Like most Irish people, I holidayed in Ireland last year and I am so glad I did! It’s so easy to forget about your home country when thinking about holidays especially with Irish weather. We decided to spend a week in Donegal over the Summer and it was one of out best holidays! Fun fact, Donegal was voted the ‘Coolest Place on the Planet’ by National Geographic in 2017.
Donegal Town & Surrounds
Lough Eske Castle
We spent three nights in Lough Eske Castle. This is a dog friendly, five star castle hotel on large grounds with gorgeous walks all around it. If you’re after a bit of luxury this is certainly the place! Spending time in the hotel is so relaxing, especially with the giant fireplaces and kind staff. It’s the perfect spot to take some time out for yourself after a busy or stressful few months.
It has a pool and a gorgeous spa but I recommend booking any spa treatments in advance as it was completely booked out when we arrived. The breakfast was incredible but we felt lunch and dinner were quite pricey with limited vegetarian options.
Take one of the free bikes and go for a cycle around the gorgeous Lough Eske. The bikes are in need of a service so choose wisely and I wouldn’t recommend any advanced routes.
Slieve League Cliffs
These are the highest cliffs in Europe and three times higher than the Cliffs of Moher. I really recommend Sliabh League Boat Tours as part of this day out. Booking in advance is essential and note that tours are suspended in Winter. Paddy will take you on a wonderful tour of the cliffs and even let you jump off the boat into the calm sea so bring swim gear and a towel. It’s €25 each and the meeting point is Teelin Pier. There are toilets.
After your boat trip, head to the Rusty Mackerel up the road. It can be busy so book ahead if you can. It’s a country pub that does good food and drinks. Also, if Lough Eske Castle isn’t your thing, you can book rooms in the Rusty Mackerel too. The Chower is a must if you eat seafood!
After looking up at the cliffs, you should definitely go to the top and look down. It’s a steep walk so bring proper runners and comfortable clothes. The carpark can be very busy so I suggest going early and doing the boat tour later in the day. Even if you don’t climb to the top, there are several incredible viewing points that are easily accessible. Food and drink stands and toilets available.
If the climb is too difficult or you have accessibility needs, you can also drive to the viewing area by passing by the car parks on either side and opening the metal gate at the start of the pathway as long as you close it after you pass through
Where to eat (Donegal Town)
If you’re staying in Lough Eske, take a short drive to Donegal Town and treat yourself to some different (and cheaper options).
Blueberry Tea Room & Restaurant: Our favourite spot in Donegal Town for lunch. Plenty of savoury dishes and sweet treats. There is indoor an outdoor seating. I recommend the scones!
Quay West Donegal: Light on the vegetarian options but gorgeous views and food. A top place to eat in Donegal Town.
La Fiesta: Mexican restaurant with fresh food and great value! The setting is very relaxed with great music. Highly recommend.
Next, we drove about an hour North to Glenveagh. Here we stayed in the most gorgeous farmhouse on a country lane that was perfectly situated. Our hosts (farmers) live just next door and couldn’t do enough for us. If you’re after an authentic Irish experience, this is the place for you! We booked it on AirBnB.
It was quiet while still being close to attractions like Glenveagh National Park and Dunfanaghy.
Glenveagh National Park:
This is the second largest park in Ireland with spectacular views and great walking trails. The castle does a really interesting tour too. There is delicious food and treats available at the cafe & great coffee. There is plenty of parking & toilet facilities available though early morning is the best time. There is bike hire available which we opted for. Beware of the midges and bring insect repellant or you will be eaten alive.
- Electric bike hire €18
- Hybrid bike hire €12
- Kids bikes & Buggies €6
Silver Strand Beach
One of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to! It’s about 170 steps down from the carpark with spectacular views throughout. Soft sand and perfect for swimming due to the shelter of the cove. If you go to any beach go here! The drive there is also gorgeous.
This is a good beach for swimming, it extends for a long distance with big rolling waves. It’s a very busy beach with cars parked all over it and people set themselves up for the day. I wouldn’t see it as a must-visit.
Marble Hill Strand
We went to this beach several times, it’s busy but not chaotic like Rosnowlagh. There are plenty of coffee/food stands along the road above it. I really recommend The Shack which is a great spot for ice cream or coffee during the day. The best part is Harry’s Hole nearby which is a small area where you can jump into the sea from rocks. It can be windy so wrap up but it’s great fun. Grab dinner in the Rusty Oven in Dunfanaghy afterwards!
Donegal is a beautiful part of Ireland that is well worth the drive. We’ll be returning very soon to see other beautiful spots like !
Next Stop, the Stairway to Heaven in Fermanagh.