The Workhouse is a community heritage centre situated just South West of the village of Dunfanaghy, 250m from Holy Cross Church. The Workhouse has been a centre for heritage and cultural events for the community and a central tourist information hub for visitors since 1995. They offer a number of facilities, including a craft shop, a coffee shop, a playpark, an exhibition and visitor information, as well as ample parking and the starting point of the Dunfanaghy Heritage Trail. Construction of the Dunfanaghy Workhouse began in 1843 and it opened in June, 1845, making it the last of the originally planned workhouses to open in Ireland. It was built on a site purchased from Alexander Stuart of Ards in 1842 and cost £5,000 to build or roughly €356,000 today. Like most workhouses in Ireland and Britain, it was designed by the Poor Law Commission’s Chief Architect, George Wilkinson, and is made up of limestone quoins and, unusually, sandstone. The total capacity of this Workhouse was 300, making it one of the smallest in the country. During the Famine years, they extended the Workhouse to house a capacity of 600.
The Workhouse was open until 1922, when the Irish Free State decided to disestablish the Workhouses. It became a co-op for a short period of time but the site fell to ruin and was used as pasture for farmers. In the 1980s, it was declared a Heritage Site and in 1995 it was opened as the Donegal Famine Heritage Centre by then-President Mary Robinson. This Workhouse is a monument of tragedy that, thanks to the local community, is now a centre for learning and culture for both Dunfanaghy and visitors to the area. They want to encourage the engagement of the local history, heritage and culture in different ways, may it be suggesting trails for their visitors to explore, selling crafts or gifts from Irish sellers or taking tours through their exhibition. They aim to bring people together in many different ways and to honour the culture and heritage of their coastal Donegal town, so if you ever find yourself visiting Dunfanaghy, make sure you call in to them.