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Lifford - Prehen Boathouse

This 22km paddle along the tidal River Foyle starts at the canoe steps just below the bridge in Lifford and finishes at the slipway at Prehen. Begin near high tide at Lifford to gain the benefit of the ebbing tide.

Donegal / Londonderry
14 miles (22kms)
Nearest Town
Lifford / Strabane
Route Shape
OS Map
OSNI Sheet 7 & 12
Access Point
Lifford - C333 983
Egress Point
Prehen Boathouse - C427 154


Points of Interest

Lifford, Gribben Quay, Prehen


This 22km paddle along the tidal River Foyle starts at the canoe steps just below the bridge in Lifford (in the Republic of Ireland) and finishes at the slipway at Prehen adjacent to the A5 road, just upstream of the city of Londonderry or Derry (in Northern Ireland). 

The river is tidal, very wide in places and can be choppy (especially if wind is against tide). There are shallow places where the river bed can be sticky mud, requiring care if run aground.

Some paddlers raft and erect a sail in favourable conditions to allow the wind to take them along the final few miles of the Foyle – if the English navy did it in 1600 in sailing ships, why not a canoe or kayak today!

Launch from the canoe steps in Lifford, users should be aware that the steps are not perfect height above the level of water – a problem compounded at low tide!  However, paddlers should set off downriver at or close to high water to take advantage of the ebbing tide.

Remember that since the river is tidal, there is a tidal time difference of approximately 3 hours at Lifford (compared to Lisahally, just south of Culmore Point) and there is a tidal range of approxiamately 1 metre.

The paddle to Gribben Quay is picturesque and home to a wealth of biodiversity.  The river splits into two channels: the Backwater (to the east) and the Frontwater (to the west) running either side of a 106 hectare island called Islandmore.  After which the river quickly widens.  The western branch does offer a useful stopping point with picnic site at Red Bridge (GR C348 021).

On your approach to Gribben Quay watch out for mud flats on the right hand side on the river.

Gribben Quay was a fishing station in years gone by. The old ice house and stone quay still stand, testimony to the commercial salmon fishery that the Foyle sustained for centuries (records show salmon being exported to Spain hundreds of years ago)! The structures in the river (most visible at low water) are “hailing grounds”, man-made mounds that were used in tying off or hauling (“hailing”) salmon nets.

Upstream of the Gribben the paddler will see the lock gates of Strabane Canal. This canal once aided ocean going schooners to make their way in to Strabane town, offloading cargo and loading exports at the Canal Basin (now a car park of the same name!). Business died away with the building of bridges in Derry that obstructed passage up the Foyle for masted vessels. Derry was, of course, a trading rival! 

Dunnalong was one of several crossing points where a ferry plied the Foyle. There were others at Grange (once the site of a monastery), in the city and at Culmore. There is still the remnants of a stone jetty at Dunnalong. Close by are some level fields, once the site of large earthwork ramparts built by an Elizabethan army. Nothing remains today.

The pasture lands of the Foyle valley are of international importance for herds of Whooper Swan. Other wintering birds include wildfowl (for instance, Greenland White Fronted Goose) and waders. Look out for otters along the river, sometimes readily approached.

Showers, changing and toilet facilities are available (by prior arrangement with Foyle Paddlers Canoe Club) at your final destination at Prehen. Nearby and just upstream is Riverwatch, a free visitor attraction and aquarium.

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