County Donegal

Discover the drama
Behold the majesty of Malin Head, Fanad Head and Slieve League.

Travelling around County Donegal takes in Malin Head, Fanad Head and Slieve League. This route is approximately 557km (346 miles). The closest airports are City of Derry, Belfast International, George Best Belfast City, Shannon or Dublin.

New Zealanders can choose from a variety of options when flying to Ireland. Direct flights or codeshare and airline partnerships exist via the United Arab Emirates, Europe and America. Find out more about getting to Ireland from New Zealand here.

Sculpted by the sea
MALIN HEAD


Malin Head is at the very tip of the Inishowen Peninsula, which is mainland Ireland’s most northerly point.

Over millions of years the wild Atlantic has carved dramatic crevices into the rugged headland, such as Hell’s Hole – a long, deep, narrow chasm where the swells below churn and roar.

Birds flock to this remote but beautiful place, blown in on the Atlantic winds. These regular visitors from Iceland, Greenland and North America include gannets, shearwaters, skuas, auks and others on their southward migration flights. Malin Head is also one of the few places in Europe where it’s possible to hear the elusive corncrake.

About 16km (10 miles) north of the village of Malin is Banba’s Crown, which offers magnificent panoramic views. Banba was one of the mythical queens of Ireland. Banba’s Crown on Malin Head was the spot where loved ones waved goodbye to their families and friends as they set out across the sea on the long voyage to a new life in America.

Ring of stone

The origins of Grianán of Aileach (Grianán Ailigh), a circular stone fort on a hilltop 243 metres (800 feet) above sea level, date back to 1700 BC. The fort is linked to Tuatha de Danann, who invaded Ireland before the Celts. Legend has it he ordered the fort to be built as a burial monument to his dead son. It’s also thought that St. Patrick visited the site in the 5th century to baptise the local chieftain.

“It’s like our own world up here.”
History in the deep

The Inishowen Maritime Museum and Planetarium is located in the old coastguard station on Greencastle Harbour, overlooking one of the busiest fishing fleets in Ireland. There’s plenty on display to inform and entertain, from important research on the basking shark to info about shipwrecks and emigration.

Flying high

Inch Wildfowl Reserve is home to a large population of water birds. You’ll find several breeds of swan, geese and terns, as well as smaller birds such as warblers and kingfishers are sometimes seen at the lock gates of Blanket Nook. There’s plenty to see at this peaceful wetland, with over 8km (5 miles) of idyllic country walks surrounding Inch Lake’s perimeter.

Malin Head

Good to know

  1. Approximately 2 hours’ drive from Belfast, 4 hours from Dublin and Shannon
  2. From Banba’s Crown it’s a 2km (1 mile) coastal walk to Malin Head itself
  3. It’s about a 1 hour drive to Malin Head from City of Derry airport if flying from Great Britain, 2 hours’ drive from Belfast airport; and 4 hours from Dublin airport
  4. To the east, a headland walk leads to the Wee House of Malin, a hermit’s cave in the cliff face
  5. Look out for the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) around Inishowen
Sights and sounds

Inishowen has a number of festivals and cultural events throughout the year. You’ll also find a very warm welcome in the pubs dotted around the area. Pull up a chair and experience a rousing evening of traditional Irish music and dancing.

Out on the edge
FANAD HEAD


Fanad Head is a wildly exposed, romantic headland. It’s also the most northerly point of the beautiful Fanad Peninsula.

Known for the iconic Fanad Head Lighthouse, as well as stunning scenery and incredible beaches. The lighthouse was built in the 1800s in response to the tragic sinking of the frigate HMS Saldanha. Only the Captain’s parrot survived the sinking, and the ship’s bell graces the church tower in Portsalon to this day.

There’s so much to see when you walk along the head’s heavily indented coastline, with its magnificent elevated views over the shoreline below.

You’ll spot grey seals bobbing in the sea, pretty coves and powerful waves crashing across the rocks, maybe even a breaching whale in the distance. While there, you could also look out for the sea arch at Pollaid, an amazing natural arch carved out of the rocks just off Fanad Head.

