History of Killybegs

The  Gaelic translation for Killybegs is ‘Na Cealla Beaga’ which means “little cells” due to its association with an early monastic settlement in the area.The area around the deep fjord-like inlet of Killybegs has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and there is evidence of as many as twenty ring forts, most of them near the shore

St. Catherine of Alexandria  who is the patron of seafarers  is associated with Killybegs since the 15th Century which confirms a long tradition of fishing in Killybegs.  In 1588,three ships from the Spanish Armada fleet sailed into Killybegs port most notably among them was “The Girona”.

According to the Annals of the Four Masters, the town was ransacked by the notorious Irish pirates the O’Malley’s in 1513 while its men folk were off fighting. Killybegs was the chief port of Tír Chonaill in the sixteenth century when the O’Donnell chieftains were known as the “best lord(s) of fish in Ireland”.

Another major employer in Killybegs, was Donegal Carpets. At its peak around  80 workers were employed making hand-knotted carpets for prestigious buildings around the world among them Buckingham Palace, the White House, Aras an Uachtarain, and the Brighton Pavilion. Today the building houses the Killybegs International Carpet Making & Fishing Centre formerly known as the Maritime & Heritage Centre.