Ireland's stunning Lough Swilly in County Donegal, was the setting for a dramatic shipwreck which changed the life of John Newton, a foul-mouthed slave trader who went on to pen the world’s best loved hymn - "Amazing Grace."  Newton later mentored William Wilberforce in his long battle to abolish the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  Experience “Amazing Grace Country” in beautiful Buncrana and be inspired by this moving and remarkable story.

 (All information & images sourced from


John Newton was a foul-mouthed sailor whose wild behaviour even shocked his less-than-perfect ship-mates. He was a slave trader who had no conscience about buying and selling people for profit. Yet years later this man wrote one of the world’s best loved hymns and inspired a young politician to fight for the abolition of slavery. “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” is John Newton’s song… and describes his dramatic story! But what is the connection between "Amazing Grace" and Buncrana, County Donegal on the shores of Lough Swilly?


Born in London in 1725, Newton went to sea at the age of 11. He sailed with his father, who was a merchant seaman. In 1744, he was press-ganged into the Navy. Later Newton arranged a transfer onto a slave ship. Sailing up and down the coast of Sierre Leone in Africa, he collected slaves who had been captured and brought from the interior. Eventually, Newton was offered an escape – passage back to England on a ship called “The Greyhound”. Onboard, he became increasingly foul-mouthed and blasphemous, openly mocking anyone who had a Christian faith.


On the long and dangerous journey back to England, the ship was caught in a violent storm. One man was swept overboard and waves crashing over the vessel caused serious damage. Finally, the wind changed. Newton wrote: “We saw the island of Tory and the next day anchored in Lough Swilly in Ireland. About this time I began to know that there is a God that hears and answers prayer."

Amazing Grace - Song

This was the turning point of Newton's life. He stepped ashore a changed man. “Amazing Grace” which describes much of Newton's own spiritual journey, was written in 1772. For John Newton, "the hour I first believed" referred back to his experience of crying out to God for mercy in the storm in that Atlantic Ocean and arriving in the safety of Lough Swilly where he became convinced that "there is a God who hears and answers prayer".

Amazing Grace Park

Opened on 31 October 2014, the Amazing Grace Park in Buncrana, Co Donegal is a beautiful, tranquil public space next to the Tourist Office on Railway Road. Once a piece of wasteland, the stretch of land has now been completely transformed with a stunning water feature, plants and flowers, pathways and benches including an anchor-shaped viewing area looking over Lough Swilly and Buncrana pier.

Amazing Grace Viewing Point

Opened on 4 October 2013, the Amazing Grace viewing point in Buncrana is the perfect place for visitors to look out over Lough Swilly and to consider the inspirational story of John Newton and Amazing Grace. The floor of the viewing platform features a mosaic tile designed by local artist Andrew Garvey-Williams and created by Irish-company Mosaic Assemblers. The design incorporates a representation of John Newton's ship The Greyhound, the words "Amazing Grace" copied from Newton's own handwriting and broken chains to symbolise the end... view the Amazing Grace website for more information

Amazing Grace Viewing Point (continued...)

...of the Trans Atlantic Slave trade. New interpretation signs located at the viewing point recount the significance of John Newton's arrival in Lough Swilly using extracts from his own autobiography and also give a timeline of Newton's life and work. The viewing point marked the first step in a plan to create an Amazing Grace experience in the area.

John Newton Sculpture

At the entrance to the Amazing Grace Park you will find a bronze bust of John Newton created by Dublin artist Willie Malone. The work took months to complete as Willie painstakingly created the larger-than-lifesize sculpture of John Newton's face using portraits painted in the 18th Century.

Amazing Grace package

from €119pps