For when it is safe to travel again or for local explorers when allowed – updated September 2020
Chosen as one of the 17 coolest places in the world to go by National Geographic, in 2017, Donegal is a county that somehow feels undiscovered but promises the ultimate great escape. Its remote situation in Ireland’s northwest adds to its romance, mystery and charm. A wonderfully wild landscape isolates Donegal from much of the Republic of Ireland, making it seem more like an independent country rather than just a county.
The best thing about Donegal is that because it is challenging to get to, the place remains uncrowded yet welcoming. Whether you are exploring the county’s crannies during springtime, looking for cool autumn breezes, seeking adventures in its atmospheric winters or simply enjoying it under the summer sun, Donegal offers an unforgettable experience.
Did you know that County Donegal is one of the most important Gaeltacht areas in Ireland?
From Donegal’s unspoiled landscapes with majestic peaks, to beautiful beaches and wonderful waterfalls, and from fairy tale castles to restaurants rich in amazing foodie offerings, this is certainly a county of extremes.
Section 1: Donegal coolest things to do sculpted by nature
Donegal beautiful beaches
Donegal is home to some of Ireland’s most beautiful beaches. Your trip to Donegal wouldn’t be complete without gettiing some sand between your toes as you explore the miles upon miles of golden, sandy beautiful beaches.
Some of Donegal’s best known beaches are Bundoran Beach, Ballymastocker Bay or Portsalon Beach, but there are many more. In fact we are currently writing an article all about the beautiful beaches of Donegal.
Scale the Slieve League Cliffs Heights
Move over the Cliffs of Moher and make way for Donegal’s Slieve League Cliffs. Named the best attraction by TripAdvisor, the Slieve League Cliffs are a great place to get a memorable view of the low-lying Donegal plain lands. The area is accessible throughout the year and stands approximately 600 metres tall with a sheer, dramatic drop down that crashes into the Atlantic swells. When heading out to this region, it is prudent that you ditch your car or tour car and make your way on foot from the car park. You will need to walk for a couple of miles.
Climbing to the top of the cliffs is a great experience for enthusiastic hikers who are welcomed with a splendid view of the scenery below. Experienced hikers can advance beyond the viewpoint into the One Man’s Pass that loops into the Pilgrim’s Path.
For those who love history, there is an archaeological tour to learn about the fascinating rich history of this region. If time allows, try to get to the Ti Linn Craft shop where you’ll find a wonderful selection of traditional Irish giftware. You can also grab some coffee in the Ti Linn café as you take a rest.
Enjoy Some Scenery at the Glenveagh National Park
The Glenveagh National Park is among the six natural national parks in Ireland. It covers approximately 16000 hectares of land, right at the heart of Derryveagh Mountains. Such great wilderness is the source of thousands of interesting flora and fauna found in the park. The park is open all year round, except for some special holidays such as Christmas and Good Friday.
Visit Tory Island
As mentioned, the Northern parts of Ireland, including Donegal, are slightly marginalised from the entire country. However, the is a lot of positive effects of this, especially when it comes to learning the Irish culture. 14 kilometres off Donegal’s coast is the magical Tory Island.
The Island elects a king who doubles up as the entire community spokesperson. The king is very friendly and personally greets and welcomes every ferry that tours the Island. Tory Island is best known for preserving culture.
Locals speak fluent Irish, and it would be good if you come off the Island with some Irish words yourself.
Tory Island is also known internationally for its rich bird life. The Island is home to the corncrake, a globally threatened breed, who can be found during summer nesting in the Hayfields. It also doubles up as a historical place where Colmcille founded the first Christian monastery in the 6th century.
Watch the Sunset over the Grianan of Aileach
This is an ancient site in Donegal, where the kings sat in rule in ancient times and is today, a National Monument.
Eógan Mac Néill, who was one of the earliest recorded kings in Donegal was traced to this site, where it is believed that he died in 465 AD. The Grianan of Aileach is also called the Kingdom of Aileach, has a gigantic stone and close by you can find a burial ground that can be traced to the Neolithic period.
Whether the incredible history touches you or not, the breathtaking views surely will! You can see at least five counties from here and watching the sunset over the Grianan of Aileach is pure bliss.
Head off to the Malin Head
Malin Head is the most northerly point on the island of Ireland. Its unrivalled location features several tourist attraction including the spectacular, superb subterranean cavern called the Hell’s Hole, along with an arch created by nature, known as the Devil’s Bridge.
If you are lucky enough to visit on a clear day, you can see as far as the Scottish Coastline, the Tory and Inishtrahull Islands. And if life is really treating you well, then you might even catch a glimpse of a basking shark. For outdoor enthusiasts, hire a bike and ride around this stunning landscape.