46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal

The Wild Atlantic Way coastal route along County Donegal is my favourite part of the world. This is the real wild west of Ireland. The Donegal coastline of the Wild Atlantic Way has everything for the visitor from lighthouses to cliffs to Star Wars filming locations and beautiful beaches.

There are so many things to do in Donegal you could visit for months.

If you visit Ireland Donegal is a must-see and you will forever be changed by a visit to Donegal where they say “it’s different up here”. 

Aerial view of the Glenveagh National Park with castle Castle and Loch in the background - County Donegal, Ireland.
Table Of Contents
  1. 46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal
  2. Getting around Donegal
  3. How much time should I spend in Donegal?
  4. When Is The Best Time To Visit Donegal?
  5. Weather in Donegal
  6. How to get to Donegal
  7. The ultimate list of things to do in Donegal
  8. 46 of the Best Things to Do in Donegal
  9. Where to base yourself in Donegal
  10. 46 Donegal tourist attractions
  11. The best things to do in Donegal
  12. Where to stay in Donegal

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Is Donegal in North Ireland or Ireland?

I see some folks still are not sure where Donegal actually is. So where is Donegal? It is the most northern part of the Republic of Ireland, in fact, it is further north than Northern Ireland. Here is a great map of Donegal and its location from the Go Visit Donegal site – which I may add has some brilliant resources if you plan a visit. So technically Donegal is in North Ireland but it should be said it is not Northern Ireland which is a United Kingdom country.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Getting around Donegal

Donegal is best seen by renting a car, it’s about 3 hours from Dublin or 4 if you take the bus. Donegal is where you should get lost and enjoy all the hidden sites, beaches, and pubs. But there are tours to the North West of Ireland that will include Donegal.

Don’t be afraid of the narrow roads out here, Donegal traffic is pretty sparse and you should have no problems with driving and a Donegal road trip will give you an unforgettable vacation.

There are wild camping areas in Donegal and if you chose to hire a camper van you can camp throughout the County. However, my warning would be that many roads here are just too narrow to get a camper down so be prepared for a lot of walking.

For more info, check out: Hiring A Campervan In Ireland – Everything You Need To Know

Winter sunset at the Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal - Ireland.

How much time should I spend in Donegal?

Personally speaking, since I’ve lived in Donegal I’ve been here for 4 years and am still trying to see everything. For a first time visitor, I would recommend a bare minimum of 4 days. Try to pick and see the sites you are most interested in to narrow down the list. Donegal is a large county and it can take quite a while to get to the different locations you wish to see.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Donegal?

The best time to visit Donegal I think is between the months of April through to June for the less touristy season and July through August if you only have a summer break. I also love September through November as they are cheaper months to visit and much less touristy. The only difficulty is that many of the sites you may want to see are not open or rather close around October. 

The Great Pollet Sea Arch, with dramatic skies at Fanad, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Weather in Donegal

It rains – a lot so come prepared with a list of things to do in Donegal in the rain. Actually, truth be told it doesn’t matter in Donegal you will find four seasons in one day – you may be drenched one minute and the next the sun will be shining.

How to get to Donegal

To get to County Donegal from Dublin the drive is around 3 hours and you will nip in and out of the North on your way. From Shannon Airport the drive is just over 3 hours as well.

If you really want to do an Irish road Trip to Donegal I would highly recommend renting a car in Ireland, particularly if you want to visit this part of Ireland. Donegal is pretty remote but that is what makes it so special.

Don’t forget Donegal was a major part of the filming for Star Wars and there is an amazing May the 4th Be With You Festival that you shouldn’t miss if you are a Star Wars fan.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

The ultimate list of things to do in Donegal

You may hear Donegal referred to as “the forgotten county.” The most northerly county on the island, it’s not in Northern Ireland. It is a place ignored by the rest of the country for the most part and the politicians in Dublin do tend to forget it exists – which to be honest makes most Donegalers very happy. Donegal is a Gaeltacht region, meaning the Irish language is spoken in many areas exclusively although they can and do speak English.

Glenveagh Castle, Donegal in Northern Ireland. Beautiful park and garden in Glenveagh National Park, second largest park of the country. Gleann Bheatha in Irish language.

Donegal FAQS:

Where is Donegal, Ireland?

