Malin Head is an Irish landmark that is best known for its latitude. The rocky promontory is, in fact, the northernmost point in all of Ireland. However, the coastal area in Donegal is also a signature discovery point along the Wild Atlantic Way, and home to an important signal station that once played a key role in helping important news cross the ocean.
The wild beauty is best appreciated in person so here is your complete guide to Malin Head, Ireland.
Malin Head is a rugged stretch of coastline that was formed millions of years ago by retreating glaciers. The rocky cliffs have long been a strategic lookout point to keep track of potential invading danger.
Starting in the early 1800s, Malin Head became an important location for communications and defense. The British built a lookout tower at Banba’s Crown to keep an eye out for possible French invasions during the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1902, a signal station was built close to the old watchtower. The station was used by the insurance company Lloyds of London to contact ships offshore as they passed close to the northern tip of the Emerald Isle.
While there is no longer a need for watchtowers or telegram lines, the extreme northern outpost still provides important information to sailors because there is now a BBC weather station which provides information for shipping forecasts from Malin Head.
Due to its location in the extreme north of the country, it is common to say that Ireland reaches from “Malin Head to Mizen Head” (because the latter is one of the most southerly points on the Emerald Isle).
What to do at Malin Head
To visit the absolute most northerly point of Malin Head, aim for Banba’s Crown. This is the very top of mainland Ireland and it is marked with a tower that was built by the British army and stone buildings were later built nearby to be used as lookout points during WWII.
During the war, huge white letters spelling out “EIRE” were created out with white-painted stones. The sign was visible from the air and meant to alert any planes that they were crossing over neutral Ireland.
The watchtower and signal station are still standing. There is no visitor’s center but there are free telescopes and an unrestricted view of the landscape. On a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of the island of Inishtrahull, as well as the Fanad lighthouse.
From the signal station, it is possible to walk down to Hell’s Hole. This craggy spot in the coastline is an impressive place to watch the waves crash. As the swells come in, the water rushes into the opening and sprays against the rocks.
There is a public restroom at the signal station parking lot, but there are no other permanent structures or cafes. However, keep an eye for Caffe Banba, a traveling coffee truck that sometimes stops here to keep Malin Head visitors well-caffeinated.
Location and How to Visit
Malin Head is located in County Donegal on the Inishowen Peninsula. This means that Ireland’s most northerly point in Ireland is actually found in the Republic of Ireland, and not in Northern Ireland.
The best way to visit Malin Head is by private car along the R242 which forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way. There are easy to use parking lots at the area’s major sites, including Banba’s Crown. Some local tour companies also offer half-day trips with small groups to visit Malin Head and the wider peninsula on organized outings from various towns in Donegal.
What Else to Do Nearby
The Inishowen Peninsula is the largest peninsula in Ireland and is dotted with natural wonders and historic ruins.
For example, Europe’s largest sand dunes can be found outside of Trawbreaga Bay. From the sandy shores of Five Finger Strand, you can also sometimes spot a shipwreck from the 1800s. There is also a Spanish shipwreck in nearby Kinnego Bay.
To connect with nature, pass through Clonmany Village on your way to Glenevin Waterfall Park. A short stroll brings you about half a mile down easy woodland paths to a 40-foot-tall waterfall.
After exploring the natural beauty in this corner of the Republic, pop over to Derry in Northern Ireland. The city is famous for its walls, which date back to the 17th century and are incredibly well preserved.