Things to do in Donegal

Discover the highlights of Donegal, Ireland with the comprehensive Rough Guide to Things to do in Donegal Ireland.

Donegal Travel Guide: The best things to do in Donegal

Must-see attractions in County Donegal

Donegal, a breathtaking and captivating county in Ireland, boasts of enchanting landscapes that will leave you spellbound. This remarkable county has everything you need to submerge into pure blissful natural beauty- from rugged mountains that soar to the skies, to sea cliffs that have withstood the test of time. With a stunning 1,134km stretch of sand beaches, you have plenty of coastline to explore with craggy inlets and cliffs along the way. 

Here we have compiled a versatile list of the 14 best places to visit in this enchanting county, leaving you ready to explore all that Donegal has to offer.

Explore The Charming Donegal Town

Located on the Wild Atlantic Way, Donegal Town is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant atmosphere. Steeped in history, this market town boasts a stunning Diamond at its core and a magnificent backdrop of the Bluestack Mountains. 

The town’s accessibility makes it an ideal destination for visitors keen to discover its many treasures, from a wealth of shops and restaurants to cultural and heritage attractions, stunning bars, and entertainment suitable for all ages.

Donegal Town is immensely proud to have been named one of Ireland’s top ten destinations to visit by Trip Advisor, and it is not difficult to see why. With a wide selection of hotels and eateries, it is renowned for its exceptional cuisine and use of local produce. 

The high standards maintained by local businesses have helped establish Donegal Town as a leading culinary destination and a hub for visitors traveling to explore the Wild Atlantic Way. Families can rest assured that the town’s restaurants and eateries will provide them with an equally exceptional service.

Discover Donegal along the wild atlantic way

County Donegal is a region mainly inhabited by Irish-speaking locals that lies adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean in the northwestern part of Ireland. The locale is recognized for its castles, rugged shoreline, and mountains, including the iconic Mount Errigal that is made of quartzite. 

Glenveagh National Park was previously a private estate and is now a haven of forests, lake, and bogland that is central to the Derryveagh Mountains. The Scottish Baronial-style Glenveagh Castle, constructed in the 1870s, is renowned for its Victorian-era gardens.

For individuals seeking a rejuvenating retreat amid spectacular landscapes or wanting to undertake thrilling outdoor adventures, the Northern Headlands of Donegal offer both and more. With breathtaking views, golden sandy beaches, unspoilt islands, and a rich variety of wildlife, this almost-untouched northern section of the Wild Atlantic Way is a must-visit place throughout the year. 

The rugged shores and allure of Donegal showcase enthralling experiences available throughout the Wild Atlantic Way. 

Malin Head

Malin Head

Are you looking for an epic adventure in Ireland? Then you must journey to Malin Head in County Donegal, which is located at Ireland’s most northerly point. From its rugged and awe-inspiring scenery to its magnificent beaches, there’s something truly unique about this breathtaking destination.

For adventure lovers, there are plenty of things to do here. Explore the rich history and folklore of Malin Head on a hiking trail that offers stunning views of its rugged coastal terrain. For golf enthusiasts, there are several golf courses to choose from that are nothing short of spectacular. And if you’re a fan of Star Wars films, then you’re in for a treat as many of the famous scenes from The Last Jedi were filmed here.

Don’t miss out on the chance to take a boat ride to Inishtrahull Island, where you can discover the ancient rocks, some of which are estimated to be 600 million years old. Be sure to take a moment to appreciate the majestic Inishtrahull Lighthouse while you’re there. Malin Head truly is a destination that’s not to be missed – are you ready to embark on your adventure here?

When is the Best time to visit Donegal

If you are planning a visit to this beautiful tourist destination, it is recommended to consider the timing of your trip. While there is no bad time to visit Donegal, the months from May to September are considered the most favorable. During these months, the weather is generally at its best, making it perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and sightseeing. 

The warmest months in Donegal are typically May, June, July, and August. If you plan to visit in winter, be prepared for colder temperatures as January, February, and March are considered the coldest months. Regardless of when you choose to visit, Donegal provides an unforgettable experience that is sure to leave you captivated and wanting to return.