Co. Donegal is located in the northwest of Ireland in the province of Ulster. It borders on the counties of Leitrim, Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh. The capital town of the county is Lifford.

What is Donegal famous for?

The county’s motto, “It’s different up here”, captures its distinctiveness and isolation from the rest of the country. Lonely Planet describes County Donegal as the “wild child of Ireland” and with good reason and National Geographic says Donegal “is the coolest place on earth”. With castles, cottages and 300 miles of coastline, it is a truly unforgettable place.

What language is spoken in Donegal?

English is the standard language of Donegal but it is known for its Gaeltacht regions in which Irish Gaelic is the language spoken every day.

Why is Donegal called the “Forgotten County”?

Donegal is nicknamed the Forgotten County which means that County Donegal has largely been left to its own devices, making it the best place to experience Irish traditions, hear the Irish language, or explore the untouched bogs, wild rocky shores and mountains of the region.

Is Malin Head worth visiting?

Whether you start at Malin head or finish here when you journey up to Donegal County the one thing you can be assured of is the epic scenery, the Wild Atlantic Way route, killer hikes, jaw-dropping ancient stone circles and ruins of Malin Head is a must-see in Donegal.

What is there to do in Donegal in winter?

In winter the northern part of County Donegal is the best place to search for the northern lights. Malin Head in the Inishowen Peninsula holds the top spot in terms of spectacular viewing thanks to its lack of light pollution.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

If you plan to travel near Christmas time head up to the Doagh Famine Village and check out  Donegal’s Lapland, especially if you have kids in tow. They’ll see elves, hear the Christmas story, see a live show, and spot the big man himself.

46 of the Best Things to Do in Donegal

Donegal Tourist attractions

There are so many unique things to do in Donegal that you are spoilt for choice. You can follow in the footsteps of saints, walk the wild ways along the Atlantic coast or explore the more unusual things to do in Donegal like visiting stone tombs and circles.

Where to base yourself in Donegal

I would recommend staying in Donegal Town as a base for touring the county. However, if you plan to head up to the farthest northern reaches to see locations like Fanad Head book a BnB to stay overnight so you can truly appreciate the area.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

46 Donegal tourist attractions

In my personal opinion, these are the top 24 things to do in Donegal and you really need at least 3 days to take in all Donegal has to offer. The list includes megalithic sites, pubs, natural wonders, beaches, ruins and everything that makes it “different up here”. If you don’t have access to your own form of transport, then you can use tours to get across to the best tourist attractions Donegal has to offer.

It is all these things to do in Donegal that we chose to live here. We have beautiful clean air, great Sunday drives, the tourist season is not overwhelming all the things that make Donegal “the coolest place on earth”. 

An added bonus is the fact that distilling both whiskey and gin have returned to Donegal and you can tour the distillery.

The best things to do in Donegal

Donegal Castle

Fully restored in the ’90s the 15th Century Donegal Castle sits near the centre of Donegal Town. Built by the O’Donnell chieftains in the 15th Century, beside the river Eske in Donegal Town, Donegal Castle was rebuilt in Jacobean style in the 16th Century by Sir Basil Brooke, after Hugh O’Donnell burnt it to the ground rather than let it fall into enemy hands. Information panels chronicle the history of the castle and guided tours are available. The cost of a visit to the castle is €4.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel

Enjoy a fabulous 5-star hotel stay in the restored Lough Eske Castle that was a vacant ruin about 15 years ago.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

The Forge Pub Donegal Town

A great favourite with the locals is this tiny little pub that hosts live music on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It truly is a hidden gem in Donegal.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

The Castle Bar Donegal Town

A traditional Irish bar, frequented by many locals, it sits in the shadow of the Castle and is a fantastic restaurant to enjoy the local seafood.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Donegal Railway Heritage Centre

Located in the old Station house built in 1889 and it is full of artefacts and memorabilia. If you know a train buff, you need to bring them here. The restored carriages are used for events, vintage tea parties, workshops and seasonal activities.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

The Reel Inn

The Reel Inn can be found just off the Diamond on Bridge Street, sitting right beside the Bank Walk and the River. The Reel is the place to be for live bands on Saturday and Sunday. They also have music on weekdays from Tuesday thru Friday during the summer months

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Donegal Harbour and Waterbus

