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Rathmullan

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Overview





Rathmullan is a village on the Fanad Peninsula on the western shore of Lough Swilly situated about twelve miles south of the entrance, in the north of Ireland. It provides a seasonal pontoon for the use of visiting boats and also affords an anchorage at the roadstead off the village.

The attractive village affords good shelter in winds between southwest, round through north to the northwest but the seasonal pontoon can become uncomfortable in strong southerly winds. Straightforward navigation is required for access which is possible at any state of the tide, in all reasonable conditions, night or day.



1 comment
Keyfacts for Rathmullan
Facilities
Water available via tapGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaPost Office in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaBus service available in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village 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 waterwaysNote: harbour fees may be charged

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
4 metres (13.12 feet).

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
October 19th 2018

Summary

A good location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Water available via tapGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaPost Office in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaBus service available in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village 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 waterwaysNote: harbour fees may be charged



Position and approaches
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Haven position

55° 5.697' N, 007° 31.689' W

This is the eastern extremity of Rathmullan pier where a green light structure, stands 3 metres in height, to exhibit a light Fl.G.3s5M.

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, as far as Fanad, 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 Rathmullan for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. The Lough Swilly Marina - 1.1 miles ESE
  2. Macamish Bay - 1.6 miles N
  3. Buncrana - 1.8 miles NE
  4. Scraggy Bay - 3 miles NNW
  5. Ramelton - 3.2 miles SW
  6. Dunree Bay - 3.6 miles N
  7. Crummie's Bay - 4.1 miles N
  8. Portsalon - 4.6 miles NNW
  9. Lenan Bay - 5.4 miles N
  10. Foyle Port Marina (Derry City) - 5.6 miles SE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. The Lough Swilly Marina - 1.1 miles ESE
  2. Macamish Bay - 1.6 miles N
  3. Buncrana - 1.8 miles NE
  4. Scraggy Bay - 3 miles NNW
  5. Ramelton - 3.2 miles SW
  6. Dunree Bay - 3.6 miles N
  7. Crummie's Bay - 4.1 miles N
  8. Portsalon - 4.6 miles NNW
  9. Lenan Bay - 5.4 miles N
  10. Foyle Port Marina (Derry City) - 5.6 miles SE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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How to get in?
Rathmullan
Image: Ryan Patton Aerial Photography


The village of Rathmullan stands on the western shore of Lough Swilly fronted by a 'T' shaped pier that has a depth of 7 metres at the head. A small seasonal pontoon is made available on the south side of the pier from May to September, approximately, that caters to visiting yachts at a reasonable price. There is also a popular mooring area off the village to the north of the pier, outside or to the north of the local moorings.

The anchorage affords a better-sheltered anchorage than Buncrana on the opposite shore of the Lough. Even in strong northwest gales, the water here is quite smooth. For this reason visiting yachts usually anchor off the village of Rathmullan, or farther north towards Kinnegar Head. It can, however, be tidal rode as the tidal streams are strong off the point.

Depths of 4 metres CD or more are easily achieved in both locations. For pontoon enquiries, contact Niall Doherty T: +353 74 9158129, M: +353 870507464 E: rathmullancharters@eircom.net


Inch Flat Buoy seen over the head of the pontoon off the opposite side of the
fairway

Image: Brian Deeney of Donegal Cottage Holidays


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 be found in the Lough Swilly route Route location.

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 7 miles to Rathmullan pier.

Stay central in the fairway when approaching Rathmullan to avoid fish farms close southeast of Kinnegar Head which are not lit at night. The fairway at this point is ½ a mile wide between the Inch Flat buoy, Fl(2)R.6s, and Rathmullan Pier that has a green light structure, that stands 3 metres in height, exhibiting a light Fl.G.3s5M. The pier is made up of open piled concrete with deep water alongside.



Rathmullan Pontoon
Image: Rathmullan Charters


Haven location The pier is not suitable for leisure craft, save for very big boats, on account of the tidal streams. Around to the south of the pier, the 60-metre pontoon will be found with space for maybe 10 yachts. The outside, eastern side has ample water, but the innard or western side drops off quite rapidly once one moves about 15 metres toward the shore. The steeply shelving shallow area is marked by two small buoys that also mark the pontoon's anchoring point.


