The Irish name of this village means Ring Fort of Maolian. It is a relaxing summer holiday area, with comfortable homes situated along the sandy shores of Lough Swilly.
Rathmullan has a small harbor with a big history. English naval officers captured Red Hugh O' Donnell here in 1587 by pretending to be regular merchant seamen. They tempted O'Donnell aboard ship to taste some reportedly exotic wines from their cargo and appealing to his well-known sociable nature. He was captured and taken off to Dublin, where he was locked up in the castle for six years. Eventually, he escaped and returned to Donegal and tried, without success, to protect his homeland.
The harbor at Rathmullan is also famous as the point of departure for the nobles of Ulster in 1607, commonly known as the Flight of the Earls. Their flight signaled the beginning of the end of the 13 year long war with England.
The Flight of the Earls Heritage Centre memorializes this event, which many also consider to be the beginning of the Troubles. After the Earls fled, a million acres of Ulster land were transferred to English ownership. The Plantation Era began two years later, when English and Scots protestant settlers were brought in to populate the area. This uncomfortable situation gave rise to hostilities that have continued well into modern times.
Sunset over Rathmullan strand. Image: Greg Clarke
Boat in Lough Swilly heading for Rathmullan. Image: dingbat2005