This tour is great craic a 75-minute boat tour of the harbour and if you are lucky, you may see some seals popping in and out. The tours take place around 2-3 times a day depending on the weather and the boat is a very comfortable 160 seater and is fully equipped with a bar and facilities and it is wheelchair accessible cost is around €20 Euros per adult.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Donegal Friary

The Friary or Abbey sits at the mouth of the bay and is now in ruins in the middle of a graveyard. There are stories of miracles taking place within the Friary and some monks are reputed to have produced fish from weirs with no fish in them, cured cattle and people of their ills with holy water and prayer.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Donegal Craft Village

The Craft Village is located on the outskirts of town, simply head out past the Gardai station and Supervalu and you will see the signs. The Village has 7 studios that contain a variety of local artists. From painting, jewellery and metal sculpture to hand weaving, felting, glasswork and more.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Famine Graveyard

The graveyard is to be found a short walk up from the Church in Donegal Town. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the graveyard was repaired and a commemorative headstone put into place.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

If you want to stay in Donegal town and explore the area further this article may be of help. It details all kinds of things to do in Donegal Town, where to stay, what restaurants to eat at and much more.

St. John’s Point

To visit St. John’s Point you will have to drive quite a ways until you see Coral Beach which is small but perfect near to the end of the point. Drive past by the beach and enter the gate that says Private Property, you don’t have to worry trespassing is not an issue here, from the beach you will drive down a very small trail road to the lighthouse itself and you can park on the side and walk down to the diving point. You cannot access the lighthouse as it is private property.  

St. Johns lighthouse Donegal

The views from the end of the point are spectacular, looking across Donegal Bay to the distinctive outline of Benbulben mountain in County Sligo, and to the nearby fishing port of Killybegs to one side and Bundoran on the other side.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Killaghtee Cross

Dunkineely is a typical Irish village with its small shops and at the edge of the village on the Killybegs side there is an old church and graveyard at Killaghtee.  In the graveyard, there is the Killaghtee Cross which is one of the oldest Celtic crosses in Ireland, dating from 650 AD.

The Killaghtee Cross is a significant piece of Ireland’s Celtic heritage.  This early Irish Celtic cross was a precursor to the elaborately crafted Celtic High Crosses, for which Ireland became famous with the adoption of Celtic Christianity.

It is believed to mark the grave of Saint Aédh who was an early Irish Christian Bishop and reputed miracle worker.  It is said that he is descended from the Celtic High King of Ireland, Niall of the Nine Hostages.

The name ‘Killaghtee‘ comes from ‘Cill Leacht Aédh’, it means ‘church and tomb of Aédh’, in Gaelic. The Cross is inscribed with a large Maltese style cross and just beneath the cross (although you can’t make it out very well is a Celtic trinity knot, which is associated with Saint Brigid.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Megalithic Triple Wedge Tomb

Wedge tombs are believed to date from the Late Neolithic to mid-Bronze Age and are approximately 4,000 to 4,500 years old. This wedge tomb can be found by driving into Dunkineely village and then taking the only right-hand turn in the village, you will see a small pine forest with a parking lot, take the path through the trees for a short walk and you will see the tombs.  The parking lot is on the right-hand side of the road and looks like it leads into a pine forest.

This kind of tomb apparently contains only one burial chamber, but the Dunkineely tomb has three which is unique to Ireland.  The tomb was originally covered by a mound of stones called a ‘cairn’.  Several of the cairn’s kerbstones are still in place.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Beltany Stone Circle

Near Raphoe you will find the Beltany, Stone Circle, to get to the circle you park your car at the Potato Centre of the Department of Agriculture and take a walk up a horse path.  Wear your wellies or good walking shoes as the path can get quite muddy and in the field, you are headed to there is lots of sheep poop.  The stone circle sits on top of a small hill with superb views of the surrounding countryside.  It has around 64 stones with a height of about 1.8 m and in the centre is what might have been a burial cairn.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

The monument takes its name from the spring festival of Beltane, which has been celebrated by the lighting of fires on hilltops to symbolize a rekindling of the sun and a move into summer. The circle probably dates to the Late Bronze Age, about 1400 to 800 BC. This area has been a place of ritual worship for thousands of years.

Although there isn’t an Ogham stone at Beltany you can see one in Donegal at Inishowen.