Mooring area to the north of the pier
Image: Brian Deeney of Donegal Cottage Holidays


Local craft moorings occupy the area off the beach and to the north of the pier. Anchoring is possible outside of these or northward, in sand, but beware the bottom shelves away steeply. Vessels should expect to be tide rode here as tidal streams here can attain rates of up to 1½ to 1¾ kn during springs.


Buncrana Ferry
Image: Brian Deeney of Donegal Cottage Holidays


Land on the beach or on the north side of the pierhead where there is a concrete slipway suitable for a dinghy to land upon. Some caution should be taken when landing on the slip so as not to obstruct the Lough Swilly Ferry which operates between Rathmullan and Buncrana, approximately May to September a journey time of 45 minutes.

Anchoring is also possible to the south of the leisure pontoon with good holding in sand in 8 - 10 metres. This allows easy access to the shore by dinghy on to the pontoon. This can also be tide rode and again it's best not to get too close in because it shelves quite rapidly inshore of the 5-metre line.


Why visit here?
Rathmullan name is derived from the Irish Rath Maolain meaning Maolain's ringfort. Rathmullan has a pivotal place in Irish history being, in 1607, the place to have seen the last of the Gaelic Order, most notably the Clan Ó Néill and the Clan Ó Domhnaill, during the Flight of the Earls to the Continent.

Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir John Perrott
Image: Public Domain
The story commences here in 1587 when Rathmullan was a small trading port. The Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir John Perrott, had become alarmed at talk of an alliance between two great Ulster clans, the O'Donnells and the O'Neills, and devised a plan to put a stop to it. He arranged for the 15-year-old Hugh Roe O'Donnell, also known as Red Hugh O'Donnell and heir to the O'Donnell titles, to stay with the MacSweenys in their castle situated on the beach at Rathmullan and had a merchant ship heavy with a cargo of excellent Spanish wine anchored off close offshore.


A brisk trade commenced with the townsfolk and word quickly reached the castle. The MacSweenys were naturally interested in putting in a large order and the captain of the vessel was delighted to invite the family and their guests aboard to properly sample the wines and dine with him. The hospitality was generous, so generous in-fact, that, to a man, the visitors all fell asleep. The hatches were then sealed down and the ship was away. When Red Hugh O'Donnell saw light again it was in Dublin Bay where he was hauled off to be imprisoned in Dublin Castle. The audacious trick gave the crown some leverage in western Ulster and soon Perrot had also secured the submission of Hugh Maguire, Lord of Fermanagh.

Meanwhile, the betrayed Hugh Roe O'Donnell plotted his revenge in Dublin Castle. In 1592 he managed to escape and the next year he succeeded to the title of Lord of Tyrconnell, from the Irish Tír Chonaill, meaning 'Land of Conall' the Gaelic kingdom geographically associated with present-day County Donegal. He then joined forces with fellow Ulster chief and father-in-law Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone to declare open rebellion against the English government in Ireland from 1593.

The Gaelic Chieftain, commemorating O'Donnell's victory at the battle at Curlew
Pass

Image: Gavigan 01 via CC BY 2.5


This lead to the Nine Years' War that was bitterly fought from 1595 to 1602 and was the largest conflict fought by England in the Elizabethan era. At the height of the conflict, 1600 to 1601, more than 18,000 soldiers were fighting in the English army in Ireland. The war was fought in all parts of the country, but mainly in the northern province of Ulster where the Gaelic forces achieved some considerable successes. It nevertheless ended in defeat for the Irish lords at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. After Kinsale, Hugh Roe O'Donnell travelled to Spain to seek support from Philip III. Unsuccessful in this attempt, he died in Spain in 1602. The Nine Years War was finally brought to an uneasy conclusion by the Treaty Of Mellifont in 1603 but relations between Catholics and Protestants were strained.


A bronze sculpture on the edge of the beach at the harbour commemorating the
Flight of the Earls

Image: Brian Deeney of Donegal Cottage Holidays


Four years later at Portnamurray on the southern edge of Rathmullan, and following a failed general uprising in 1607, the story would come to its culmination in the Flight of the Earls. Then Hugh O'Neill 2nd Earl of Tyrone and Red Hugh O'Donnell the 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, along with their families and ninety of the northern Gaelic nobility, arrived in the town in some disarray. Fearing arrest, they chose to flee to the Continent, where they hoped to recruit an army for the invasion of Ireland with Spanish help.

