Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fort Dunree

Fort Dunree is a military museum and wildlife center located at the mouth of Lough Swilly in County Donegal, about 30 minutes from the city of Derry. It is one of Donegal's premier tourist attractions, with its stunning scenic walkways and is a featured stop on many of Celtic Tours escorted motorcoach tours of Ireland including the Celtic Dream Tour, the Irish Rose Tour and the Celtic Sojourn Tour.

Fort Dunree has been a military base of strategic importance for many years. Prior to the partition of Ireland, Fort Dunree was an important base for the British military during World War I as Lough Swilly was the location for the Royal Navy Admiral-Lord Jellicoe's North Atlantic Fleet prior to the famous Battle of Jutland. After the partition of Ireland, Britain retained use of Dunree as one of the 'Treaty Ports and it was only handed back to the Irish authorities before the beginning of World War II. The Fort was used by the Irish army right up until the 1980's.

The Guns of Dunree are the most striking attraction at the museum with numerous artillery pieces being situated throughout the perimeter. The main museum is situated on a high craggy outcrop of rocks that can only be reached by walking across a small bridge which forms the entrance to the main museum. Visitors can explore the various observation posts and examine the huge searchlights which were used to illuminate the mouth of Lough Swilly during World War II when it was a 'Closed Port' in accordance with Irish Neutrality.

The main exhibition contains interactive features and assorted militaria connected with Irish regiments and indeed British regiments that had been stationed at Fort Dunree. In several bunkers that had been cut into the rock there are further exhibits connected to Irish artillery regiments and examples of the ordinance they used. Fort Dunree was one of the main bases where Irish troops were stationed during the 'Northern Ireland border Emergency as it was called when in 1969 when the then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Jack Lynch indulged in sabre rattling but in effect did very little when mass anti-Catholic pogroms were occuring on a daily basis in the 6 partitioned counties of the North. Visitors can listen to taped accounts of Irish soldiers stationed in Dunree on stand-by during the emergency and they make for interesting listening!

Across from the main museum is the Saldanha Suite which contains the Rockhill Collection which is an extensive private collection of militaria on loan to Fort Dunree from collectors Jackie Keenan and Jim Gallagher. There are numerous displays of memorabilia from the Irish army's missions items from other armies they served alongside. There are examples of small arms including rifles, handguns, bayonets, grenades and other assorted weapons. The Saldanha Suite also has a wealth of military uniforms and even has examples of fairly modern looking missile launchers.

Its not all militaria in the Saldanha Suite, there is also a Wildlife Discovery Center where visitors can learn about wildlife found locally in the Urris mountains and examine examples of the local flora and fauna. The Wildlife Discovery Center is an excellent starting point for the numerous scenic walks that surround Dunree and there are a variety of trails to suit both the physically fit and the less adventurous.

Fort Dunree is a wild, wonderful place and has a real frontier atmosphere about it with the harsh North Atlantic surrounding the Fort with steep cliffs and the Urris mountains adding to the sense that you are exploring an isolated outpost. It is well worth a visit of you are in the Donegal area and the scenery includes some of the most spectacular in Ireland.

Join Celtic Tours for a trip to Donegal and Fort Dunree.

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