The Slieve League cliffs

These Cliffs are believed to be the highest in Europe and offer absolutely spectacular views and the rough and rugged landscape is a sight you must see before leaving Donegal.  There are several ways up the mountain. In season there is a shuttle bus to take you to the top viewing point, but during quieter seasons you pass the second parking lot and enter the trail by car through the gate, simply close the gate behind you and drive up to the viewing point.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

The walk up from the second parking lot is around a kilometre and a half and is uphill all the way. There are no instructions anywhere but you are allowed to drive up beyond the gate which keeps the sheep in. This way is only open to you from late October until May, as there is a new visitor centre and to keep the Cliffs clear of traffic there are now shuttle buses operating during the tourist season.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Glenveagh National Park

The Park is the second largest National Park in Ireland with over 170 square kilometres of the hillside above Glenveagh Castle on the shore of Lough Veagh. It is a drive of just under 50 minutes from Letterkenny. It has a dark history, red deer, bald eagles, fabulous hikes and scenery that will knock your socks off.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Glenveagh Castle

Glenveagh has a dark history in its stones that isn’t talked about when you take the tour of the castle, but in the area, legend has it that the place is haunted.

Marylin Monroe and other famous Hollywood celebrities partied at Glenveagh Castle and swam in the pool at the edge of the loch. Henry Mcllhenney (of tabasco sauce fame) brought about a glorious return to the “big house” lifestyle with picnics, deer-hunting parties, afternoon teas and formal dinners.

glenveagh-castle

Glebe House

Glebe House, the home for nearly thirty years of the renowned artist Derek Hill, is situated on rising ground, beside Lough Gartan, east of Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal. Originally known as St Columb’s, the 1828 Regency-style house is decorated with William Morris textiles, and collections of Islamic and Japanese art, as well as 300 works by leading twentieth-century artists such as Picasso and Kokoshka. The house and gardens are displayed in an informal manner, as though Derek Hill was still in residence. 

Glencolumcille

Glencolmcille is such a remote location that it suffered tremendously from the famine and the resulting mass emigration over the next 100 years all but made a ghost town of the place. In the 1950s however, it became a beacon of hope for other emigration-drained areas of Ireland. This tiny community managed to come back from the brink and create a community that valued both innovation and its traditions.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Glencolumcille Folk Village

Glencolmcille Folk Village: This thatched-roof replica of a rural village in Ireland’s most north-westerly county offers a glimpse into daily life as it was during past centuries.

The Folk Village Museum is a cluster of several small cottages, called a ‘clachan’, perched on a hillside overlooking the sandy curve of Glen Bay Beach in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) of South West Donegal. Designed, built and maintained by the local people, the Folk Village is one of Ireland’s best living-history museums.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Wild Atlantic Way Beaches of Donegal

There are literally hundreds of hidden beaches and coves along the Donegal shoreline. From surfing at Rossnowlagh to climbing ancient rock formations at Muckross to undiscovered hideaways like Inver beach Donegal will surprise you with its beaches and coastal adventures. The following is a very small list of some of Donegal’s best beaches some of which Blue Flag Beach listed.

Rossnowlagh Beach

The best beach in the area for surfing, classes are held here throughout the season.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland
Murder Hole Beach

One of the most rugged and remote beaches in Ireland but its beauty more than rewards the effort of getting to the secluded beach – it is accessed from the nearby town of Melmore and visitors must hike across local farmland and descend some hills and dunes to get to the beach. You must obtain the permission of the farmer to cross the fields to access the beach and sometimes there is a bull grazing there so it can be dangerous.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland
Maghera Strand

Just outside Ardara are the Maghera Caves and the gorgeous waterfall Eas a’ Rance (Assaranca). The road is quite a long way in but keeps going and eventually, you will spot the waterfall.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland
Fintra Beach

Fintra beach is a beautiful sandy beach a couple of kilometres outside of Killybegs.  There is a pretty steep road down to the beach but the views from here are incredible. You can see as far as Sligo with the remarkable Benbulben Mountain from the top of the hill.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland
Bundoran Beach

Tullan Strand Bundoran is a glorious golden beach that surfers flock to when the waves are high. Located on the Donegal coast in Bundoran and is one of the many beaches that can be found here. Don’t forget to visit the Fairy Bridges and Wishing Chair.

