Buncrana (Bun Cranncha, "foot of the river Crana") is a town on Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, on the shores of Lough Swilly. It was a textile town, but the "Fruit of the Loom" factory closed in 2006, so Buncrana now gets by as a commuter base for both Derry (23 km) and Letterkenny (43 km). Its population in 2016 was 6785, making it the second-largest town in the county.
The main reason to come is to explore Inishowen Peninsula, the northern tip of the Irish mainland. The TIC is Go Visit Inishowen on Railway Rd, open M-F 09:30-17:30, Sa 10:00-16:30.
For long-distance routes by air, rail and road, see Derry.
From Derry, McGonagle Bus[dead link] runs hourly from Guildhall via Burnfoot and Fahan to Buncrana (35 min), continuing to Cockhill. They run M-F 08:00-18:00, Sa from 10:00, with only two on Sunday.
From Letterkenny, McGonagle Bus 951 takes 40 min. It runs three times M-F and twice on Saturday.
Local Link Bus 955 runs two or three times M-Sa from Cardonagh. One run per day is along the coast via Ballyliffen and Dunree.
1 Buncrana Bus Station is the high falutin' name they give to the stop on St Mary's Rd. There isn't even a bus shelter.
Swilly Ferry crosses the lough between Rathmullen and 2 Buncrana Pier. It carries cars and sails Jun-Sept daily every 80 min or so. In 2021 an adult foot passenger is €5 single, €7 return, and a car with up to 2 adults and three children is €17 single, €28 return.
You need wheels to get around Inishowen Peninsula.
- Castle Bridge at the outlet of Crana River leads to the Keep and Swan Park.
- 1 O'Doherty's Keep is the shell of a tower built by the Normans in the 14th century. The third floor was added in 1602 to welcome the Spanish army that would surely drive out the English; but they landed altogether the wrong end of the country at Kinsale, and were besieged then sent packing. Nothing daunted, Sir Cahir O'Doherty launched his rebellion of 1608, burning Derry, but he and his men were soon beaten. It only remained for the English to burn this place in reprisal, put to death any remaining rebels, and award the land to their own supporters. The Keep passed to the Vaughan family, who in 1718 recycled much of the stone to build Buncrana Castle adjacent (a private mansion, no tours), and they laid out the town on its present pattern. The Keep is unsafe to enter but you come for the scenic riverside park.
- 2 Ned's Point Fort half a mile beyond the Keep is a gun battery built in 1812 against Napoleonic invasion. It was re-armed in the 1890s but disarmed in 1905. The structure is derelict and you can't enter.
- 3 Fort Dunree, Linsfort. M-F 10:30-16:30, Sa Su 12:00-18:00. Built against Napoleon like Ned's Point, but this is an altogether sturdier battery on a scenic outcrop. It was similarly disused after 1815 but re-armed later in the century, and stood ready through the First World War. In 1938 it was one of the last fragments of British territory handed over to the Republic of Ireland: a few "Treaty Ports" and their defences had been kept on after independence in 1921. The Irish army continued to use the fort until in 1986 it became a museum. Adult €7, conc & child €5.
- Dunree lighthouse 200 m north of the fort was first lit in 1876 and remains in use.
- 4 St Mura's is a C of I church in Fahan with monastery ruins in its graveyard.
- 5 Inch Island is connected by road to its east and a footpath causeway to its south. A 15th century turret stands at its southwest point, but you mostly come for the bird life in the lough channel. An 8 km loop path follows the shore.
- 6 Slieve Snaght is the 615 m mountain between Buncrana and Carndonagh. You might be content to admire it from afar, as it's boggy and midge-ridden by any route. Shortest but soggiest approach is from the lane to the east, 12 km return. Many prefer to ascend from R244 around Drumfrees: a track leads up towards Slieve Snaghtbeg (505 m), then pick your way to the main summit.
- Grianan of Aileach: see Derry for this sturdy ringfort above Burt village.
- What's on? For local events read Inish Times, Inishowen Independent, InishowenNews.com, or the Derry Journal.
- Cinema: Buncrana Cinema is on St Mary's Rd, north end of Main St.
- Golf: Buncrana GC is south side of town by Amazing Grace Park. Northwest GC is on the coast at Lisfannon 3 km south.
- Fishing: you need a permit for fishing in the river, available at several stores.
- Art: there isn't a public gallery, but Northern Light[dead link] on Main St is a commercial gallery displaying the photography of Adam Rory Porter.
- Wains World is a children's indoor adventure play area on Milltown Business Park, 200 m east of Lidl. It could save your sanity.
- Buncrana is the main shopping town, with Aldi, Lidl, and SuperValu.
- There are ATMs outside Bank of Ireland, AIB and Ulsterbank.
- Main St has a slew of budget places: Ubiquitous Restaurant, Four Lanterns, Oscar's, Abrakebabra, Sherpa and La Papa.
- The Drift Inn, Railway Rd, Buncrana (by Gateway Hotel), ☏ . Th 14:00-21:30, F-Su 13:00-21:00. Gastropub in the former railway station.
- The hotels have the best dining, with Red Door getting the best reviews.
- O'Flaherty's Bar, 41 Upper Main St, Buncrana F93 X21F. Friendly central bar.
- Rodden's Bar, 4 Upper Main St, Buncrana F93 K3CF, ☏ . Triendly bar often has live rock or soul at weekends and trad sessions Sundays. Open fire in winter. Decked beer garden open year-round.
- Camping and caravans may be able to pitch at Amazing Grace Park south side of town. Lough Swilly caravan park has closed.
- Tullyarvan Mill Hostel didn't open in 2021.
- B&Bs mostly didn't open in 2021, but try St Columbus House or Town Clock B&B in the centre, or Caldra along Westbrook.
- Lake of Shadows Hotel, Grianan Park, Buncrana F93 VY36, ☏ . Comfy friendly hotel in town centre. B&B double €100.
- 1 Westbrook House B&B, Westbrook, Buncrana F93 H795, ☏ . Welcoming B&B in a Georgian mansion. B&B double €110.
- 2 Inishowen Gateway Hotel, Railway Rd, Buncrana F93 PPH9, ☏ . Decent mid-price hotel on coast south edge of town, comfy but service erratic. B&B double €100.
- 3 Harbour Inn, Derry Rd, Luddan F93 V57X (by Northwest Golf Course), ☏ . Friendly well-run small hotel on coast road. B&B double €80.
- 4 The Red Door, Fahan F93 FV4Y, ☏ . This country house hotel gets great scores for comfort and dining.
As of Aug 2021, Buncrana has 5G from Three, and 4G from Eir and Vodafone.
- Carndonagh is the main settlement in the north of Inishowen Peninsula, with Malin Head the most northerly point on the Irish mainland.
- Derry is a fascinating historic city with intact 17th century walls.
- Letterkenny is Donegal's main transport and accommodation hub.