Fanad is a peninsula of hidden gems, the road less traveled. The longer you stay, the longer you will have to stumble on some of our best-kept secrets!
First and foremost, what Fanad has in abundance is beautiful sandy beaches. Even in summer you can find yourself with the beach all to yourself – so grab some fresh sea air, dig out the buckets and spades and head for the shore!
The Blue Flag Warden Beach by the Knockalla Coast Road is simply stunning. Drive to the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point for a magnificent view over this long, sweeping, golden beach at Ballymastocker Bay. Famously voted second most beautiful beach in the world by The Observer.
Ballyhiernan Bay has two gorgeous beaches separated only by a small rocky outcrop. You can walk both with ease. The western shore is known locally as ‘Din’s Shore’, and to the east ‘The White Shore’. It’s easy to see where The White Shore gets its name – it is our surf coast and frequently sees large breakers rolling in.
Portsalon Pier has a small sandy beach that kids just love. Children of every age love to go pier-jumping here, and you could easily spend an hour or two rock-pooling and exploring the little caves just off the beach. There’s also a shop, pub and restaurant by the pier.
Great Pollet Sea Arch
The ‘Great Arch’, as it is known locally, is Ireland’s largest rock arch. It is an absolutely stunning monument to the power of the sea. It lies just a few miles east of Fanad Lighthouse.
Access to the Arch has been restored and there is now car parking and a walkway down to a viewing platform.
Portsalon Golf Club
Portsalon has an 18 hole golf links course which is surely one of the most scenic places in the world to play a round of golf. Golf has been played here at Portsalon since the 1880s.
It is currently ranked in the top 25 courses in Ireland by Golf Digest and holds a large number of Open Competitions each year. Grab a bite to eat or a drink in the Clubhouse afterwards, while enjoying a view of the beach.
Donegal Garden Trail
The Donegal Garden Trail showcases some of the county’s most beautiful public and private gardens. Greenfort is undoubtedly one of Fanad’s hidden gems. In 2019 it was the winner of the annual Donegal Garden Trail Award of Merit.
The house and garden are centuries old, and have an incredible array of trees, shrubs and flowers, not to mention the walled vegetable garden and fruit trees. There are rhododendrons, camelias, azaleas, beautiful woodland walks with both native and exotic species.
Contact: Paddy Perry, +35387 7574823
Walking and Hiking
Fanad offers great opportunities for walking and hiking. Dander down country lanes and explore the scenic views and peacefulness of the peninsula. Take a stroll on one of the many beaches, or around our beautiful lakes.
Find St.Colmcille’s Well (An Turas) between Portsalon and Doaghbeg, at the end of a waymarked trail. Climb to the top of the Knockalla Hills and search for the Black Lakes.
Walk the Knockalla Coast Road and look out for Pa’s Well, the Napoleonic Fort and the mountainy sheep! On the way to Glenvar you can hike up to the hillside grotto at the Way of the Cross.
Discover some truly off-the-beaten-path walks with an experienced guide, Mary Doherty of Fanad Walks Donegal. Mary is a true Fanad native and her knowledge of the local area is second to none. Her enthusiasm for walking and sharing her love of our beautiful peninsula will surely enhance your trip here and leave you with lasting memories. Find her on Facebook at Fanad Walks Donegal.
Sean Mullan of Walking & Talking in Donegal runs weekend and week-long walking tours, with walks ranging from easy to medium-difficult. Sean’s tours bring you to the ‘highlands and headlands of North Donegal’, covering some beautiful parts of Fanad and further afield, such as Ards Forest Park, Errigal and Muckish mountains, Horn Head, Glenveagh and Derry. Sean has a wealth of knowledge on the North Donegal area, its history, flora and fauna.
Sea Angling / Pleasure Trips
Why not charter a fishing trip and combine a little bit of sightseeing with your catch of the day? Lough Swilly is a great place to go fishing for a variety of fish such as tope, ray, cod, haddock and plaice.
Cruise up the coast and check out the hidden Seven Arches, a series of sea caves north of Portsalon. Or head south for a look at the wreck of a fishing vessel at the base of the cliffs under the Knockalla Coast Road. Glide by Fanad Lighthouse for wonderful views of the lighthouse from the sea and come back by the Inishowen side of the Swilly to see Leenan beach and Fort Dunree.
