River Foyle

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The Foyle, early morning in Londonderry

The River Foyle is a river in western Ulster which flows from County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland across the border and through Tyrone and County Londonderry where, at the City of Londonderry it empties into Lough Foyle and thence the Atlantic Ocean.

The Foyle takes its name from the Irish Gaelic language an Feabhal.[1]

The rivers Finn and Mourne meet at the towns of Lifford in County Donegal, Republic of Ireland, and Strabane in County Tyrone and thereafter together form the Foyle. From here the River Foyle flows to the City of Londonderry, where it discharges into Lough Foyle and, ultimately, the Atlantic Ocean.

The river separates part of County Donegal from parts of both County Londonderry and County Tyrone. The district of County Donegal that borders the western bank of the River Foyle is traditionally known as the Laggan.[2] This district includes the villages of St Johnston and Carrigans, both of which are nestled on the banks of the river.

The River Foyle at night
The Foyle at Kittybane, Co Londonderry

Sport on the Foyle

The river is home to a number of sporting clubs and a small mooring facility has been recently added for small yachts outside the City Council offices in the heart of Londonderry. The main sports on the river are canoeing, sailing and rowing. Water-skiing and jet-skiing take place in the summer.


The River Foyle is also the fastest flowing river in the British Isles for its size, making the construction of bridges to cross it difficult. In Londonderry, the main crossing point, there are two bridges. The south bridge, the older of the two, is Europe's only road traffic double-decker bridge and is officially known as the Craigavon Bridge. The northern bridge, known as the Foyle Bridge, is a much larger bridge and was built to accommodate large ocean vessels at a time when it was envisaged that the city would need to accommodate such vessels. However, this proved unnecessary as the main port was moved several miles north of the city and the large vessels it was designed for never had to come so far south. Outside Londonderry, the only bridge to cross the River Foyle is Lifford Bridge, which was built in the 1960s between Lifford, the County town of County Donegal on the western bank of the river, and Strabane, a major town in County Tyrone on the eastern bank.

Traffic on the Foyle

Traffic on the Foyle further south than the northern bridge is now more or less restricted to pleasure boats with the occasional tanker coming in the refinery at the northern end of the town. A tour of the Foyle on board a small cruise ship called the Toucan One, once provided tourists a chance to travel along the River Foyle from Londonderry city centre to Greencastle County Donegal on the shores of Lough Foyle. However, because of a lack of funding from various sources, this venture has now come to a standstill and the Toucan One lies rusting on its moors along Queen's Quay in the city.

Foyle Search and Rescue

Due to the presence of two bridges over the river in Londonderry, some people choose to attempt suicide by jumping into the deep and fast moving Foyle. Foyle Search and Rescue was established as a charity in July 1993 and has adopted the role of protecting human life in the River Foyle from the Craigavon Bridge to the Foyle Bridge. Between 1993 and 2008 it dealt with more than 1000 people in distress.[3][4]

Fishing in the Foyle

The Foyle is believed to be one of the best salmon rivers in Ireland.

Details of the fishing regulations are available from the Loughs Agency.[5] The village of St Johnston, which lies on the County Donegal bank of the river, is a major fishing settlement on the Foyle.

Area of Special Scientific Interest

The River Foyle and Tributaries "Area of Special Scientific Interest" includes the River Foyle and its tributaries as far as they lie within the United Kingdom, which is to say that part of the River Finn which is within Northern Ireland, the River Mourne and its tributary the River Strule (up to its confluence with the Owenkillew River) and the River Derg, along with two of its sub-tributaries, the Mourne Beg River and the Glendergan River. Within the area run 75 miles of watercourses notable for the physical diversity and natural state of the banks and channels, especially in the upper reaches, and the richness and naturalness of its plant and animal communities. Of particular importance is the population of Atlantic salmon, which is one of the largest in Europe. Research has indicated that each sub-catchment within the system supports genetically distinct populations.[6]

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