Popular Accommodation in Donegal

Harvey’s Point: Is it the spacious and opulent bedrooms or is it the cuisine that has won awards? Are the breathtaking mountain and lake views more appealing, or is it the ambience created by the wooden panelling, chandeliers, artwork, and turf fires?

Without a doubt, Harvey’s Point excels in all these aspects, but above all, it is the people who truly define the place. Harvey’s Point is an authentic hotel operated by genuine individuals, each driven by a sincere desire to ensure the happiness, relaxation, and pampering of their guests. From the moment you arrive until the moment you bid farewell, our dedicated team is devoted to providing an unforgettable “Harvey’s Point Experience.”

Mill Park Hotel: A Warm Donegal Welcome awaits you upon arrival at the Mill Park Hotel, Donegal Town. The Mill Park Hotel is situated just outside the historic town of Donegal with ample free parking and the hotel’s location makes it the perfect base for you to discover the tourism attractions of Donegal, Ireland’s North West and the Wild Atlantic Way.

Templeview Lodge: Offering lake views, Templeview Lodge is an accommodation located in Greencastle, 35 km from Guildhall and 38 km from Buncrana Golf Club. This 4-star guest house offers a lift and full-day security. There is a sun terrace and guests can make use of free WiFi, free private parking and an electric vehicle charging station. 

Fanad Lighthouse, Best Things to do in Donegal

Fanad Lighthouse

Travelling north on the Fanad Peninsula  Donegal, one is greeted by an immediate sense of forsakenness, leaving behind the busyness of civilization. It is a world of natural wonders, where land and seascapes offer a vivid spectacle that lives and breathes.

At the heart of this peninsula lies the Fanad Head Lighthouse, a prominent attraction that came to be after a seafaring tragedy over two centuries ago. In December 1811, the frigate Saldanha, seeking refuge from a raging storm, made its way to the shores of Fanad but to no avail. The ship was wrecked off the coast, and the only survivor was the ship’s parrot.

The construction of the Fanad Head Lighthouse quickly followed, serving as a beacon of light to guide ships and sailors on their treacherous journeys. The lighthouse stands to this day, perched on a rocky outcrop, illuminating the sea with its beaming light.

Venturing to the top of the lighthouse, visitors are presented with a breathtaking panoramic view of the Fanad Peninsula. Additionally, one can spend the night in the lighthouse, and for a daytime visit, pack a picnic and enjoy the exquisite scenery with marine wildlife sightings such as seals, seabirds, and even dolphins.”

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Doagh Famine Village

Doagh Famine Village

The Doagh Famine Village outdoor museum is a place where history comes to life! Located in County Donegal, this museum takes visitors on a journey through time. From the 18th century to the present day, you’ll discover how one Irish family and community survived the Famine and other challenges throughout history.

It’s not just a history lesson either, as you’ll also learn about the journey to peace in Northern Ireland and Ireland during the exhilarating ‘Celtic Tiger’ years, as well as how the country navigated through the current economic collapse. The village is home to a wide range of life-size attractions, including some original dwellings that were occupied up to 20 years ago.

The owners’ personal story of living in a thatched cottage until 1983 sheds light on the subsistence way of life on Doagh Island. Experience various cultures and history by visiting buildings like the Orange Hall, Presbyterian Meeting House, Mass Rock, Hedge School and even a Republican Safe House.

Discover more about Irish traditions such as food, cures, and the ‘Irish Wake’, a touching farewell for loved ones. Doagh Famine Village is an all-weather museum that will help you experience Ireland’s rich past.

Explore the beautiful grounds and romantic castellated mansion at Glenveagh National Park and Castle in County Donegal.

Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal

Glenveagh National Park and Castle is a place that sparks inspiration and ignites curiosity. With stunning mountains, sparkling lakes, and lush oak woods, it promises to be a magical escape for those seeking natural beauty and adventure. 

The castle, with its romantic highland charm, has hosted many famous guests and now invites us to discover its original furnishings and captivating history. Wander through the Castle Gardens where visitors can explore the Gothic Orangery, the Italian Terrace, and the Tuscan Garden, guaranteed to impress even the most discerning garden enthusiasts. 

