New ferry on Lough Foyle is proving a big success

 

Interest in a new cross-Border ferry service between Greencastle in Co Donegal and Magilligan in Co Derry has already exceeded all expectations with queues of up to a mile being reported on either side at the weekends.

The new route, run by the Lough Foyle Ferry Company, operates from 7.20 a.m. until 10.00 p.m. - with a round trip taking about 25 minutes. A slipway has been built in Greencastle Harbour and at Magilligan which is just three-quarters a mile away across the mouth of Lough Foyle. The service began on June 11th.

The operators expect to carry 68,000 cars this year and over 100,000 vehicles in a full year. To do the same journey by road means travelling around 45 miles and going through Derry city - a trip that takes between an hour to an hour and a half. "The response has been unbelievable. We could not have hoped for a better start," says Jim McClenaghan, managing director of the ferry company, which was set up by a consortium of local business people.

He claims the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal is the "most forgotten part of Ireland" but the new service means it is now directly linked into a tourist trail that extends to the Giant's Causeway and the Glens of Antrim.

Significantly, people from Inishowen who previously would have been unlikely to make a day trip to the Derry and Antrim coast, are now doing so in their droves. And northern visitors are also discovering Inishowen.

Attractions such as Malin Head and Dunree Fort Museum report an increased volume of northern visitors since the ferry service began.

The arrival of a ferry service - which was first mooted as far back as 1904 - is another example of how cross-Border co-operation can benefit local economies.

The €4.5 million project is being backed by Limavady Borough Council, Donegal Co Council and the North West Cross-Border Group, along with funding from the International Fund for Ireland and the Exchequer. The ferry company has also invested over €1.5 million. Fourteen full-time and five part-time jobs have been created. The roll-on, roll-off ferry, the Carrigaloe, which can accommodate 22 cars, was previously used in Cork Harbour.

Next year, another link of what has been termed the "Celtic Trail" going from the Isle of Skye in Scotland to west Donegal will come on stream with the advent of another car ferry service in Donegal between Buncrana and Rathmullen across Lough Swilly.