There, the last Gaelic chieftains and upholders of Brehon law in Ireland, boarded a ship and departed for Spain. Such was their haste that the Earl of Tyrone left his young son Con behind, while the Earl of Tyrconnell sailed without his pregnant wife. Their exile is broadly seen as a strategic mistake that cleared the way for the Plantation of Ulster. They would never see Ireland again. The draining Anglo-Spanish War, 1585–1604 had ended in 1604, and King Philip III of Spain wanted to preserve the recent peace with England under its new Stuart dynasty. As if this was not enough a Spanish fleet had been destroyed by the Dutch in the 1607 Battle of Gibraltar. There was no Spanish appetite for war. Tyrone ignored all these realities, remained in Italy, and persisted with his invasion plan until his death in exile in 1616.


Rathmullan Naval base at the start of the 20th Century
Image: Public Domain
The village would be one of the last to be returned to the Republic of Ireland. Following the establishment of the Irish Free State, three deep water Treaty Ports at Berehaven, Queenstown (modern Cóbh) and Lough Swilly were retained by the United Kingdom. The village was to be the centre of British naval presence in Lough Swilly and was only finally relinquished in 1938. One of its batteries still stands and today serves as a heritage centre that tells the story of the Flight of the Earls.

Rathmullan is well known today for being a fishing village, for its golden sandy beaches, and its bustling tourist trade. The long established Rathmullan Community Festival, which takes place every July, boasts a number of activities including a fairground and live music. Along the shores of the beach there is a lovely walk called Batt's Walk which has some very picturesque views and as local legend has it if you walk it at night time you may encounter a ghost or two. Rathmullans beaches are among some of the most beautiful in all of Ireland and are family friendly being perfectly safe for swimming and all water sports.

For the visiting boater, Rathmullan has excellent berthing facilities and also shoreside provisioning, a variety of other shops, a post office, hotels, bars and restaurants, craft centres, a doctor, a local bus service with connections to Letterkenny and Derry, and the ferry across the Lough to Buncrana.


What facilities are available?
The pontoon has water but no power. Facilities at Rathmullan include provision shops, butcher and small general store, laundrette, post office, hotels, restaurants and bars, fresh water, Kosgas, diesel and petrol by jerry cans, doctors, local bus service, and ferry across the lough to Buncrana. All of these are within 500 metres.


With thanks to:
Graham Wilkinson and Charlie Kavanagh. Photography with thanks to Brian Deeney of Donegal Cottage Holidays.


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




Rathmullan, Lough Swilly, Donegal
Image: eOceanic thanks Donegal Cottage Holidays


Rathmullan Pontoon
Image: eOceanic thanks Donegal Cottage Holidays


Coaster passing Rathmullen Pier
Image: eOceanic thanks Donegal Cottage Holidays


Beach to the north of Rathmullen Pier
Image: eOceanic thanks Donegal Cottage Holidays


Rathmullan Pontoon during the town regatta
Image: eOceanic thanks Donegal Cottage Holidays


Sunset over Rathmullan Pontoon
Image: eOceanic thanks Donegal Cottage Holidays




Aerial views of Rathmullan



Rathmullan Regatta - Parade of Boats from Visit Donegal on Vimeo.




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Add your review or comment:


Charlie Kavanagh wrote this review on Jul 19th 2017:

Rathmullan is one of the Treaty Ports that were finally handed back by the British to the Irish government in 1938 and also famous as the departure point for the Flight of the Earls in 1607. As a yachting venue, it sports a long pontoon with access either side and a secure shore side gate. A word of caution - its location is exposed to strong winds with west in them and can make berthing alongside very uncomfortable - I was informed of one vessel having to cuts its lines when the pontoon flipped up on them. Care should be taken if approaching from the north, there are fish farms which are not lit at night. In settled conditions, it is a lovely location with limited stores ashore but several pubs and restaurants. There is a beach and scenic area to ramble around. The Buncrana ferry is a regular visitor and multiple shopping options are available a relatively short ferry ride away.

Average Rating: Unrated

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