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for a rare Golden Eagle or majestic red deer- sights that are sure to inspire awe. Once you have explored the wonders of the park, indulge in a heavenly meal in the tearooms or courtyard, surrounded by the picturesque countryside. 

The Glenveagh National Park and Castle is an inspirational haven that will leave you with unforgettable memories.

Popular Tours From Belfast

Giant Causeway Tour

Belfast Shore Excursion

Donegal Castle, located in the centre of charming Donegal Town, County Donegal. Things to do in donegal town

Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle stands as a testament to the rich history of the O’Donnell chieftains who built it in the 15th Century alongside the shimmering river Eske in Donegal Town. Its initial construction was inspired by their desire to maintain a powerful presence in the region, demonstrating their status as leaders of the community. 

However, it endured turbulent times when Hugh O’Donnell chose to burn it down to prevent its capture by enemy hands. Overcoming this setback, Sir Basil Brooke took up the monumental task of rebuilding the castle to its former glory in the 16th century, this time incorporating an elegant Jacobean style. 

Serving as a reminder of the area’s complex history, the castle now features information panels that chronicle its long and fascinating history. Visitors can choose to take guided tours and explore the many stories that lie within its walls.

For opening times, admission prices, facilities, etc, please see the website.

The Sliabh Liag Cliffs

Sliabh Liag Cliffs

This is must Thing to do in Donegal, Hike to the top of the Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) cliffs on the south west coast of County Donegal and marvel at the terrific views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Imagine yourself standing at the top of Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) cliffs, gazing at the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, the picturesque Sligo Mountains, and the beauty of Donegal Bay. Witness the unparalleled beauty of nature at its finest. 

Take the road less traveled and leave your car at the car park, and walk towards the cliffs to fully experience its splendor. These sacred mountains have been a cultural heritage for over a thousand years, attracting people from all over the world.

The breathtaking beauty of Bunglas cliff is a sight to behold. It soars more than 600m above the raging ocean, making it an ideal spot for experienced walkers. Take a moment to stand in awe of nature and reflect on the power of the human spirit. 

The Pilgrim’s Path and One Man’s Pass are there to be explored by those who choose to accept the challenge. Get ready to discover a new side of yourself, and marvel at the extraordinary Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) – one of the best sea cliff views in Europe.

Inishowen Peninsula

Inishowen Peninsula

When you visit Culdaff Beach located in County Donegal, be sure to take a stroll through the swaying marram grasses along the sand dunes, which will lead you to one of the most breathtaking and captivating coastal views in the area. 

The view from the top includes vast and pale sands that are bordered by rocky outcrops, with the rolling and white-tipped waves of the majestic Atlantic Ocean in the background. It is a place that is wild, beautiful, stirring, and remarkably inspiring. 

However, the unique beauty of the Inishowen Peninsula has so much more to offer visitors. This particular Peninsula is the biggest one on the entire island of Ireland and was shaped by the Ice Age. It is known for its stony green hills, jagged coastal rocks, scenic and cozy villages with open fire pubs, and thatched cottages on remote headlands. 

The sky above Inishowen can be both cloud-dotted blue and granite-toned or even lit up with the Northern Lights if the timing is right.

The crown of the peninsula,

Located at the tip of the peninsula is Malin Head, whose summit is adorned by Banba’s Crown. Visitors are welcome to purchase coffee from the Caffe Banba truck, the northernmost coffee shop in Ireland, and then ascend to the top of the cliff tower built in 1805, where they will be greeted with magnificent panoramic views of the Inishowen Hills, Horn Head, Muckish, and Errigal. 

With a sighting of the distant Inishtrahull Island to the east, which was also the last image of Ireland for emigrants leaving Derry~Londonderry for the US, it is no surprise that Star Wars chose it as a filming location for the movie “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Grianan of Aileach

Grianan of Aileach

The Stone Fort of Grianán of Aileach, located in Inishowen County Donegal, is perched on top of a hill and offers a breathtaking view of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly from its 250m elevation. It is said to have been constructed in 1700 BC by the Tuatha de Danann, who built stone forts on strategic hills across the country before the Celts arrived. 

