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Things to Do in Donegal: Wild Atlantic Way Staycation

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

Donegal is a county filled with sights and wonders. With plenty of activities and places to explore, it has something for everyone to indulge in. A county filled with history and culture, Donegal has seen some of the first monasteries and was an important part of the earlier church. It has a rich history in art and textiles, with Donegal Carpets being hand-tied in Killybegs. Its natural wonders are spectacular. Featuring the Wild Atlantic Way, it has mountains, lakes, the ocean, and cliff faces to make it some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. There are plenty of ways to indulge in a Donegal staycation and enjoy the Wild Atlantic Way.

Taking a Boat to Tory Island

Tory Island is a must-see for those who are venturing into Donegal. A beautiful little island is known for its monastery and connections to the early church, Tory Island is inhabited by a community of artists and musicians who enjoy indulging in performances for visitors. A Gaeltacht area (where people speak Irish), it’s a great place to visit if you are trying to learn more about Gaelic culture and the Irish language. Tory Island elects a King to preside as a community officer for the island. Their role is to welcome visitors and passenger ferries who are visiting Tory. With daily ferries and the opportunity to stay overnight, Tory Island is a perfect place for those who are exploring Donegal for the first time.

The view from sea of Tory Island
The view from sea of Tory Island (Source: Julianne Forde)

Climb Errigal Mountain

Errigal Mountain is the largest mountain in the Derryveagh Mountain range. Striking and beautiful, it also holds the title of the highest mountain in Donegal county. For those who enjoy challenging climbs, Errigal Mountain is worth the effort as it offers some of the most impressive viewpoints of the county of Donegal. The Scottish coastline is visible from the summit on a clear day. With its highest point being 752 metres, it is a beautiful challenge for those inclined to a good hike.

Errigal Mountain
Errigal Mountain (Source: Kenneth Allen)

Get Lost in Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh National Park is one of the most beautiful nature parks on the island of Ireland. With an impressive expanse, it is home to the largest group of red deer in Ireland as well. With picturesque walking and bicycle trails, it provides a unique opportunity to explore the forestry and local flora and fauna of Donegal. An amazing spot to enjoy, it is also home to Gleveagh Castle. This castle was a favourite of actors and actresses of Hollywood’s golden age with visits from acclaimed performers like Greta Garbo and Clarke Gable. For those who want to enjoy nature and bask in the trees, Glenveagh National Park is for you.

A stunning view of Glenveagh National Park
A stunning view of Glenveagh National Park (Source: Anna and Michal)

Danger into Malin Head

For those who want unchallenged views of the Atlantic Ocean and enjoy challenging walks, Malin Head is a visit you must make. The most northerly point of the island of Ireland, its viewing point is sensational with walks that loop into each other. Banba’s Head is another spectacular sight along the Malin Head section. A Martello Tower built for the Napoleonic Wars, it was built by the British Admiralty in 1805 as an attempt to provide some security against a French invasion.

Malin Head had an important role to play in World War Two as it was one of the 83 coastal locations used to monitor the Irish coastline. These were crucial in monitoring the German U-boat attacks that occurred against Allied convoys.

Malin Head beach
Malin Head's beach (Source: Andrew Hurley)

Marvel at Slieve League Cliffs

The spectacular Slieve Cliffs loom over the Atlantic Ocean. In close proximity to Killybegs, they are the largest marine cliffs in Europe and provide stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean along the incredible coastal paths and trails that make up the cliff face. Their highest point is a staggering 609m drop into the ocean below. The Tí Linn Café is close by with its own craft shop filled with handmade, local souvenirs to take home to loved ones.

In the higher slopes of Slieve League sits the remains of an early monastic site from the Early Christian period, complete with chapel and beehive huts. There are also ancient stones that suggest Slieve League played a part in pagan culture before the arrival of Christianity.

Slieve League cliffs.
A striking view of Slieve League cliffs.

The Famine Village

To understand Irish culture, one must understand the famine. Over one million people died as a direct result of the famine and over a million people left the island of Ireland, searching for a better quality of life and living conditions elsewhere. In Doagh in County Donegal, a famine village has been recreated to help visitors understand the plight of the Irish people.

Transporting people from the 1840s to the present day, it is a must-see for those who enjoy historical visits and want to understand more about Irish life. The tours are guided and take you on a journey through communities and families who have adapted to their environment and changed society in the local area over the years.

Famine Village
A cottage in the Famine Village (Source: Kenneth Allen)


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