“The view speaks for itself.”
Beautiful Ballymastocker Bay

Once voted the 2nd most beautiful beach in the world, Ballymastocker Bay is a spectacular Blue Flag beach on the Fanad Peninsula in Donegal. The most spectacular views can be seen along the Knockalla coastal drive on the way from Rathmullan to Portsalon. A haven for water sport enthusiasts, golfers and walkers alike.

Meet the King

Tory islanders have elected their own King since the 6th century. You can reach the island in 40 minutes on a ferry from the mainland. Today’s King of Tory is the artist Patsaí Dan Mac Ruaidhrí, whose royal duties include meeting visitors off the ferry. Known for its own school of native art established in the 1950s, a thriving community of artists still show their work in the local gallery.

Doe Castle

Built in the 15th century by the Mac Sweeney clan, the castle changed hands repeatedly throughout the 17th century and was occupied up until 1909. The castle sits impressively on a small peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides, and today welcomes visitors from all around the world.

FANAD HEAD

GOOD TO KNOW

  1. Approximately 2 hours 40 minutes’ drive from Belfast; 3 hours 50 minutes from Dublin Airport
  2. Fanad Head Lighthouse is closed to the public
  3. Ballymastocker Beach is a ‘must see’, but other fantastic beaches include Drumnacraig, Doaghbeg, Portsalon (Blue Flag) and Ballyhiernan
  4. Fanad Scenic Drive is a 72km (44 miles) well-signposted route, offering a great driving experience
  5. Coastal roads can be narrow and winding: take your time and enjoy the view
Towering vistas
SLIEVE LEAGUE


The Slieve League Cliffs (or Sliabh Liag in Irish), on the south west coast of County Donegal, are said to be some of the highest and best examples of marine cliffs in Europe.

To really appreciate the magnificence of the Slieve Leagues, leave your car in the car park and walk the few miles to the cliffs so as not to miss the incredible scenery.

Take in fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo Mountains and Donegal Bay as you head towards the top, where the cliff face of Bunglas rises over 600 metres (1968 feet) above the roaring ocean. Experienced walkers might want to venture beyond the viewing point onto One Man’s Pass, which loops around onto Pilgrim’s Path.

The sacred Slieve League Mountain has drawn Christian pilgrims for over 1,000 years, and the award-winning Slieve League Cultural Centre will reveal all about its significance as well as local culture and crafts.

Jump aboard

Experience the Slieve League Cliffs from aboard the Nuala Star. Sailing out of Teelin Pier, you'll meet her skipper, Paddy, and see all manner of marine life including dolphins, whales and seals. During May and June there are often gigantic basking sharks peacefully feeding on plankton. If you fancy some fishing yourself, the Nuala Star also offers angling trips.

Woven with magic

Donegal tweed has been hand-woven for centuries. Local producers use wool from the sheep that thrive on the hills and in the bogs, plus natural dyes from blackberries, fuchsia, gorse and moss of the hedgerows and fields. To see the weavers and spinners at work, visit Studio Donegal at Kilcar where traditional skills are passed from generation to generation. You can even take a piece of Ireland away with you.

“We were surrounded by amazing nature.”

SLIEVE LEAGUE

GOOD TO KNOW

  1. Parts of road access to Slieve League are challenging: please drive carefully
  2. About 2 hours’ drive from City of Derry airport; 2 hours 35 minutes from Ireland West Airport Knock; and 3 hours 10 minutes from Belfast airport
  3. Slieve League Cultural Centre is open from March to November from 10.30am to 5.30pm daily
  4. A bus service can take you to Slieve League Cliffs viewing point
  5. There are no admission fees to see the Slieve League Cliffs

Preparing for your trip is simple. We’ve created pre-planned itineraries, or you can plot your own route by using the map. So what are you waiting for? Your Wild Atlantic Way adventure starts here.

Itineraries

Pick a pre-planned route with accommodation and activities mapped out.

Map

Plot the route, plus accommodation and activities you want, using an interactive map.