Located in the northwest of Ireland, Donegal is a stunning county with a wealth of natural beauty and cultural attractions. From rugged scenic coastlines to ancient sites, Donegal is also a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, and its rich history and heritage make it a fascinating destination for anyone interested in Irish culture. In this Donegal guide, we will explore the best things to do in Donegal and provide you with all the information you need to plan your perfect trip.
The Popularity Of Donegal As A Tourist Destination
Donegal has become increasingly popular as a tourist destination in recent years, thanks to its stunning natural beauty, and warm and welcoming locals. Tourists are drawn to the region for its rugged coastline, pristine beaches, rolling hills, and unspoiled wilderness, as well as its many historic sites and cultural attractions. There is no shortage of things to do in Donegal.
What You’re Getting From This Article
In this Donegal guide article, readers can expect to learn about the best things to do in Donegal, including exploring the county’s stunning beaches, visiting historic castles, hiking in the beautiful Bluestack Mountains, taking a tour of a distillery, and exploring the unspoiled wilderness of Glenveagh National Park.
This article will also provide lots of practical information on things to do in Donegal and info on getting to Donegal and where to stay, as well as a brief introduction to the county and its many attractions.
To give you a general idea of prices, here are a few examples of average costs in Donegal:
- Accommodation: Budget-friendly hostels can start at around €20-30 per night and B&Bs start at 50 euros per night per person, while mid-range hotels can cost around €80-120 per night. More luxurious options can range from €150-300 per night or more.
- Food and drink: A basic meal in a pub or casual restaurant can cost around €10-15, while a more upscale dinner can cost around €30-40 or more. A pint of beer or a glass of wine can range from €4-6 in general.
- Activities and attractions: Many of the things to do in Donegal are natural wonders, such as beaches, mountains, and hiking trails, which are free to enjoy. Museums and cultural sites may have admission fees ranging from €5-10 or more, and organized activities like boat tours or adventure sports can cost around €20-50 per person.
Where Is Donegal In Ireland
Map Of Donegal
Getting To Donegal
In this Donegal guide, we will help you find your way to the region and it’s fairly easy, with a range of travel options available to visitors.
Here are some of the best ways to travel to Donegal:
- By Car – Driving is a popular option, especially for those travelling from other parts of Ireland. The county is well connected by road, with major motorways such as the M6 and M1 providing easy access to the region.
- By Bus – There are a number of bus services that run to the region from other parts of Ireland, including Bus Éireann and private coach companies. Buses run regularly from Dublin, Galway, and Sligo, among other locations.
- By Train – There is no train station in Donegal, but visitors can take the train to nearby towns such as Sligo or Derry/Londonderry and then take a bus or taxi to the region.
- By Air – Donegal Airport is located just outside the town of Carrickfinn and offers regular flights to Dublin and other locations in Ireland. You can also fly into Derry/Londonderry Airport or Belfast International Airport, both of which are around two hours drive from Donegal.
Buses and trains are good options for those who prefer not to drive. Flying can be a convenient option, especially for those travelling from further afield, but it is worth noting that Donegal Airport has limited flight options.
Renting A Car In Donegal
In this Donegal guide, we will go through renting a car in Donegal. It is relatively easy and straightforward and arguably one of the best things to do in Donegal.
To rent a car in Donegal, you will need to have a valid driver’s license and be over the age of 18. Some car rental companies may also require an international driving permit, so it is worth checking in advance. You will also need to provide a credit card as a deposit.
The cost of renting a car will depend on a range of factors, including the type of car, the rental period, and the time of year. It is worth shopping around and comparing prices from different rental companies to find the best deal.
Visitors from outside the EU may also need to obtain an International Driving Permit before driving in Ireland.
Accommodation in Donegal
Donegal offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and tastes. Visitors can choose from traditional guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, hotels, self-catering cottages, and campsites.
Best Areas To Stay In Donegal
- Letterkenny – the largest town in Donegal, offers a range of accommodation options and is a great base for exploring the surrounding area.
- Ardara – a picturesque village known for its traditional music and crafts.
- Ballyliffin – a seaside village on the Inishowen Peninsula, famous for its sandy beaches and scenic walks.
Unique And Luxurious Accommodation Options
- Lough Eske Castle – a five-star luxury castle hotel located just outside Donegal Town, offering a spa, fine dining, and beautiful gardens.
