The Gaelic translation for Killybegs is “Na Cealla Beaga” which means “Little Cells”, this is due to the association with an early monastic settlement in the area. This 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, the patron saint of seafarers is associated with Killybegs since the 15th Century which confirms the long tradition of fishing in the town. In 1588 three ships from the Spanish Armada fleet sailed into Killybegs port, the most notable ship among them was the “Girona”.
According to an annals of the Four Masters, the town was ransacked in 1513 by the notorious Irish pirate the O’Malley’s. Killybegs was the chief port of Tir Chonnaill in the sixteenth century when the O’Donnell Chieftains were known as the best lords of fish in Ireland.
Donegal Carpets were at one point a large employer in the fishing village, making hand knotted carpets for prestigious buildings around the world among them Buckingham Palace, the White House, Áras an Uachtaráin and the Brighton Pavilion. Today the building houses the Killybegs International Carpet Making & Fishing Centre formerly known as the Maritime & Heritage Centre.
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