Complete Guide to Fanad Head Lighthouse, Donegal, Ireland

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The lighthouse at Fanad Head in County Donegal stands proudly, like a beacon facing the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by a wild Irish landscape. The historic lighthouse here has been guiding ships for more than two centuries. In this article, I’ll take you through how best to visit Fanad Head, where dramatic cliffs meet the Atlantic, with practical tips on how to get there and the best times to visit for that perfect sunset. Whether you’re an avid photographer, a solo adventurer, or on a driving tour along the Wild Atlantic Way, Fanad Head is a stop you’ll not regret making.

Fanad Head is most easily accessed by car or bike and the route out to the very tip is itself a scenic route that warrants a couple of photo stops.

Fanad Head Lighthouse

Arryheernabin, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Coordinates: 55.27677, -7.63021

Stunning lighthouse for photography

A little remote to include in many itineraries

Views all year round

Daily tours 11am-4pm on the hour

Old Lighthouse
Amazing Viewpoints
Cafe & Visitor Centre
Toilets
€12 Tour

What is it? Fanad Head

I visited Fanad Head as part of my Wild Atlantic Way adventure in the North of Donegal, after a stormy visit to Malin Head. Fanad Head and its 1817 lighthouse sit right at the end of a finger of land that stretches into the Atlantic and it’s a place of great beauty. The drive up to Fanad Head is littered with little areas to pull into which are great for snapping a shot. However, it’s worth saving lots of camera space for the lighthouse and its surroundings!

Visitors can drive to Fanad Head and park for free, and take a short hike to explore the sea cliffs and lighthouse from outside. They can also pay for a tour of the interior of Fanad Head Lighthouse, enjoy the Lighthouse Cafe and spend time at the Visitors Centre. Some very lucky people can even pay to stay in the Lighthouse.

Parking & Layout of Fanad Head

Fanad Head Lighthouse is situated at the tip of the Fanad peninsula, which stretches out between Mulroy Bay and Lough Swilly. The lighthouse is a popular visitor attraction in the summer. I visited with my campervan and was taking a risk of arriving late in the evening to wild camp there for the night.

The road narrows as it approaches this part of the peninsula and, as the lighthouse hoves into sight, there’s a large car park on the left and, ahead, a smaller parking area on the right where the road ends and which is closer to the lighthouse. Unless you are very early or very late, this car park will be full, so best to use the larger space. A number of short hiking routes set out from both car parks although some of these are unofficial and cross a broken fence so take extreme care trying to get the perfect selfie.

Tours that visit Fanad Head Lighthouse

The easiest way to visit Fanad Head Lighthouse is on a self-organised itinerary. However, there are some tours that visit this stunning location that could work for you, just to guide you that these tend to be private or bespoke tours for small groups.

From your hotel – Private Fanad Lighthouse & Doe Castle Tour

7-8 hours, price includes 7 people to both locations, but fully customisable.

From your hotel – Donegal Day Tour: Coast & Castles

7-8 hours, accredited driver-guide, customisable itinerary to include Fanad Head Lighthouse, Doe Castle, Glenveagh National Park and more.

Sunset Photography at Fanad Head Lighthouse

This view is just sensational.

You may know that I travel a lot for this blog and I can honestly say that Fanad Head is one of the most photographable and beautiful locations in the world.

Before long, the sun began to set. Far from being a quiet spot, cars came and went frequently through the evening. Some people were simply going for a walk, others taking photographs of the sunset.

This is my favourite evening photograph.

I love how the lighthouse stands out against the darkening sky.

Sunrise Photography at Fanad Head Lighthouse

By 5.30am, the small carpark was filling up with photographers coming to capture the sunset over Fanad Head Lighthouse. First some Italian voices, then French, Irish and English started to tumble out of cars.

It was a stunning morning as I pulled myself out of bed, very underslept, but thoroughly enjoying the vista before me. I grabbed my Sony A7 IV and captured the pictures above and below – they look like different times of the day, but were taken just moments apart – it’s so startling how the sunlight and clouds interact to create these moments of beauty.

The sun breaking through.

An hour or two later, as I was preparing to leave, that special light of dawn had flattened out (no less beautiful of course).

Oh the colour of that water!

Wild Atlantic Way Metal Signs

Points of interest along the Wild Atlantic Way are demarcated by robust and rusting metal signs. They’re a little bit controversial – some people think they shouldn’t be left to rust. However, I think that rust is the point of the design: how nature is moved and eroded by the wildness of the wind and waves along this Atlantic shoreline. I quite like them.

One of the things in the next picture is rustier than the other, but I won’t mention which!

Insider Tips

  • Visit during the sunrise or sunset golden hour to get the best photographs (assuming you get a few rays of sunshine!)
  • Some visitors decide to visit either Malin Head or Fanad Head. I think they’re very different and both worth a visit.
  • When you’re in this location, it’s also worth stopping off at Portsalon beach if you have time. There are lots of great hikes and easier walks in the area too.

Fanad Head Area

The Harbour Inn, Buncrana

Friendly, Sea-View

Inishowen Gateway Hotel

Find the accompanying video for this article below:

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I'm Patrick, your Irish guide to the skies and beyond. With 58 countries visited, my journeys have taken me from busy economy to fabulous first-class.