- Harvey’s Point – is a four-star hotel located on the shores of Lough Eske, offering stunning views, fine dining, and luxury spa facilities.
- Castle Murray House – a beautiful boutique hotel located in the charming village of Dunkineely, overlooking the sea and offering fine dining and luxurious rooms.
There are plenty of things to do in Donegal, and visitors can make the most of their stay by choosing accommodation that suits their interests and budget.
Things To Do In Donegal
The area is a county rich in natural beauty, history, and culture, offering visitors a wide range of activities and attractions to enjoy.
Here are some of the top things to do in Donegal:
1. Explore the Wild Atlantic Way
In Donegal, the Wild Atlantic Way has to be up there with the top things to do in Donegal. The route includes several must-see stops, including the Inishowen Peninsula and the Slieve League Cliffs.
The Inishowen Peninsula is known for its stunning coastal views, amazing landscape, and historic sites. You can explore the town of Buncrana, with its long sandy beach and coastal walks, or visit the Grianan of Aileach, an ancient stone fort with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
2. Visit Glenveagh National Park
Glenveagh National Park is a vast expanse of rugged mountains, forests, and lakes making it one of the best things to do in Donegal for outdoor enthusiasts. You can enjoy hiking, fishing, and nature walks, as well as exploring the stunning Glenveagh Castle and gardens.
One of the highlights of Glenveagh National Park is the Glenveagh Castle, a beautiful 19th-century castle that is open to the public for tours. The castle is surrounded by stunning gardens and offers visitors a glimpse into the history of the area.
3. Experience The Inishowen Peninsula
The Inishowen Peninsula is rugged, wild, and such a beautiful area to visit. It has to be one of the most scenic things to do in Donegal, offering visitors a range of activities and attractions. Highlights include Malin Head, the most northerly point of Ireland, the stunning Mamore Gap, and the charming villages of Buncrana and Carndonagh.
4. Discover Donegal’s History And Culture
Any Donegal guide couldn’t be done without going through some history. One of the most iconic historic sites in Donegal is the Grianan of Aileach, an ancient stone fort that dates back over 3,000 years and is one the most interesting things to do in Donegal if you’re into history and old sites.
This impressive structure offers panoramic views of the surrounding area and is an important symbol of Celtic heritage. Donegal is also home to several historic castles, including Donegal Castle, which dates back to the 15th century and is located in the centre of Donegal town.
5. Experience Traditional Irish MusicAnd Some Festivals
The area is known for its traditional music and hosts many festivals and events throughout the year, the pubs have music sessions and the craic is mighty. It’s a great spot for traditional Irish music sessions.
Checking out one of the many traditional music sessions is definitely one of the most enjoyable things to do in Donegal.
6. Visit Donegal Castle
Donegal Castle is a must-visit for anyone interested in Irish history and architecture. Built-in the 15th century, the castle was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan and played a pivotal role in Irish history. Today, visitors can explore the castle’s impressive walls, towers, and courtyards, as well as its fascinating museum, it is one of the best things to do in Donegal.
7. Take a Tour of Donegal’s Distilleries
Donegal is home to some of the best distilleries in Ireland, and a tour of one of these establishments is one of the top things to do in Donegal for anyone interested in Irish whiskey. The Sliabh Liag Distillery and the Crolly Distillery are two of the most popular, and both offer tours that take visitors through the entire distilling process, from the milling of the grains to the ageing of the whiskey.
8. Travel Around Malin Head
Malin Head is the most northerly point of the island of Ireland and is on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal. One of the main attractions at Malin Head is the rugged coastline, which includes sea stacks, cliffs, and hidden caves. The area is also popular with anglers, with a range of fishing options available, including shore fishing and boat fishing. If you’re into fishing it’s one of the top things to do in Donegal.
9. Be Amazed By The Sliabh Liag Cliffs
The Sliabh Liag Cliffs are a must-see destination for anyone visiting the area. Located on the west coast of the county, the cliffs are one of the highest and most dramatic sea cliffs in Ireland, standing at over 600 meters (1,970 feet) above the Atlantic Ocean making it one of the most scenic things to do in Donegal.
Visitors to the Sliabh Liag Cliffs can take in breathtaking views of the surrounding coastline and the Wild Atlantic Way, with the view stretching for miles on a clear day.
