The Martello Tower at Magilligan Point is one of 40 similar surviving towers along the Irish Coast. The Magilligan Tower is one of the best preserved of the Martello Towers in Ireland and it is open to the public.
The towers were named after a fort at Mortella Point in Corsica. That tower survived two days of attack from British warships and thoroughly impressed the British with its effectiveness. They copied the design and in total some 200 of them were built to provide coastal defences in places as far flung as Bermuda, Italy, Canada and the United States.
Construction of the tower at Magilligan Point began in 1812 and it was completed in 1817. Together with the more unusual double-gunned tower across the water at Greencastle, it was designed to protect the narrow mouth of Lough Foyle.
The towers were originally built to counter the threat of invasion by Napoleon's forces. In 1798 an invasion force of French troops and United Irishmen had been intercepted at the mouth of Lough Swilly, a mere 40km away. A second reason for this later tower was also the naval threat from the United States during the 1812-1815 war.
Due to the timing of its construction the garrison stationed here never had to fire a shot in anger.
Magilligan Tower stands three stories high and it was built on top of a spring to provide fresh water if there were a siege.
The ground floor would have been used for storing ammunition and supplies. The garrison lived in a casement on the first floor. It was divided into several rooms providing separate living quarters for the officers and men. Fireplaces were built into the walls for heating and cooking. The top floor, effectively the roof, was strengthened and contained the cannon and gun platform. The gun platform originally had a 24 pounder cannon.
The region around Magilligan has always been strategically important. The tower saw action again during the Second World War. A pill-box was added to the roof in place of the cannon. The Lough became a major focus for waging the Battle of the Atlantic and Lough Foyle's well-sheltered harbour was a vital base for convoy and escort ships. The flat land around Magilligan also proved useful for air force bases.
The tower was originally built close to the tip of the Point. Since then a build up of sand has put some distance between the sea and the tower. Today the tower stands in the Magilligan Point Nature Reserve, just a short walk from the ferry terminal.
The nature reserve has one of the largest and best conserved dune systems in the UK. The tower has commanding views over the mouth of Lough Foyle and can easily be seen from Greencastle. The range of different habitats available coupled with the shallowness of the sea here means that the reserve is home to a wide variety of waters and water-fowl as well as overwintering birds.
The tower appears to be normally locked, although there are stairs up to the entrance on the first floor and you can see inside. There is free access to the base of the tower and there are a number of information boards posted telling visitors about the tower and about Magilligan Point Nature Reserve.
There are no facilities at the tower, however there is car parking at the ferry terminal and the nearby Point Bar serves food and beverages.
Owner: Northern Ireland Environment Agency
Opening Times: Grounds always open. No internal access.
The entrance to the tower
Machicolations over the entrance to the tower