Lough Foyle, Ireland & United Kingdom

Lake Locations:

Ireland - North West - United Kingdom - Northern Ireland - Londonderry -

Also known as:  Loch Feabhail

Standing on the stoop of his holiday cottage looking out over the water of Lough Foyle, he was struck by how closely the 44,000 acre estuary matched his expectations. With its rocky shore set against the backdrop of County Donegal’s cliffs and mountains, Lough Foyle (Irish name-Loch Feabhail) is exactly what he hoped the northern coast of Ireland would be like. Quaint villages tucked around the shores of the Lough and a region that measures its time in millennia instead of centuries promised a vacation sure to exceed his expectations.

A shallow coastal embayment, Lough Foyle swells at the mouth of the River Foyle and meets the North Atlantic Ocean on the northern coast of Ireland. It receives most of its water from the Rivers Foyle, Faughan and Roe; the river inflows combined with the ocean tides impact the estuary’s salinity. Lough Foyle has a maximum depth of 50 feet and an average depth of 17 feet. Over 20 percent of its area, however, is intertidal mudflats. The 5,447-acre Lough Foyle Ramsar Site is considered a wetland of international importance and includes the mudflats, sand flats and salt marsh that ring Lough Foyle.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has a reserve at Lough Foyle, and it is the resting place of a variety of wintering waterfowl including the whooper swan, light-bellied brent goose and the bartailed godwit. The lough is also home to several kinds of grebes, swans and plovers. The fishing is excellent, and Lough Foyle supports commercial mussel and salmon fisheries. In addition to the Atlantic salmon that migrate through the lough to spawn, Lough Foyle has allis shad, smelt and sea lamprey.

There are tens of thousands of acres of water for boating on Lough Foyle, and many of the holiday cottages and vacation rentals provide access to boats. Yacht and boat rentals, and the marinas and facilities that support them, can be found all around the lough. During the summer, the Greencastle-Magilligan Ferry takes passengers on a mile long ride between the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal and Coltraine in Northern Ireland.

Lough Foyle is wedged between Northern Ireland and the Inishowen Peninsula in the Republic of Ireland. Also known as the “Island of Eoghain” and named for one of the sons of a high king of Ireland, Inishowen is the largest peninsula in Ireland and the country’s most northern point. It is part of the County of Donegal and has some of the most beautiful iconographic scenery in the country. Cliffs and mountains meet rock-strewn coasts surrounded by a countryside dotted with thatched cottages and the remnants of stone castles and abbeys.

History lies thousands of years deep in North West Ireland, and there plenty of castles and ruins to explore. The Circle Ring Fort is a stone fort dating back at least until 500 BC and perhaps as far back as 5,000 years. One of the strongholds of the Clan O’Dochertaigh, Burt Castle was built in the 16th century during the reign of Henry VIII. The remains of the castle are on private land, but visitors can get close enough by car to see the huge stone ring. The Glenveagh National Park has a castle visitors can tour. Built in 1870, the granite castle was part of the Glenveagh Estate. The estate became part of the national park in 1983 and was opened to the public in 1986. The national park encompasses almost 40,000 acres in the Derryveagh Mountains and provides visitors with ample opportunities for hill walking and bird watching. It is also home to the largest red deer herd in Ireland.

The villages of Moville, Quigley’s Point, Muff, Derry and Redcastle sprout along the shores of Lough Foyle, all with their own restaurants, pubs, shops and self-catering rentals. Any of the villages would provide a great home base to explore Lough Foyle and the County of Donegal. Beautiful rugged scenery, coastline views of the Atlantic Ocean, abundant seafood and spectacular golf combine with the rich history of the Inishowen Peninsula to make Lough Foyle a northwest Irish destination that far surpasses visitors’ expectations.

Things to do at Lough Foyle

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Golf
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • Ruins

Fish species found at Lough Foyle

  • Lamprey
  • Salmon
  • Shad
  • Smelt

Lough Foyle Photo Gallery

Lough Foyle Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Saltwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 44,232 acres

Average Depth: 16 feet

Maximum Depth: 49 feet

Water Volume: 609,656,322 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 1,429 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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