10. See The Fanad Lighthouse
Fanad Lighthouse is one of the must-see things to do in Donegal. Located on the Fanad Peninsula, this stunning lighthouse has been guiding ships along the rugged coastline for over 200 years.
Visitors to Fanad Lighthouse can take a tour of the grounds and climb to the top of the tower for breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse tour takes approximately 45 minutes and costs around €10 per adult, with reduced rates for children, students, and seniors.
11. Visit The Wild Alpaca Way
The Wild Alpaca Way is a unique and offbeat attraction that offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with some charming Alpaca animals. Located in the village of Dunkineely, the Wild Alpaca Way is a family-run farm that is home to a herd of alpacas and llamas. The farm is one of the most unique things to do in Donegal.
12. Take A Few Photos At Glenevin Waterfall
Glenevin Waterfall is a stunning natural attraction located near the village of Clonmany in County Donegal. The waterfall is part of the Glenevin Valley, which is known for its picturesque scenery and tranquil surroundings. The Glenevin Waterfall is free of charge, although donations are accepted to help maintain the site. Glenevin Waterfall is one of the best FREE things to do in Donegal.
13. Wander Around Doon Fort
Doon Fort is a unique and historic site located on an island in the middle of Lough Foyle. The fort dates back to the early medieval period and is believed to have been built by the powerful O’Doherty clan, who ruled the surrounding area at the time.
The fort is accessed by boat and visitors can explore the stone walls, tunnels, and chambers of the fort. The site is located in a stunningly beautiful and remote location, offering visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the raw natural beauty of the Irish coast
14. Travel Over To Tory Island
Tory Island is a small, remote island located off the northwest coast of County Donegal. The island is home to a small, close-knit community that has preserved its traditional way of life and customs over the years. You can explore the island’s many historic sites, such as the 11th-century Tau Cross and the ruins of a medieval castle. A trip over to the island is one of the most adventurous things to do in Donegal.
15. Explore Glencolmcille Folk Village
The Glencolmcille Folk Village is a charming museum located in the picturesque village of Glencolmcille. The museum is designed to resemble a traditional Irish village, with a series of thatched-roof cottages and farm buildings that have been beautifully preserved and restored.
The Glencolmcille Folk Village can take a fascinating journey back in time to experience what life was like in rural Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries. You can watch demonstrations of crafts such as weaving, spinning, and knitting, and even purchase unique handmade goods to take home as souvenirs.
16. Head Over To Arranmore Island
Arranmore Island is a beautiful and remote destination that is well worth a visit for anyone travelling to the area. The island is home to a small but tight-knit community of locals and offers stunning views of the rugged coastline and surrounding waters.
One of the main draws of Arranmore Island is its natural beauty, which can be enjoyed through a range of outdoor activities. Visitors can explore its rocky shorelines, or take a boat tour to view the local wildlife.
17. Take A Look At Dunlewey Church
Dunlewey Church, also known as the “Poisoned Glen Church,” is a historic church. It is situated in a picturesque valley known as the Poisoned Glen, which is surrounded by the majestic mountains of the Derryveagh range.
The church was built in the mid-1800s as a place of worship for the local community, and it is known for its unique architecture and stunning location. Despite being abandoned and falling into disrepair for many years, the church has since been restored and is now a popular destination for visitors to County Donegal.
18. Pop Into Wild Ireland
Wild Ireland is a wildlife sanctuary and arguably one of the top things to do in Donegal. It is a wonderful place to visit if you love animals and nature. The sanctuary is home to many animals, including bears, and deer.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the sanctuary and learn about the animals and their habitats. The guides are very knowledgeable and passionate about the animals and their conservation. There is also a petting zoo where you can interact with some of the smaller animals, such as rabbits and goats.
19. Check Out The Assaranca Waterfall
Assaranca Waterfall is a beautiful natural attraction. The waterfall is situated in a picturesque valley surrounded by forests and towering cliffs. The waterfall itself is approximately 15 meters high and flows down into a pool at the bottom. The Assaranca Waterfall is free, and it’s open year-round. It’s a great place to visit for a peaceful nature walk, a picnic with friends or family, or simply to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
20. Drive Along The Glenesh Pass
Glengesh Pass is a scenic route located in the south of County Donegal. The pass runs through the Glengesh Valley and offers stunning views. The road is narrow and winding and is not recommended for large vehicles or those who are uncomfortable driving on narrow roads. However, for those who do brave the drive, the views and scenery are well worth it.