Spectacular Tullan Strand, one of Donegal's renowned surf beaches, framed by a scenic back drop provided by the Sligo-Leitrim Mountains. Wide flat sandy beach in County Donegal,
Portnoo Beach

This expansive beach is one of the most beautiful on Ireland’s Atlantic coast. Stretching over a mile, this golden-white sand beach is backed by low dunes.  As a Blue Flag beach, you are assured of clean water and safe swimming within the summer months as the beach has lifeguards on duty during the summer.

Aerial view of the awarded Narin Beach by Portnoo and Inishkeel Island in County Donegal, Ireland.

The views from the beach at Portnoo are panoramic. A little way off the coast of Narin beach is the island of Inishkeel (Inis Caoil). At low tide, it is possible to walk from Narin out to the island where you will find the remains of two churches. It is said the island was where the 6th century St Conall Cael founded a monastery.

The dunes along this part of the coast are designated a Natural Heritage Area (NHA) owing to the particularly diverse range of both coastal and terrestrial habitats.

Magheraclogher Beach – Bunbeg

Bád Eddie (Eddie’s boat) has been lying on the popular Magheraclogher Beach at Bunbeg since it was grounded in the 1970s. Originally called Cara na Mara (Friend of the Sea), the trawler has become a popular landmark.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

The boat was made famous to a worldwide audience when it featured on a music video for In a Lifetime by U2 and Clannad. 

Visiting the Best Beaches in Donegal

Seaside Resort Of Bundoran

Bundoran is a relatively typical seaside town, full of penny arcade games, a Ferris wheel and various other attractions for the kids. It also has a great movie house and the local cafes serve some terrific fish and chips. 

things to do in Donegal visit Bundoran
©Donegal Online

Tullan Strand and the Fairy Bridges

You can reach Tullan Strand from Bundoran on foot and it is a well-loved place by locals for swimming and water sports like surfing. 

The big attractions at Tullan Strand though are the fairy bridges and the Wishing Chair. There is also a lovely memorial to the Canadian airmen who were killed when their plane went down in the sea here. 

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Take A Boat To Tory Island 

Tory Island is one of the magical places in Donegal to visit it is just one of the 36 plus Islands that dot the coast of Ireland. You can take a day trip over to the island or stay overnight if you wish.

Just off the coast of County Donegal near Dunganghy lies Tory Island. A place steeped in myth and majestic landscapes. If you’re planning a trip to this magical island, be aware that ferries travel daily from the mainland between April and October, and five times a week during the rest of the year. You can catch the ferry from Magheraroarty Pier just off the N56.

Tory Island has a population of 130 thereabouts and they have a King who is elected to rule the Island. The language of Tory Island is Gaelic and it is considered part of the Gaeltacht. Sadly the King of Tory died in 2018 and a new one hasn’t been elected yet.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Errigal and the Poisoned Glen

It’s not Mount Errigal but simply Errigal and it’s close by the Poisoned Glen, Errigal and surrounding areas are within Glenveagh boundaries, and the main entrance lies a 10-minute drive from the Errigal Car Park. 

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

The Poisoned Glen lies at the foot of Errigal.  The views here are probably some of the most photographed in Ireland.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Discover Kinnagoe Bay 

Kinnagoe Bay is where the Spanish ship La Trinidad Valencera was sunk in 1588. Part of the Spanish Armada many of Donegal’s citizens trace their ancestry back to the sailors that were saved by the locals. Kinnagoe is one of Donegal’s most beautiful secluded bays and it is near the town of Inishowen.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Malin Head 

The furthest north you can go in Ireland Malin Head is absolutely worth a visit. The landscapes are stunning and if you walk or hike you will be in heaven.

When visiting Malin Head you will spot the white stone word “Eire” written on the grass. Recently uncovered these stones date back to WWII so that it was a beacon for the N. American planes flying supplies into N. Ireland.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Malin head is also the best place to photograph the Northern Lights from in Ireland. Clear skies, lack of light pollution and the skies present a performance like no other. If you are useless like me at photography then you need to know how to photograph the Northern Lights and make sure you capture those essential shots.

