Ireland is considering a relatively small country, so I think you would be surprised to learn just how many of us neglect travelling our emerald isle and seek adventure further afield. This is one of the reasons why it took me so long to venture as far as Donegal. Donegal is one of the most northernly counties in all of Ireland, nestled in the north-west of Ireland. It has always been hailed as one of the most beautiful counties in Ireland, and sitting at the beginning (or end, depending on how you look at it!) of the Wild Atlantic Way – I can testify to this truth.. It really is out of this world.
So, the biggest issue with Donegal is not only the distance between it and basically everywhere else in Ireland – but also just how big it is in itself! With only two days to tick everywhere off our list we ended up sitting in the car six-seven hours both days in order to get everything done. I think if you have more time, I would recommend splitting this itinerary into three days but it is definitely possible to do in two. I’m going to break it down to each day and the travel time between each place just to give the exact idea of how we spent our time.
Dublin – Slieve League: 3 hours 50 minutes
Slieve League is such an underrated Irish landmark in my opinion. The second I found out that these cliffs were three times bigger than the notorious Cliffs of Moher (Which almost everyone thinks are the tallest cliffs in Ireland..) I decided I had to go see them for myself.
Unlike the Cliffs of Moher there was no heritage centre, café or shop – or at least that I saw. And also unlike the Cliffs of Moher, it’s completely FREE! It is just pure, raw Irish beauty. You can abandon your car basically anywhere from what we gathered. From here you can walk along the cliffs at your own pace and even climb to great heights if that’s what you like. If you like hiking, this is definitely the place for you – and the views are unbeatable from everywhere you go. It was one of the nicest days that we had in the year thus far and there were barely any people at these cliffs which is another great reason to visit here. You get to take in the views without having the battle people on either side of you to do it!
Slieve Leage – Malin Beg: 36 minutes
Malin Beg is home to The Silver Strand Beach, one of the best beaches in all of Ireland without a doubt. This beach while not the biggest, boasts the most STUNNING colours in the water. The long stairs down to the sand make it feel like you are nestled far away from the world in a little cove of your own. Even on a nice day, this beach was almost empty which we could not believe! This is the perfect place to stop to take in the views and dip your toes in the water.
Malin Beg – Glengesh Pass: 35 minutes
The Glengesh pass is essentially just a road – but not just any road! This winding, stunning road takes you through the valleys of Donegal between the Glengesh and Mulmosog Mountains. Gifting you with some of the most stunning scenery you will ever see, this 15 mile stretch of land makes you feel like you have almost stepped back in time. You can’t really get out of your car to admire the views, as the roads are incredibly windy and dangerous – but I’m sure on the right day you could manage it to snap a photograph. The road was quite busy while we were there so I didn’t get to snap a picture of my own.
Glengesh Pass – Doon Fort: 26 minutes
Doon fort is a 1500-year-old walled fort built on a small stretch of land in the middle of a lake, burrowed in the countryside of Donegal, outside Portnoo. Apparently, this National Monument is now on land belonging to a friendly local family who until recent times used it as a walled garden and has small boats available for hire during the Summer months. Unfortunately, we could not find out how to get there without having to cross through a river and trespass. I’m honestly not sure how you get here, but from what I have seen if you can figure it out it is a must do!
Doon Fort – Letterkenny: 1 hour
We decided to stay in one of the larger towns for our trip as we were there for a bank holiday and wanted to go for a few drinks. The scenery in Donegal is stunning so I would recommend staying along the coast if you are going for just an adventure. We stayed in a hostel in Letterkenny which I won’t actually name as we didn’t have a great experience there! (They cancelled our booking without telling us, and the whole stay was just a bit.. strange).
If you are looking for a good place for nightlife we found Letterkenny to actually be really good. The streets are filled with pubs that host live music at the weekend, and the general vibe throughout the town was great. We ended up in a slightly strange nightclub called Voodoo which aside from the ten euro entry fee was actually not too expensive, and their DJ played all the greatest hits from the 80’s which was actually pretty good. Unfortunately, the only thing we managed to get done in Letterkenny was drink, and sleep – but if you know of any good activities in the area please let me know!
Letterkenny – Malin Head: 1 hour 20 minutes
Located on the Inishowen Peninsula, Malin head is the most northerly point in all of Ireland. I would recommend getting here as early in the day as possible as it is one of the most popular spots in Donegal. Unfortunately, due to our trip to Letterkenny we were a small bit worse for wear on our second day of this trip! This meant that we didn’t really have the energy to do the full walk that Malin Head has to offer. Doing this walk takes you from ‘Banba’s Crown’ which is the most northerly part of the island down to ‘Hell’s Hole’. Hells’ hole along the cliff is an area where the tide rushes in with brute force from the coast but is also more than likely the most notable places from Malin Head. There’s plenty parking and little trucks selling ice creams, food and drinks on your arrival.
Malin Head – Dublin: 4 hours
SO, IS IT WORTH IT?
In short, hell yes! Donegal is genuinely one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. This was just our itinerary but you can tailor it to suit you depending on what you are looking for. One place I wanted to visit which we didn’t have time for was Downings, which is on the coast – but due to time constraints, our hands were tied. If you want to map out your own route through Donegal check out The Wild Atlantic Way website.
You could spend a week in this county and never get bored. I’m happy that I finally got a taster of what it has to offer and I can’t wait to go back! Is this somewhere you would like to visit? Let me know!