
Image: Proinsias Carr
Approaches to the Lough Swilly can be found in northwestern Ireland’s coastal overview for Erris Head to Malin Head . A set of waypoints to assist with the run up the lough, as far as Fanad, can be found in the Lough Swilly route . The entire length of Lough Swilly is marked with various easily identified navigation lights along the main deepwater shipping channel.
Break off the Lough Swilly route by passing the 'Inch Spit' buoy on its correct side, to port, and then continue past the 'Inch Flat' buoy and the western extremity of Inch Island. The fairway of the lough continues south from the 'Inch Spit' buoy with depths of more than 9 metres to Ballylin Point, 5 miles above and close south of the entrance to Ramelton.
Image: Proinsias Carr
Ramelton is approached on the opposite shore to Inch Island, close north of Whale Head on the west shore of the Letterkenny Channel. The approach and channel is best seen on Admiralty Chart No. 2697. Pass about 300 metres north of Whale Head and 200 metres north of Aughnish Island after which it shallows and favours the north shore before turning southward as it winds its way to the drying town quays. Feel your way forward using the depth sounder all the way.
Image: Brian Deeney of Donegal Cottage Holidays
Come alongside the quay and find a place to dry on hard mud.
Why visit here?Ramelton derives its name from the Irish 'Ráth Mealtain, which means 'The fort of Mealtain'. Mealtan was an early Gaelic chieftain and the fort is said to lie under the ruins of a medieval castle of a later O'Donnells castle.
Image: Greg Clarke via CC BY-SA 2.00
Archaeological evidence has shown that the area has been settled since the early Stone Age. From the 12th-century the area was the homeland of the O’Donnell’s, the ruling clan of west Donegal before their exile to Spain during the 'Flight of the Earls' from Rathmullen in 1607. In the 15th-century the heir to the chieftaincy, Calvagh O’Donnell, resided in his stronghold at Rossreagh, which was on an island, now the site of the present quay. The castle was burnt down in the 1640’s during the Irish rebellion. Today there are no visible remains of the old castle.
Image: Public Domain
In the 17th-century and well into the 18th-century Ramelton grew and prospered and was at the height of its prestige. The old Plantation Houses were replaced by elegant Georgian homes for the new wealthy merchants whose fortunes had been made from linen, as Ramelton had Donegal's biggest linen bleaching works. Ships from the Caribbean anchored in Lough Swilly and unloaded their exotic cargoes at Ramelton in exchange for linen, as well as corn, meat and fish.
During these times Ramelton established deep links with America. It was the birthplace of Francis Makemie, 1658—1708, known as the father of American Presbyterianism, who worshipped at the old meeting house before being sent to America as a missionary in 1683. He founded the first Presbyterian community in America at Snow Hill in Maryland, where there is now a Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church. When arrested in colonial New York for preaching without a license, he successfully invoked Britain’s Toleration Act to defend the principle of religious freedom. Later, Makemie founded a church at Rehobeth in Maryland, which stands to this day as America's oldest Presbyterian Church. James Buchanan, father of the 15th and only bachelor, president of the United States of America, James Buchanan, was born in Ramelton in 1761. President Buchanan is famously quoted for saying, “My Ulster blood is a priceless heritage.”
Image: Public Domain
In the late 19th-century and early 20th-century, Ramelton rivalled Letterkenny as the most important town in the north of the county, but this rivalry came to an end in 1909 when the railway came to Letterkenny but not to Ramelton. Nevertheless, this friendly town will always be referred to as 'The Jewel in Donegal's Crown'.
Today the town contains some fascinating buildings including the ruins of a group of warehouses and their yards on the Quay that serves as one of the town's most enduring landmarks. To anyone making their way along the shores of Lough Swilly, it comes as a surprise to find such an elegant Georgian streetscape in a county that is better known for its natural attractions. In recognition of this Tourism Ireland has designated Ramelton a Heritage Town.
Image: Brian Deeney of Donegal Cottage Holidays
The River Lennon itself has a long tradition of being a valuable fishing river and has brought many tourists to the town. The Lennon Festival, which began in 1970, is a tradition that takes place every July with a variety of events including a Carnival Parade, the crowning of the Queen of the Lennon, and lots of live music both in the streets and the pubs and bars. Ramelton Country Market takes place every Saturday from 11 am until 12.30 pm at Ramelton Town Hall and also every second Friday beside Greene's Shoe Shop in Letterkenny from 10.30am-2.30pm, County Donegal. Along with fresh local produce, visitors will find knitwear, crafts, specialised photography and much more. For those who enjoy stretching their legs, the town has numerous walks to explore, alongside beaches, through woods, around lakes and rivers, and climbs up the local hills.
For the visiting boater point of view, Ramelton Wharf offers perfect security from any and all weather conditions with supermarkets, restaurants, pubs, butchers, laundrette, and a pharmacy all within a short walk. There is also a local bus service with connections to Letterkenny and Londonderry.
What facilities are available?For the visiting yachtsman the small town has good facilities including a choice of supermarkets,
including (Kernan's Spar Supermarket, Whoriskey's Eurospar and McFadden's Supermarket) a laundrette, butchers, doctors and a pharmacy, a post office but no bank, the nearest being at Letterkenny, and several restaurants, pubs and bars.
Freshwater is available, Kosgas, and deisel and petrol available by cans. The town has a small boatyard.
Rossreagh Boat Yard
Ramelton, Co. Donegal
P: +353 74 915 1082
The town is served by Patrick Gallagher Travel Buses which provide Ramelton with a regular 6 day a week bus service Mondays to Saturdays to and from Letterkenny, the largest town in County Donegal. Three buses leave Ramelton for Letterkenny each day Monday to Saturday with two buses leaving Letterkenny for Ramelton.
With thanks to:Graham Wilkinson, Kevin Flanagan, George O'Hagan and Ciaran Bradley.
Ramelton aerial overview 1
Ramelton aerial overview 2
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