Visit Fanad Head And Lighthouse

Fanad Head and the lighthouse that marks the head is a photographer’s dream. If you want to you can also stay in one of the 3 lightkeepers cottages beside the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse tour itself costs around €10 euros and it’s a climb to the top of 76 steps but provides stunning views. These tours are all conducted by locals who will give you insight into the people of Donegal and the culture.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Explore Doe Castle

Located near the absolutely stunning Sheepshead Bay this is one of Ireland’s few remaining, fortified, Gaelic tower houses. Dating back to the 1420’s Doe was home to the McSweeney Clan for nearly 200 years.  Admission to the grounds is free and for €3 euro, you can take a guided tour. If you need a break there is a little cafe on the grounds as well. 

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Visit Doagh Famine Village

A replica of a picturesque Irish Village Doagh Famine Village is around an hour north of Letterkenny and costs €10 per adult. I have to admit I’ve been a few times and it is a beautiful location. The village is somewhat cheesy with tatty dummies used to highlight different areas.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

What we did enjoy was the guided tour which is included with your ticket price. Well worth it and you will learn a lot about the famine and its consequences. What was great fun as well was trying some locally brewed poitin – this hard liquor is NOT for the faint-hearted and is available to purchase.

The Village is wheelchair accessible and has a nice little cafe with some great views and really good coffee. 

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Horn Head – Dunfanaghy

From Dunfanaghy take the Horn Head drive where you will have a 360-degree panoramic view of County Donegal from the lookout post. Look out to sea to Tory Island, in the distance to the right is the most northerly point of Ireland, Malin Head. Turning clockwise, you see the Rosguil Peninsula, beaches, then the mountains, Muckish and Errigal, The New Lake, Tramore, and back round to Tory Island.

This is the ruins of the old lookout at Horn Head in Donegal Ireland

Buncrana

 Buncrana sits along the shores of Lough Swilly in the Inishowen Peninsula. These are a few examples of the cultural & historical interests in and around Buncrana. O’Doherty Castle, Buncrana Castle, Inch Castle, Burt Castle, Grianán Aileach and  Fort Dunree.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

An Grianan Fort

Donegal is famous throughout Ireland for Grianán Ailigh. The origins of the Fort date back to around 1700 BC. It has always been connected to the Tuatha de Danann who invaded Ireland before the Celts and built stone forts on top of strategic hills. They worshipped Dagda (the Good God) and he too is associated with the origins of Aileach.

long shot of An grianan the fort

Fort Dunree

The Fort itself was built completely without mortar, the inside of the Fort has three terraces and it is believed that wooden structures were built around these to provide living areas.  Legend has it that the Giants of Inishowen lie sleeping below the fort and that when the sacred sword is removed they will come back to life and reclaim their ancient lands.

Glenevin Waterfall

This is wedge-shaped fresh mountain water that cascades over the black rock from a height of 30ft. It is located in Clonmany, County Donegal.

The walk up the Glenevin Valley to the Glenevin Waterfall in Clonmany, County Donegal, takes the rambler on a safe, well-signposted route. Newly installed picnic areas blend easily into the natural landscape. Footbridges are dotted along the track as visitors crisscross the stream using the stepping stones.

Visit Ardara – home of traditional Donegal Music

Ardara is one of the five designated heritage towns in southwest Donegal. Close by is the Owenea River, where salmon and trout fishing is widely regarded as one of the best in the country. 

Just outside the town is the spectacular Glengesh Pass on the road to Glencolumbkille.  The town boasts top-class blue flag beaches and a first-rate links golf course. The name Ard a’ Ratha which means ‘high hill of the fort’ comes from the earthen ring-fort, which crowns the hill to the northeast of the town. 

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Ardara is also home to many fine musicians that play traditional Donegal Folk music. This type of music is a distinctive traditional sound only played in this County.

The Owenea River

Running for some 21Km, the Owenea is one of the best salmon rivers in the county. The river has a run of spring salmon, grilse, sea trout, and a resident stock of small brown trout.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Walk-in St. Patrick’s footsteps at Lough Derg

Lough Derg is an ancient sanctuary of St. Patrick and it is a pilgrimage site set on an island in the middle of the Loch. It welcomes pilgrims and you can spend the day or three days and walk in the footsteps of St. Patrick.

According to the sanctuary over the past 150 years over 2 million people have spent time on the Island in prayer and contemplation. 

view of Lough Derg from a drone things to do in Donegal
©Lough Derg Sanctuary

The Secret Waterfall in Donegal

Donegal’s hidden waterfall has been a well known ‘secret’ for years. The waterfall at Largy is hunted for by tourists so they can get that Instagram photo or simply admire this gorgeous place.

