Rosapenna to Donegal Town, 131 miles (210km)/ 4 hours 22 minutes at 30mph
Leaving Rosapenna, continue along the craggy coastline through the small fishing port of Dunfanaghy. Drive on to Horn Head for a coffee at Café Arnou in Arnold’s Hotel, and enjoy a pony trek along Killahoey Beach from Dunfanaghy Stables.
The route takes in the stunning landscapes of Falcarragh and the Bloody Foreland before weaving up past Magheraroarty Pier, where you can take a ferry to Tory Island, which lies 15km off the coast and has its own king. If time doesn’t allow a trip to Tory, you can admire it from afar with a walk along the spectacular Magheraroarty Beach.
You’ll now be on your way to the Gaeltact (Irish speaking) area of Bunbeg. Just a 10-minute drive from here is Leo’s Tavern, the birthplace of Irish musical talents Enya, Clannad and Moya Brennan, and a great spot for lunch.
The coastal areas in Donegal are mesmerically beautiful, but it would be a real shame to visit this part of the world and not venture inland to the magnificent Glenveagh National Park. Covering over 16,000 acres of forests and lakes, and including a castle, the park is home to its own herd of red deer.
Heading back to the coast, driving through Kinclassagh and Burtonport, you’ll pass the island of Arranmore as you head towards Dungloe. A nice little detour before you reach Dungloe is the tiny island of Cruit (pronounced Critch) with its pale grasses and white sands. It’s connected to the mainland by a little bridge but has a real sense of escape.
Passing through Dungloe, keep the Atlantic on your right and you’ll enter a landscape studded with lakes. Keen anglers should bring their fishing rods: Lakes Aderry and Namanlagh, and the River Gweenbarra are fishing havens. Passing through the village of Ardara, the Donegal Tweed Centre makes a great place to buy some local textiles.
Slieve League Cliffs
Heading around the coast towards Killybegs, you’ll enter an area of edge-of-the-world landscapes with epic views and crashing ocean waves. This is where you’ll find the Slieve League Cliffs, among the highest sea cliffs in Europe. Stop off at the Tí Linn visitor centre before taking a trek along the cliffs, which stand at over 600ft.
At Killybegs, pop into Kitty Kelly’s, a 200-year-old Irish farmhouse famous for its unique seafood lunch.
Finally, you’re on the last leg to Donegal town: visit Donegal Castle, the Craft Village, the Bay Waterbus, and historic Donegal Abbey in this lively market town. Then surround yourself in history with dinner or a drink at the Olde Castle Bar and Red Hugh restaurant, in a landmark building in the centre of town.
In this part of the world you’re spoiled with two excellent award-winning places to stay if you feel like splashing out. Choose between Lough Eske Castle Hotel, on a secluded castle estate; and Harvey’s Point, winner of TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Award for Number One Hotel in Ireland in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
What better way to end your trip?