21. Try Some Surfing In Bundoran
Bundoran is a popular destination for surfers and for good reason. The town is situated on the Wild Atlantic Way and boasts some of the best surfing conditions in the country. The waves at Bundoran are consistently good, with a variety of breaks that cater to surfers of all skill levels.
The town also has a thriving surf culture, with several surf schools and rental shops where visitors can rent equipment and take lessons. One of the most popular surf breaks in Bundoran is The Peak, which is known for its fast and powerful waves.
22. Take A Roadtrip To The Inishowen 100
The Inishowen 100 is a scenic driving route that circles the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal. The route is approximately 100 miles (160 kilometres) long and takes visitors through some of the most stunning landscapes in the area and is one of the most scenic things to do in Donegal. One of the highlights of the Inishowen 100 includes Malin Head, the most northerly point in Ireland.
23. See Grianan of Aileach The Ancient Stone Ring Fort
The Grianan of Aileach is an ancient stone fort. The fort is believed to date back over 3,000 years and is an important symbol of Ireland’s ancient heritage and one of the most interesting things to do in Donegal.
The fort is situated on a hilltop with stunning views of the surrounding area including Lough Foyle, and the Inishowen Peninsula. It is made up of a circular stone wall with an interior courtyard and is built from local stone without any mortar.
Enjoy Some Outdoor Activities
Donegal is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with a range of activities on offer, including surfing, kayaking, hillwalking, and cycling. Donegal offers a variety of hiking trails to explore.
Here are some of the best hiking trails to explore in Donegal:
Hiking and Walking
- Slieve League Cliffs: The Slieve League Cliffs are one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, providing stunning panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. There are several walking trails in the area, ranging from easy to challenging, so visitors can choose the one that suits them best.
- Mount Errigal: Mount Errigal is the highest peak in Donegal, standing at 751 meters. The hiking trail to the summit is challenging but offers stunning views of the surrounding area.
- Glenveagh National Park: Glenveagh National Park is a beautiful natural area that offers several hiking trails to explore, ranging from easy to challenging. The park is home to diverse wildlife, and hikers can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains, forests, and lakes.
- Ards Forest Park: Ards Forest Park is a beautiful natural area that offers several trails, ranging from easy to moderate. The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, and hikers can enjoy stunning views of the nearby coastline and forests.
- The Bluestack Mountains: The Bluestack Mountains offer several hiking trails to explore, ranging from easy to challenging. The area is home to stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife, making it a must-visit for hikers.
- Horn Head: Horn Head is a beautiful peninsula in Donegal with hiking trails to explore. The area is home to stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and panoramic views of the nearby coastline.
- Hike in the Bluestack Mountains: The Bluestack Mountains are a stunning range of hills that offer some of the best hiking and walking opportunities in Ireland. With a range of trails to suit all levels of fitness and experience, the Bluestacks are a must-visit for anyone who loves the great outdoors.
Explore Donegal’s Stunning Beaches
Donegal is known for its stunning coastline, and as a result, there are many beautiful beaches to be found throughout the county. In fact, Donegal has over 1300km of coastline, making it the perfect destination for beach lovers. There are numerous beaches located along the Wild Atlantic Way, ranging from secluded beaches to wide expanses of golden sand.
The Best Beaches
Here are some of the best beaches to visit in Donegal:
- Murder Hole Beach: The beach is surrounded by high cliffs and can only be accessed through a narrow path, giving it a secluded and serene atmosphere. The beach gets its unique name from the dangerous currents and changing tides that can make it treacherous for swimmers, earning it a reputation as a “murderous” place for those unaware of the hazards.
- Ballymastocker Bay: Located in Portsalon, this beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Its long stretch of golden sand and clear blue water is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and beach walks.
- Rossnowlagh Beach: Known as one of the best surfing beaches in Ireland, Rossnowlagh Beach has excellent waves and attracts surfers from all over the world. It’s also a great spot for swimming and beach walks.
- Marble Hill Beach: This beautiful beach is located near Dunfanaghy and is a popular spot for swimming, surfing, and windsurfing. It also has stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
- Narin Beach: This long, sandy beach is situated in a beautiful cove near the village of Narin. It’s a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and walking along the beach.
- Portnoo Beach: Located near the town of Ardara, Portnoo Beach is a beautiful, secluded beach with clear blue water and white sand. It’s a great spot for swimming and sunbathing.
