Wondering how long to stay for, or what day tours you can do throughout Donegal using Fanad Lighthouse as a base?
Ireland’s Hidden Gem
Donegal is an off-the-beaten-track destination with wild and beautiful places to discover. From the fantastic Glenveagh national park, to Star Wars location Malin Head, Sliabh Liag sea cliffs, the north and western Gaeltacht (Irish – speaking areas), Errigal and Muckish mountains, delightful offshore islands and heritage towns – it’s no wonder Donegal was voted Coolest Place on the Planet (National Geographic Traveller, 2017).
- Malin Head
- Doagh Famine Village
- Inishowen Maritime Museum
- Fort Dunree
- Wild Ireland
- Inch Wildfowl Reserve
- Grianán of Aileach
- Lifford Courthouse
- Oakfield Park
- Ros Guill
- Doe Castle
- Donegal boardwalk
- Ards Forest Park
- Dunfanaghy & Horn Head
- Newmills Corn & Flax Mills
- Glebe Gallery
- Glenveagh National Park
- Errigal View Pet Farm
- Ionad Cois Locha / Lakeside Centre Dunlewey
- Gaoth Dobhair
- Bloody Foreland
- Toraigh – Tory
- Árainn Mhór – Arranmore
- Gabhla & Inis Bó Finne – Gola & Inish Bofin
- Donegal Town
- Donegal Railway Heritage Centre
- Glengesh Pass
- Glencolmcille Folk Village
- Sliabh Liag
Glenveagh National Park
Glenveagh is Ireland’s second largest national park and should be on every Donegal itinerary. Situated in the heart of the Derryveagh mountains, it is a remote and beautiful wilderness. You can take a guided tour of the castle, explore the gardens which include a walled garden with heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables, or hike trails through vast areas of unspoilt, rugged, mountainous land. Keep an eye out for wildlife including eagle and deer. You can cycle in the park and even hire an electric bike near the entrance from Grass Routes Bicycle Hire.
Not far from Glenveagh you will find the impressive Muckish and Errigal mountains, both popular amongst hikers.
Ros Goill is the peninsula to the west of Fanad, and it is an easy day trip to cross the Harry Blaney Bridge to the villages of Carrigart and Downings.
Between these lies the Rosapenna golf resort. At the pier in Downings you can see a gun from SS Laurentic, which sank in Lough Swilly in 1917. From Downings, it is well worth taking the Atlantic Drive around the peninsula to enjoy the spectacular scenery. Park up at the Wild Atlantic Way viewpoint at Baile an Iascaire to watch the choppy seas and enjoy the excellent view of Oileán Thoraigh (Tory Island). Further on there is a breathtaking view of Trá na Rossan / Melmore, and beyond that you can find the notorious ‘Murder Hole’ beach.
Less than 30km from Fanad Lighthouse sits Caisleán na dTuath – Doe Castle, near the village of Carrigart. It dates back to the 15th Century and was the stronghold of the MacSweeney Clan for almost 200 years. It was built on the tip of a small peninsula overlooking Sheephaven Bay.
Guided tours available July and August, as well as a small coffee/gift shop. Kids will love running through the grounds and trying to find the dungeons!
Ards Forest Park
Ards Forest Park covers approximately 480 acres and includes a variety of habitats, among them sand dunes, beaches, salt marshes, saltwater lakes, rock face and coniferous and deciduous woodlands. There are numerous forest and coastal trails in the park as well as a children’s playground and a lake with ducks.
There is a Mass Rock (a place where Mass was celebrated during Penal Times), a holy well, the remains of four ring forts and a number of megalithic tombs. You can also access the park via the Capuchin Friary at Ards, following a short coastal path to the beautifully named Lucky Shell Beach.
Dunfanaghy and Horn Head
Dunfanaghy is a popular seaside village 40km west of Fanad Lighthouse, with some excellent eateries, pubs and craft shops and some beautiful beaches nearby. It has an imaginative children’s playground beside Dunfanaghy Workhouse museum.
Visit the wild and windswept Horn Head – a Wild Atlantic Way discovery point with a breathtaking view of Sheephaven Bay.
An alternate way to see the cliffs is to take a trip with Seas The Bay charters, based at Portnablagh pier, which visits the largest land-based seabird colony in Europe at the base of cliffs. Every September, Dunfanaghy hosts its annual Jazz & Blues Festival.
On the way to Fanad, you will pass through Ramelton, a quaint and picturesque heritage town with some remarkable old buildings, well-preserved Georgian houses and the River Lennon running through it. It is one of five designated Heritage Towns in Donegal. There are some quirky little pubs in the town, and an annual gypsy jazz festival Django Sur Lennon.
Rathmullan is a great location for a seaside day out. This historical town was the scene of the Flight of the Earls in 1607, a pivotal event that marked the end of the Gaelic order in Ulster and the beginning of the Plantation of Ulster. An emotive sculpture commemorating the event sits near the beach. Rathmullan has a lovely sandy beach, playpark, working pier and marina. It has a sailing club and a lively watersports scene. In summer months, you can take the car ferry from here to Buncrana across Lough Swilly. There is an annual festival which takes place the first week of August, with Regatta Day on the August bank holiday Monday.
Inishowen (Inis Eoghain, the land of Eoghan), lies to the east of Fanad across Loch Swilly. In the summer months, a car ferry operates between Rathmullan and Buncrana. Otherwise, the Inishowen peninsula is still easily accessible by road and is a wonderful place to visit – either as a day trip from Fanad or as the next stop on your journey. Highlights include Star Wars location Malin Head, Fort Dunree, Wild Ireland, Mamore Gap, Doagh Famine Village, Inch Wildfowl Reserve and Grianán of Aileach.
Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) Cliffs
Not far from Ireland’s largest fishing port at Killybegs in south Donegal you can find some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. The Sliabh Liag cliffs offer vertigo-inducing views over the Atlantic Ocean, the mountains of Sligo and Donegal Bay. The cliff face of Bunglas towers 600m above the sea. For thousands of years this was a place of religious pilgrimage. Now it is a signature discovery point on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Oakfield Park is an award-winning privately-owned estate and railway with a lush landscape of parkland, lakes, mature woodlands, walled gardens and meadows. Fantastic day out exploring the gardens, with a maze, faerie tree, sculptures, playground, tea rooms and gift shop. The 4km long train journey is a delight for kids and big kids! Hosts a range of popular events such as Oakfest, Teddy Bears’ Picnic, Harry Potter Experience and the Santa Express.
Phone: 074 9173922
Gaoth Dobhair is the largest Irish-speaking area in Ireland, and has some of the most beautiful scenery in the county. There is a strong traditional Irish music scene as well as Ireland’s only Gaeltacht-based Irish language theatre. It is also the gateway to some of Donegal’s offshore islands, which are well worth a trip.
Letterkenny is Donegal’s largest town and has a number of visitor attractions such as Tropical World (mini zoo and butterfly house, with indoor soft play), Lurgybrack Open Farm, Arena 7 (bowling alley and soft play), Century Play, Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter, Donegal County Museum.