Voted the coolest place on the planet by National Geographic, Donegal is packed with amazing places to explore.
Whether visiting or living in the North West of Ireland, Donegal is the perfect destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. This county boasts over 1,100 kilometres of sandy beaches, cliffs, and craggy inlets and a host of other fascinating places to explore. Donegal’s highlands and mountain valleys are equally impressive, offering a wild escape for those looking for a rugged adventure. Here are ten of the best places to visit in Donegal.
Slieve League (Sliabh Liag)
Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) is home to the highest sea cliffs in Europe. This holy mountain was a Christian pilgrimage site for more than 1,000 years, and it’s easy to see why it was regarded as a sacred place. Rising 600 metres above the waves, visitors can enjoy unrivalled views of the Donegal and Sligo coastlines. For a unique experience, take a trip with Sliabh Boat Tours from Teelin Pier and experience the magnificence of the cliffs from the sea on a sightseeing voyage.
Fanad Head Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. Perched on a rocky outcrop at the mouth of Lough Swilly, the lighthouse has helped seafarers to negotiate the local waters since 1817. Take a tour to follow in the footsteps of lightkeepers past and climb the 76 granite steps to the top of the tower. The views are unbeatable during the day and you can even catch the spectacular Northern Lights dancing on the Atlantic waves on a clear night.
Tory Island is a magical place with a rich heritage, deep culture, and a real sense of community. The island’s remote location has helped the locals preserve old Gaelic customs, such as the appointment of an island king. From renowned trad musicians to the catch-your-breath scenery, a trip to Tory is a chance to experience a unique way of island life.
Ards Forest Park is a biodiverse park that offers over 481 hectares of woodland and beaches. It’s a perfect place for a romantic walk or a fun day out with the family. This lush green reserve offers a rare combination of landscapes and habitats teeming with all sorts of local wildlife. There are plenty of relaxing walks to choose from and many picnic and play areas in this oasis of tranquillity.
The Doagh Famine Village offers a chance to step back in time and get a real sense of what life was like in Donegal from the Famine up until a couple of generations ago. Using historical artefacts, an authentic thatched cottage, and newer reconstructions, it transports you into a bygone age and tells the stories of how our ancestors lived.
An Grianán of Aileach is one of Ireland’s most distinctive megalithic sites. The stone ringfort site dates back to 1700 BC and is said to have been built by the Tuatha de Danann. The hilltop structure in Inishowen has been well-preserved (restoration works took place in the 19th century), and visitors can climb up on its walls to take in glorious, panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Just outside the ancient stone fort is the Holy Well of St. Patrick. It’s believed that this is where St. Patrick baptised Prince Eoghan (Owen) in bringing Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century. A little wooden cross marks the Well, which is located to the left of the entrance as you approach the fort.
Mount Errigal is the tallest peak in County Donegal and is one of the county’s most recognizable landmarks. Hiking the magnificent Errigal is a popular activity for adventurous visitors to Donegal. The views from the top are breathtaking, offering panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside. The hike should take between 2-3 hours – this is influenced by the amount of time you spend at the summit to enjoy the views. This is a moderate to strenuous hike and some knowledge of mountain navigation is needed.
If you’re looking for breathtaking natural beauty, look no further than Glenveagh National Park. This vast expanse of wilderness boasts stunning landscapes, including rugged mountains, tranquil lakes, and winding rivers. With a range of walking trails to suit all abilities, from easy strolls to more challenging hikes, there’s no better way to explore the park and take in its natural wonders. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Glenveagh Castle, a picturesque 19th-century mansion set amidst stunning scenery.
Arranmore Island is a stunning destination that offers visitors a unique combination of peaceful outdoor attractions and lively nightlife. Located near Burtonport Harbour, this Gaeltacht island is the largest inhabited island in Donegal, providing a rich opportunity to immerse oneself in local culture and customs. Whether you are seeking adventure or simply looking to relax, there are plenty of things to do on Arranmore Island. From diving and dolphin watching to angling and hiking, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. And after a long day of exploration, you can unwind with a creamy pint of Guinness and a lively traditional music session in one of the welcoming local pubs.
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