The importance of the fort is evident from its association with the Good God Dagda, who directed the construction of the fort as a burial site for his deceased son. The fort’s interior has three terraces and wooden structures that provide accommodation, while below the fort’s walls, the outline of Bronze Age or Iron Age ramparts can be seen. Legend has it that the sleeping giants of Inishowen will awaken when the sacred sword is removed, reclaiming their ancestral lands. 

The stone fort was restored in the 1870s by Mr Walter Bernard of Derry, and it remains a significant cultural and historical site. It is believed that St Patrick visited the site in the 5th century and baptized the local chieftain, Eoghan, from whom Inis Eoghan takes its name.

Ards Forest Park, one of the best Things to do in Donegal

Ards Forest Park

Ards Forest Park is undeniably one of Ireland’s most stunning and diverse forest parks – boasting breathtaking coastal scenery, picturesque woodland trails, rivers, lakes, and megalithic tombs. Extend an invitation to explore this hidden national gem located on the N56 between the charming towns of Creeslough and Dunfanaghy. 

Covering 1,000 acres, the park is home to a wide variety of plants and wildlife, as well as nine signposted trails suitable for all ages, picnic areas, and a beachfront playground, rendering it a perfect day trip destination. The mesmerizing Atlantic coastal scenery can be discovered on the Binngorm Trail; the easy Sand Dune trail can be accomplished in approximately 90 minutes, while the 5km Arts Heritage trail offers a fascinating experience. 

The Red Trail traverses 13km of forest and along Manus Lough, but shortcuts are available if you prefer to return to your starting point earlier. There are numerous places to stop on the walks and trails, affording spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and the Atlantic Ocean. 

While following the routes, one can witness the park’s rich wildlife, or enjoy birdwatching from the special hide at the end of the salt marsh trail. Ards Forest Park has a wealth of historical treasures, including four ring forts, a holy well, and a mass rock, which can be located on the map on the notice board. Please remember to bring coins for the car park.

Assaranca Waterfall


Assaranca Waterfall is a true marvel of nature that embodies the breathtaking beauty of County Donegal. With its glistening water cascading down its rocky terrain, it’s no wonder why it’s considered one of the most stunning waterfalls in all of Ireland. 

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or just getting started, a visit to Assaranca Waterfall is an opportunity that is simply not to be missed. Fondly referred to as “Eas a’ Ranca” in Irish, this stunning location is situated amidst picturesque surroundings near Maghera Beach. It is an absolute treasure trove of natural wonder, and a must-see destination for anyone exploring County Donegal. 

And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the many other incredible sights and sounds that the area has to offer!

Horn Head, Things to do in Donegal county ireland

Horn Head

If you’re looking for a breathtaking view, consider taking a leisurely drive on the winding road that surrounds the head. You’ll be able to appreciate the panoramic views of the area, including Sheephaven Bay and the magnificent cliffs that protrude into the vast and majestic Atlantic Ocean. 

The natural splendor of the scene is sure to elicit awe and admiration from any onlooker, so don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the stunning vistas. However, it’s important to remember that the cliffside is completely unprotected, so caution should be exercised, especially on windy and rainy days. 

With this in mind, take your time and enjoy the beauty that this location has to offer while remaining mindful of the potential hazards that come with exploring such a glorious and expansive landscape.

Dunree Fort - A must see for every visitor to the Inishowen peninsula

Dunree Fort

Nestled amongst the breathtaking landscapes of Inishowen, Fort Dunree stands tall and proud, a true testament to the resilience and strength of the people who have defended it throughout history. But today, it shines with a new purpose, welcoming visitors from all over the world to experience its natural wonder and charming peace. 

From the vibrant heather that lines its paths to the diverse array of wildlife that calls it home, Fort Dunree is a thriving hub of natural beauty and exploration. Its opening to the public in 1986 marked a new era for this historic site, transforming it into a beacon of inspiration for those seeking to connect with nature and learn about the rich history that surrounds us all. Come and experience the magic of Fort Dunree for yourself, and let its beauty reignite your sense of wonder and adventure.

A visit to Fort Dunree will include a video film presentation in the audio-visual theatre, and access to museum displays which fully demonstrate life at Fort Dunree, showing its vital role in coastal defence, neutrality protection and a range of coastal artillery. To Book your tickets Click here


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