A couple of things to note, there is no parking so do not park on the road you can endanger lives doing that. Go up to the Largy lookout to park if no space come back later.

Check the tides you can get trapped at the waterfall if you are not careful and that could cost you your life.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland
The path to the Hidden Waterfall

You can use Google Maps to locate the Largy Waterfall, but the land down to the coast is privately owned and you should ask permission before you make the trek. When you have permission to cross the farmer’s land on your way down to the waterline you turn right and walk along the coast. Warning: it is very slippery and not an easy path across the stones to the falls. You will hear the waterfall before you see it.

46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Where to stay in Donegal

Castle like Lough Eske makes for a luxury stay. Or what about Ireland’s best hotel Harvey’s Point both very close to Donegal Town.

Fancy staying in a thatched cottage that is self-catering perhaps Teac Chondai in Annagry is for you. This is a self-catering cottage near the beach and it is a traditional thatched cottage. Loughanure, Annagry.

There are a host of places to stay in Donegal depending on where you want to spend your time. I would recommend staying in Donegal Town in the southwest corner of Donegal which will allow you to explore most of the county and see the highlights and there are some brilliant places to eat in town.

The Wild Atlantic Way is 2500 km of outstanding natural beauty that includes the Cliffs of Moher some of the most beautiful villages in Ireland and some of Ireland’s best surfing beaches

National Geographic voted Donegal the coolest place on the planet in 2017, so there is lots more to come.

Did you forget to buy those Irish gifts when you visited? No problem check out my Irish gift guide here.

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46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland

Lots more to read on Ireland

17 thoughts on “46 Fantastic things to do in Donegal Ireland”

  1. Agreed – Donegal is the best. My family hail from that corner of Ireland and I hope to take my father there some day (he’s never been).

    1. One of the most beautiful places in the world not to mention some of the best craic ever. Make sure you get your dad back soon and take a couple of weeks to explore the whole area you won’t regret it.

      1. Definitely won’t regret it! Gotta take him out to Slieve League – couldn’t get over how beautiful it was (how is Moher more popular? HOW?!)

  2. You know, I always wanted to visit Ireland, but never got the courage to face the weather. I always imaged it being so rainy. Your pics further reiterate our need to just go and visit! Beautiful

  3. Wow, this is so beautiful. We visited Ireland in 2012, but somehow missed this area. Your photography really captures the mood. My favourite is your shot of the castle through the archway.

  4. Some day I hope I will be able to visit this part of your world! I am dizzy seeing the mesmerizing scenic captures from that height. Interesting bit of info on the grave of Saint Aédh!

  5. Megan Jerrard

    I would love to get to Ireland and experience the wild Atlantic way – I have Irish ancestry so to travel here would be a dream. The view from the Slieve League cliffs is incredible!

  6. Stella the Travelerette

    I very much want to visit Donegal because my grandfather’s family is from there. But the closest I’ve been is County Sligo. I especially would want to do the Slieve League cliffs. Your photos of the cliffs are really beautiful!

  7. I had to google map it after reading the first paragraph to find out that those places are in Ireland… ~ Nice photos and introduction and thanks a lot for sharing with us about the Wild Atlantic Way! I have always heard about the stunning sceneries of the Ireland coast – probably my next road trip 🙂 @ knycx.journeying

    1. Oops that’s what happens when you assume everyone has heard of a place, thanks for bringing that to my attention will make sure to note that it is Ireland.

  8. Donegal is such a wonderful place! I’ve always wished to visit it. You have captured such amazing stills! I have a thing for archaeological sites and this 1700 BC old fort is really catching my attention apart from those breathtaking sea views. Great job!

  9. I haven’t visited Ireland yet but it looks and sounds beautiful! I love the old architecture and the coastal views. Thanks for sharing this. It’ll be really helpful when I make it over! 🙂

  10. I’ve been seeing so many posts about Ireland lately and I think it’s just a sign that I have to visit ASAP. Great photos and thanks for an awesome introduction. I’m loving the cliff photos and feeling inspired to book tix right now! Haha!

  11. I instantly fell in love with the sea! The meadows and tombs looked surreal. The cliff was hauntingly mesmerizing! The majestic fort is really impressive. I would love to visit once.

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