Killybegs is the largest fishing port in County Donegal
County Donegal
County Donegal is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Border Region and is also located in the province of Ulster. It is named after the town of Donegal. Donegal County Council is the local authority for the county...

 and in Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. It is located on the south coast of the county, north of Donegal Bay
Donegal Bay
Donegal Bay is an inlet in the northwest of Ireland. Three counties – Donegal to the north and west, Leitrim and Sligo to the south – have shorelines on the bay, which is bounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean...

, near Donegal Town. The town is situated at the head of a scenic harbour and at the base of a vast mountainous tract extending northward. In the summer, there is a street festival celebrating the fish catches and incorporating the traditional "Blessing of the Boats". It has a population of about 2000 people


In 1588, Killybegs was the last port of call for the Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 vessel La Girona
Girona (ship)
La Girona was a galleass of the 1588 Spanish Armada which foundered and sank off Lacada Point, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, on the night of 26 October 1588 after making its way eastward along the Irish coast...

, which had dropped anchor in the harbour when the Spanish Armada
Spanish Armada in Ireland
The Spanish Armada in Ireland refers to the landfall made upon the coast of Ireland in September 1588 of a large portion of the 130-strong fleet sent by Philip II to invade England....

 fetched up on the Irish coast during Spain
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

's war with England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

. With the assistance of a Killybegs chieftain, MacSweeney Bannagh, the Girona's personnel were fed, her rudder repaired, and she set sail for Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, but was wrecked off the Antrim
County Antrim
County Antrim is one of six counties that form Northern Ireland, situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland. Adjoined to the north-east shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of 2,844 km², with a population of approximately 616,000...

 coast with the loss of nearly 1,300 lives.

Fishing industry

Killybegs is a natural deepwater harbour with a depth of 12 meters at low water spring tide at the new €50 million pier completed in 2004. The harbour is home to all the largest Irish midwater pelagic trawlers, and a modest whitefish fleet, but it handles many other types of shipping as well. These include passenger cruise liners and mixed specialist cargoes. In recent years Killybegs has become the favoured port for the importation of wind turbines, and is a service port for the offshore gas/oil drilling rigs.

The town is the centre of the Irish pelagic fishing and processing industries, as it specialises in the processing and freezing of species such as mackerel
Mackerel is a common name applied to a number of different species of fish, mostly, but not exclusively, from the family Scombridae. They may be found in all tropical and temperate seas. Most live offshore in the oceanic environment but a few, like the Spanish mackerel , enter bays and can be...

, herring
Herring is an oily fish of the genus Clupea, found in the shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans, including the Baltic Sea. Three species of Clupea are recognized. The main taxa, the Atlantic herring and the Pacific herring may each be divided into subspecies...

, scad, and blue whiting. The finished processed fish is exported to markets in Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 by freezer ships. However, due to blanket enforcement of EU fishing regulations on Irish vessels by the Irish Department of the Marine, starting in 2005, and mackerel shoals remaining longer in Norwegian waters, there has been a downturn in the fishing industry in the town. This has led to redundancies in the fish processing industry, in which the fish factory workers have been the hardest hit.


The area has always been well provided for. The first National school, known as 'Killybegs National School', and later as the 'Commons National School', opened in 1834 on a site originally provided by the Plantation Commissioners in the reign of King James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

There are three National schools and one second level school in Killybegs as well as a third level institution Tourism College Killybegs, the only dedicated tourism institute in Ireland, offering courses in hospitality
Hospitality is the relationship between guest and host, or the act or practice of being hospitable. Specifically, this includes the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers, resorts, membership clubs, conventions, attractions, special events, and other services for travelers...

 and culinary skills. The college has been academically integrated with Letterkenny Institute of Technology
Letterkenny Institute of Technology
Letterkenny Institute of Technology , formerly Regional Technical College, Letterkenny, is located in Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland. It is a third level institution serving County Donegal and the North West of Ireland. The institute is usually known locally as the Regional. Today, it is one...

 since 2001.

Water sport

Killybegs is brilliant for water sports like surfing, canoeing, windsurfing, diving, kite-surfing and also water skiing. A new dive centre has recently opened and diving is available for over 16s but for 12 and over swimming pool diving is available. At the dive centre there is a professional dive shop and the centre is fully PADI certified and professional.


Fintra beach is located on the outskirts of Killybegs town and is a certified Blue Flag beach
Blue Flag beach
The Blue Flag is a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education that a beach or marina meets its stringent standards.The Blue Flag is a trademark owned by FEE which is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation consisting of 65 organisations in 60 member countries in Europe,...

