Sweeping from Inishowen all the way down to Bundoran, the northern headlands of the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal feature some of the most stunning coastline in Ireland. Whether it’s craggy cliffs or sandy beaches with pristine rolling waves you’re after, there’s a little piece of paradise here for every taste. Take a trip down the winding coastal roads and you’ll soon discover why locals are so proud of their beautiful region. Here’s a look at some of the very best things to do in Donegal.
The Northern Lights in Ireland
At the northernmost point of the Wild Atlantic Way, there’s nothing but ocean between you and the Arctic Circle. On a clear night you could even bear witness to the ethereal Northern Lights shimmering over the coastline. Dramatic cliffs and rollicking waves suggest a historic beauty largely unchanged from the year 563, when Saint Columba started his pilgrimage across the rugged cliffs from Derry to the island of Iona in Scotland. A signal tower from the Napoleonic era and abandoned World War II lookouts add a mysterious charm to this part of the world.
Exploring Malin Head
Starting out from Inishowen, one of the first stops you’ll hit on your way down the west coast will be Malin Head, a beautiful stretch of sandy beach, rolling green hills and rocky climbs. Stop off to catch the vista from Mamore Gap, experience the wonder of Glenevin Waterfall or even take a horse ride along the beach. When evening falls, stay in a holiday cottage on the beach or hire a glamping pod for a night under the stars.
Prehistoric forts and snowy peaks
There are few better ways to begin your day than with a round of golf on one of the spectacular courses that line the route, such as the North West Golf Club just outside Buncrana. Continuing your journey, take a slight detour at Burt and you’ll cross paths with the famous Grianan of Aileach, a prehistoric circular fort offering breathtaking views of the coastline. The majestic Mount Errigal lies a short distance down the track, and its snowy peaks loom magnificently over the rolling hills on the horizon, with the whole scene reflected in the serenely clear lake below.
Fanad Head lighthouse
On through Letterkenny, and upon turning north you’ll find the lonely Fanad Head lighthouse perched atop a craggy, sea-carved rock face. It even offers self-catering accommodation for a romantic night over the sea. Back southwards, the sandy coasts offer world-class waves for surfers, and plenty of fantastic restaurants offering some of the freshest seafood in Ireland.
Arranmore Island and the Slieve League cliffs
Catch a ferry across to Arranmore Island and take in the untamed beauty of a land where traditional Irish customs are still in full swing; here, Gaelic is the main language. For the final stretch of your journey, take a visit to Slieve League, the highest cliffs in Europe. The adventurous can switch the car for a kayak and finish up their sightseeing with an astonishing view from the other side. Alternatively, kick back with a relaxing cruise on a tour boat, looking out for whales and dolphins from the clear blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
If you’ve been inspired to travel along the Wild Atlantic Way, check out our guide to Ireland.
Featured image by Grace Smith.