Boat hire available with Deep Blue Watersports at Portsalon Pier.
Kayaking / Outdoor Pursuits
Explore Lough Swilly, Mulroy Bay and the Atlantic with experienced guide Hugh Hunter and visit places you can only go with a kayak.
You can even take a sunrise or moonlit paddle. Hugh also offers coasteering, orienteering and rock-climbing experiences.
Embrace the Wild Atlantic and immerse yourself in the cool, salty seas around the Fanad peninsula. Many of our beaches are safe for swimming. Ballymastocker Bay has a certified blue flag beach and lifeguard service through the summer months.
You will feel invigorated and recharged after a sea swim here, and you may even have the whole beach to yourself!
Surfing / SUP
Adventure One Surf School offer surfing lessons from Ballyhiernan Bay in Fanad and SUP (stand up paddleboarding) from the calmer shores of Rathmullan.
Ballyhiernan Bay is known by locals as ‘The White Shore’, and it’s easy to see why – it has great waves rolling in and fantastic surfing opportunities. An exhilarating experience in the crystal-clear waters of one of our beautiful beaches.
Photo by Úna McGrory
Every summer Fanad has a number of local festivals. In May, Fanad Lighthouse kicks off the season with Shine a Light on Summer Festival in conjunction with Great Lighthouses of Ireland.
In June, the Kerrykeel Vintage Show draws visitors from far and wide, while the Fanad Festival takes place at the beginning of August. Downings, Carrigart, Rathmullan and Ramelton also have summer festivals. Keep an eye on our Events.
Donegal is fast becoming a foodie destination and there is a wealth of excellent food establishments in the Fanad peninsula and surrounding areas.
EAT AT THE VISITOR CENTRE
We have the Lighthouse Café on site, offering a range of teas, coffees, snacks, ices and home-baking. We have dairy-free coffee options and vegan ices in stock too. Perfect refreshments before or after your tour.
Sit and pass an hour at our outside seating with one of the best views in Ireland, watching the wild Atlantic waves come and go. Keep an eye out for seabirds and wildlife. We have wheelchair accessible outdoor seating.
Restaurants & Cafés in Fanad
The Pier Restaurant, Portsalon (12km)
Situated overlooking the beautiful pier at Portsalon, Pierside serves excellent food in intimate and tastefully decorated surroundings with glorious sea views. Why not pop in after wards to the Stores ‘Olde World’ Bar, loved by locals and tourists alike, for a pint of Guinness by the open fire.
The Narrow Quarter, Kerrykeel (19.4km)
Overall winner Irish Café Awards 2019
The Narrow Quarter Bistro & Coffeehouse offers a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy fresh, simple and local food. The business opened its doors in April 2018 and has gone from strength to strength ever since. This bistro aims to utilize as many locally sourced ingredients as possible, be it meat from the local butcher or smoked salmon from a local smokehouse. For the summer months, the bistro also opens its doors for Friday & Saturday dinner service, offering a classy but casual evening menu.
Ripples Restaurant , Kerrykeel (20.2km)
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner through the seasons, Ripples Restaurant is a family run restaurant situated overlooking Mulroy Bay. The mussels and scallops are sourced from Mulroy Bay and locals and visitors alike return again and again to taste all their seasonal specials. Fabulous food and great customer service give customers a memorable dining experience in a stunning location.
The Goose & Gander Pizzeria, Downings (23km)
Belles Kitchen , Rathmullan (29km)
Belles Kitchen is a modern café / bistro located on the Pier Road just 20 metres from Rathmullan beach, pier and marina. Stop off here for some of the finest fresh fish that you will find in North West Donegal. There are often queues which is always a sign of a quality establishment. Belle’s Kitchen has an excellent a la carte and snack menu available. They are known locally and by return visitors for their excellent service, extensive menu, reasonably priced food and the “lovely atmosphere”.
Rathmullan House, Rathmullan (29km)
Rathmullan House is a beautiful 4-star period hotel on the shores of Lough Swilly, serving food in Batt’s Bar, The Cook & Gardener Restaurant, and The Tap Room for stone baked pizzas and local Kinnegar beer. The menu is full of produce from their walled garden. Whether you want formal or casual high-end dining, Rathmullan House is the place to spoil yourself.