- Culdaff Beach: Situated on the Inishowen Peninsula, Culdaff Beach is a long, sandy beach with crystal clear water. It’s a great spot for swimming, walking, and beach picnics.
- Maghera Beach and Caves: This beautiful beach is located near the town of Ardara and is famous for its sea caves, which are carved into the cliffs by the Atlantic waves. It’s a great spot for exploring, swimming, and beach walks.
These are just a few of the amazing beaches to visit in Donegal. With so many stunning coastal spots to explore, you’re sure to find your own favourite beach in this beautiful part of Ireland.
Donegal is home to several excellent golf courses, which offer stunning scenery and challenging terrain for golfers of all skill levels.
Here are some of the top golf courses in Donegal:
- Ballyliffin Golf Club: Located on the Inishowen Peninsula, Ballyliffin Golf Club is a renowned 36-hole course that has hosted several major tournaments. The courses offer breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding countryside.
- Rosapenna Golf Resort: Rosapenna Golf Resort features two 18-hole courses that were designed by the legendary golf course architect, Old Tom Morris. The courses offer stunning views of Sheephaven Bay and the Derryveagh Mountains.
- Narin & Portnoo Golf Club: Narin & Portnoo Golf Club is a challenging links course that features spectacular views of Gweebarra Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The course is set against a backdrop of rolling hills and sand dunes.
- Donegal Golf Club: Donegal Golf Club is a classic links course that is located on the Murvagh Peninsula. The course is known for its challenging fairways and greens, as well as its stunning views of Donegal Bay.
- Portsalon Golf Club: Portsalon Golf Club is a hidden gem that offers stunning views of Ballymastocker Bay and the Inishowen Peninsula. The course is a challenging links course that has been in operation for over 100 years.
Donegal Cycling Route
Cycling is a fantastic way to explore Donegal’s stunning scenery, and there are several cycling routes available. The Inishowen 100 is a 100-mile circular route that takes in some of the country’s most scenic spots, while the Donegal Bay Cycling Route follows a 64-mile route along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Things To Do With Kids In Dongeal
There are some great things to do with kids in the area, here are a few really good ones.
Donegal Climbing – The Star Wars Walking Tour
Donegal Climbing offers a unique Star Wars walking tour in the scenic Malin Head area. As the northernmost point of Ireland, Malin Head was chosen as a filming location for Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.
During the walking tour, visitors can see the exact locations where scenes from the movie were filmed and learn about the behind-the-scenes production process. In addition to the Star Wars tour, Donegal Climbing also offers a variety of other guided hiking and climbing tours throughout the county, with options for all skill levels.
Donegal Donkey Sanctuary
The Donegal Donkey Sanctuary is a non-profit organization located in Raphoe, it is dedicated to providing care and protection for donkeys. The sanctuary was founded in 2006 and has since become a popular attraction for visitors to Donegal.
The Donegal Donkey Sanctuary is a great place to visit for families, animal lovers, and anyone interested in learning more about the role of donkeys in Irish culture. If you’re planning a trip to Donegal with your kids, be sure to add the Donegal Donkey Sanctuary to your list of must-visit attractions.
Waterworld Bundoran is a popular indoor water park located in the town of Bundoran. It features a variety of water-based attractions for all ages, including several slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, and a children’s play area.
Waterworld Bundoran also offers a gym and a fitness centre, as well as a cafe and gift shop. The park is open year-round, with seasonal hours varying throughout the year. It is a popular attraction for families and visitors to the area looking for a fun day out, especially during the summer months when the weather is warmer.
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FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What are the most popular tourist attractions in Donegal, Ireland
The best things to see in Donegal are the Glenveagh National Park and Malin Head One of the most popular destinations is The Slieve League Cliffs. They offer breathtaking views and a range of hiking trails for all levels of fitness.
Q2. Are there any scenic drives or routes to explore in Donegal?
Donegal is home to several scenic drives and routes that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. The Wild Atlantic Way and The Inishowen 100 are the most scenic routes to check out.
Q3. What are some of the best outdoor activities to do in Donegal?
Donegal is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, some of the best outdoor activities include hiking and popular trails including the Slieve League Cliffs, the Bluestack Mountains, and the Ards Forest Park. You can do some surfing also, some of the best surf spots include Rossnowlagh, Bundoran, and Fanad Head.