Off The Beaten Path in Donegal

Known for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, Donegal is a beautiful and rugged county in tIreland's northwest. While there are many well-known attractions in Donegal, there are also plenty of off-the-beaten-path places to explore. 

Beyond the setting sun at higher Irish latitudes, we find a hidden sid where in Irish mythology, Étaín waits for her alter ego Áine to re-emerge.  On a 329-degree heading from Uisneach lies Ardagh Hill in Co. Longford were symbolically, in mythic consciousness, we witness withdrawal from one plane, sunlight, to await in the plane of darkness for the re-emergence of the sunrise.  But there is much more beyond County Longford.  On the same compass heading, we come to the center of Donegal Bay and following further brings us right in between Malin Beg and Malin Mor in the very far west of County Donegal.

Slieve League

What to See Near Donegal

Courtesy Failte Ireland

Also known as Sliabh Liag, this is one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, located in southwest Donegal. It offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding landscape.  To visit Slieve League, you can drive or take a bus from nearby towns such as Donegal or Killybegs. There are several hiking trails available, ranging in difficulty from easy to challenging, so it is important to choose a route that matches your experience and fitness level. Additionally, there are several viewing platforms that offer breathtaking views of the cliffs and surrounding landscape.

Glencolmcille Folk Village

Glencolumbkille is one of the disappearing , Irish speaking towns in Ireland.  Visitors to the folk village can explore the different cottages, which are furnished with authentic period items such as spinning wheels, open hearth fires, and old farm tools. The village also includes a schoolhouse, a shop, and a pub, all of which are designed to give visitors a glimpse into what life was like for the people who lived in this remote corner of Ireland.  The village is open to visitors from April through October, and guided tours are available for those who want to learn more about the history of the area.

In addition to the museum, Glencolmcille is a beautiful area to explore, with plenty of hiking trails, beaches, and scenic drives. The village is located on the Wild Atlantic Way, a popular driving route that stretches along the western coast of Ireland and offers stunning views of the rugged coastline, including the popular Malin Beg, or Silver Strand.

Visit Ireland Silver Strand
off the Beaten Path in Donegal Glencolumbkille

Courtesy of Martin Fleming

Fanad Head Lighthouse

off the Beaten Path in Donegal

Courtesy Gareth Wray

Fanad Head Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located on the Fanad Peninsula. It was built in 1817 and stands at the tip of the peninsula, offering stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding coastline.

The lighthouse is open to visitors, who can climb to the top for panoramic views of the area. There is also a small museum on the site, which tells the story of the lighthouse and its importance to the local community over the years. The museum includes exhibits on the history of navigation and lighthouse technology, as well as displays on the wildlife and natural history of the area. In addition to the lighthouse and museum, the Fanad Peninsula is a beautiful area to explore, with plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. The nearby town of Portsalon offers a picturesque beach, while the small village of Carrigart has a number of cafes and restaurants serving local cuisine.

Maghera Beach and Caves

off the Beaten Path in Donegal

Courtesy Gareth Wray

This remote beach on the west coast of Donegal features impressive sea caves, natural arches, and rock formations. It's a great place to explore if you're looking for some adventure.  The beach itself is a long, sandy beach with crystal-clear waters, surrounded by high cliffs and stunning rock formations. It is a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and exploring the natural beauty of the area.

One of the main draws of Maghera Beach is its series of caves, which are accessible at low tide. The caves are formed by the erosion of the soft sandstone cliffs over thousands of years and are home to a variety of marine life, including crabs, starfish, and anemones. Exploring the caves is an unforgettable experience, and many visitors enjoy the opportunity to see the unique rock formations and marine life up close.

In addition to the beach and caves, Maghera is home to a number of walking trails, including the popular Maghera Coastal Walk. This scenic trail follows the coastline and offers stunning views of the beach, cliffs, and surrounding countryside.

Glenveagh National Park

off the Beaten Path in Donegal Glenveagh

Courtesy Gareth Wray Photography

Covering an area of over 170 square kilometers, this park in the heart of Donegal features a stunning lake, forests, mountains, and gardens. It's a great place for hiking and wildlife watching. The park is home to a wide range of wildlife, including red deer, badgers, foxes, and a variety of bird species. Visitors to Glenveagh National Park can enjoy a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, cycling, and kayaking.

One of the main attractions in the park is Glenveagh Castle, a beautiful 19th-century castle that was built in the Scottish Baronial style. The castle is open to visitors and offers guided tours, which provide a fascinating insight into the history of the area and the people who once lived here. In addition to the castle, the park includes a number of other attractions, including the Glenveagh Visitor Centre, which offers information about the park's history and wildlife, and the Glenveagh Gardens, which are home to a stunning collection of plants and flowers from around the world.

Tory Island

off the Beaten Path in Donegal Tory Island

© Tourism Ireland

A truly unique and special place, this small island off the coast of Donegal is a unique and remote destination, known for its rugged landscapes, ancient ruins, and traditional Irish culture.  The island is home to a small community of approximately 150 people, who are mostly descended from the original inhabitants of the island. The people of Tory Island have their own unique language, culture, and traditions, and they are known for their hospitality and welcoming nature.

Visitors to Tory Island can enjoy a range of activities, including hiking, birdwatching, and exploring the ancient ruins and monuments that are scattered throughout the island. The island is also home to a number of artists and craftspeople, who create beautiful works of art inspired by the island's natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. One of the main attractions on Tory Island is the Tory Lighthouse, which offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding islands. There is also a small museum on the island, which tells the story of the island's history and culture.

And finally, off the beaten path, we found a small, stone circle with a wedge tomb included, right where we would expect something to be on that 329 degree heading from Uisneach.  The spot is quite easy to miss because the location is not well marked although the clue is the small spot where two cars can park.  Despite the lack of markings, it is hidden in plain sight across from the Glencolumbkille Wool Factory Outlet, but one would never know it.  But of course, this is Ireland where the landscape brings the history and mythology to life!

Malin Beg Stone Circle


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Donegal - Irelands forgotten corner

Copyright: Tourism Ireland

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