. It consists entirely of fine golden sand, and receives large numbers of day-trippers during the peak of the tourist season. Although it is lifeguarded throughout the bathing season it is the safest beach in Ireland, no fatalties ever having occurred there. Drive about 4km west from Killybegs and turn left through the main entrance of 'The Clock Tower' restaurant, or go on little further past the new GAA pitch and turn left at the sign.

Donegal Carpets

Killybegs is famous for its tapestries and carpets, some of which were produced on the biggest carpet loom in the world at the "Donegal Carpet Factory". The carpets, known as Donegals, are hand-knotted in the Turkish
Persian rug
The Persian carpet is an essential part of Persian art and culture. Carpet-weaving is undoubtedly one of the most distinguished manifestations of Persian culture and art, and dates back to ancient Persia. In 2008, Iran’s exports of hand-woven carpets was $420 million or 30% of the world's market...

 style. The carpets have adorned many important buildings in Ireland such as Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle off Dame Street, Dublin, Ireland, was until 1922 the fortified seat of British rule in Ireland, and is now a major Irish government complex. Most of it dates from the 18th century, though a castle has stood on the site since the days of King John, the first Lord of Ireland...

, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Áras an Uachtaráin
Áras an Uachtaráin
Áras an Uachtaráin , formerly the Viceregal Lodge, is the official residence of the President of Ireland. It is located in the Phoenix Park on the northside of Dublin.-Origins:...

, Buckingham Palace and internationally the Vatican
Apostolic Palace
The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope, which is located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Sacred Palace, the Papal Palace and the Palace of the Vatican...

, The White House, 10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street, colloquially known in the United Kingdom as "Number 10", is the headquarters of Her Majesty's Government and the official residence and office of the First Lord of the Treasury, who is now always the Prime Minister....

 and most state buildings around the world. The factory in Killybegs closed in 2003 and has been open since 2006 as the Maritime & Heritage Centre. The Centre provides information on the carpet making and the fishing industry. Tours are conducted daily and visitors can watch smaller carpets being made and try making a knot. There is also a ship simulator which is the most modern in Ireland. The simulator offers three levels of technique providing great fun for children and the not so young testing their navigation skills. The centre is open all year round.


The local soccer club, St. Catherine's FC, was founded in 1896 and they play their home games at Emerald Park.

The local GAA club is Na Cealla Beaga. They previously played their home games at McDevitt Park, Fintra. The club moved to a new ground, The Eamon Byrne Memorial Park, in May 2010.

Killybegs in literature

Killybegs Authors:
John C. Ward: Turas na croiche agus an Choróin Mhuire maille le dántaibh diadha 1892. Na hEipistil agus na soisgéil do na Domhnaigh agus na laetha saoire arna dtarraingt go Gaeilge 1904. An Cruinneolaí 1906. Leabhar filíochta fa choinne na scoil 1909.
Thomas Colin MacGinley ('Kinnfaela'): The Cliff Scenery of South-Western Donegal 1867 (Reprinted by the Four Masters Press 2000).
Father James Stephens, P.P. Illustrated Handbook of The Scenery and Antiquities of South-Western Donegal 1872.

Charles Conaghan: History and Antiquities of Killybegs 1975.
Dr Donald Martin: Killybegs Then and Now 1998; Killybegs Down Memory Lane 2011.
Pat Conaghan Bygones 1989;The Great Famine in South-West Donegal 1845-1850 1997; The Zulu Fishermen 2003.

Bella McGee (poet) James Conwell (poet) Padraig O'Beirne (poet).

In 2011, French novelist Sorj Chalandon published "Retour à Killybegs" (back to Killybegs") whose main character, Tyrone Meehan a 80 year-old former IRA officer and British agent during 20 years, was born then murdered in April 2007 at his family's home in Killybegs.


  • Thomas Nesbitt, inventor of the Harpoon Gun
  • Kevin Sharkey
    Kevin Sharkey
    Kevin Sharkey is an Irish artist and designer.-Early life:Sharkey was born in Dublin in 1962, but was brought up in Killybegs, County Donegal.-Earlier career:...

    , artist and musician
  • Séamus Coleman
    Séamus Coleman
    Séamus Coleman is an Irish footballer who plays for Everton and the Republic of Ireland.- Sligo Rovers :Originally a Gaelic footballer, Coleman was spotted by Sligo Rovers when he lined up for his hometown association football side, St. Catherine’s of Killybegs, in a friendly match against Sligo...

    , Everton F.C. attacking midfielder

External links

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