Planning to spend a weekend in Donegal? Choosing the best spots to visit in the north of Ireland during such a short time can be a difficult task.
There are several amazing places that you definitely need to visit, and most travel guides don’t mention them.
Today’s guest Paul is a tour guide in Ireland, so he knows all the best activities and attractions for your perfect weekend in Donegal, which he will share in this article.
Keep on reading!
Disclaimer: This post might include affiliate links, which are links to the best resources that I or my guest recommends for planning your perfect trip. I get a small commission if you use those links at no cost for you.
Why choose Donegal for a Weekend?
Donegal is one of the nine Ireland’s counties. This region is geographically and economically isolated from the other parts of the Emerald Isle, hence its nickname, the forgotten county.
However, don’t let this keep you away from this interesting part of Ireland. It makes a perfect escape zone, free from the normal hassles and baffles of your everyday life.
That said, below are some of the amazing spots to visit if you have a free weekend on your hands in Donegal. Organizing a trip with Donegal Thatch Cottages stay and can ease your weekend schedule.
The Donegal Castle
Also called the O’Donnells Castle, this castle should be among your priority visit site during this free weekend. The castle was allegedly the residence to Viking settlers back in the 9th and 10 centuries. It also doubles up as the place where the royal family of O’Donnells resided as they ruled the Tir Chonaill Kingdom.
The site’s historical fortress is divided into five categories, which include the Tower House, Trips Stairwell, Ground Level Store Rooms, Wardrobe, and Manor House. You can engage in various fun activities, including exploring, taking pictures, and learning more of Irish history. The castle is open daily, except for special holidays with varying charges.
Interested in Ireland? Check this Dublin weekend itinerary!
Narin and Portnoo Beach
Weekends are good for the beach. Well, for that case, check out the Narin and Portnoo Beach for swimming or simple yet romantic evening walks. The calming waves and rosewood-colored sand are a perfect source of serenity and peace. Apart from the Narin and Portnoo Beach, there are other abundant beaches in Ireland. Just to mention, some of the top Ireland beaches include;
- Murlough Beach – it is a purely natural beach, famous for its old sand dunes.
- Inch Beach – located along the Dingle Peninsula, the Inch Beach is best for surfing.
- Portsalon Beach – this beautiful beach is a good choice for families looking to spend their weekend on the beach. The crystal waters, playful waves and mouth-watering meals from overlooking restaurants makes this possible.
- Dog’s Bay and Gurteen Bay Beach – has clean water with white sands.
- Keem Beach – has beautiful sand with high altitude sea cliffs.
If you are an outdoor fun looking for places to hike, climb rocks or enjoy bird watching, Gola Island is a secured haven that meets your needs. The Island is just 2 kilometers from Gaoth Dobhair mainland. History has it that the island remained untouched until the 1960s when a small cottage family decided to venture into this paradise.
Like other Ireland’s islands, you will be treated to amazing flora and fauna that satisfies nature lovers and bird watchers. You can also engage in various outdoor activities such as rock climbing on the Island’s granite formation, rowing or simply taking a walk along the beautiful beach.
Check this list of the most amazing places in England
Lough Eske Castle
Nature lovers will find the Lough Eske Castle an interesting place to spend their time over the weekend. It brings up modernized fairytale features that can be a source of inspiration to plan your backdrop wedding. The castle has an imposed 20th-century architecture with Labyrinthine gardens that double up as tourists lodgings.
Photographers will also have a great time in this castle. Apart from the hotel, you can pass by the beautiful Lough Eske Lake, a popular place for sightseeing.
Grianan of Aileach
The top of the hill fortress of the Grianan of Aileach will certainly take you back the ancient times of the ancient Celtic. This makes it a perfect place for those looking to reminisce their Game of Thrones experience.
This fortress was built by Northern Ui Neil and was discovered and marked among the various royal sites on the Gaelic island. Amidst this amazing fortress lies captivating landscape full of soft green fields that provide everybody’s long coveted solitude.
The Tory Island
Also known as the Oilean Thur Ri in Irish, this is a remote island with a small population of about 150 if the 2011 census is anything to go by. This population makes the Island least inhabited islands compared to other islands in Ireland. However, don’t let this measly population dispel you from visiting it.
A locally elected king, who personally welcomes tourists to the Island, rules the Tory Island. The distinct mythologies, folklore, and traditional music are some of the best things to enjoy on the island.
The Ballymastocker Bay
Located along the shores of Lough Swilly, the Ballymastocker Bay stretches from the breathe-taking Knockalla hills to Portsalon. At one time, this bay was voted the second most beautiful beach in the whole world. The playful and inviting cerulean waves, golden shores, and un-matched blue waters make it the safest and probably excellently managed beaches.
Dunree Bay is probably one of the most underrated beaches in Ireland. However, it deserves some highlight, owing to the number of local and international tourist it receives yearly. The awesome shores with high silvery grasses make it perfect for family picnics. The aquamarine vista is overly calming for any agitated sense as well.
Glenveagh National Park
Ireland can’t run out of amazing sightseeing areas, and the Glenveagh National Park is one of them. This is the second-largest park in Ireland that hosts a prestigious castle where history and beauty are unparalleled. From the park, you can trail herds of the rare red deer among other scenic beauty.
The Sliabh Liag Cliff
Amateur and pro mountain climbers will definitely make the Sliabh Liag Cliff their number one weekend destination in Donegal.
This is a perfect hiking spot that will bring some hiking escapades to a whole new level. When preparing for this, make sure that you bring some extra clothes since the temperature plummets with increasing heights.
The final point is 2000-feet above sea level and has a magnificent view of the underlying sea cliffs. It is certainly one of the pricey views of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Donegal Weekend Itinerary: 2-3 Day Map
After mentioning all the main attractions of Donegal, here is the perfect itinerary to visit all the places mentioned above with the most optimal route. Below is the itinerary for your weekend in Donegal:
- Lough Eske Castle
- Donegal Castle
- Slieve League Cliff
- Narin & Portnoo Links (Beach)
- Tory Island
- Gola Island
- Ballymastocker Beach
- Fort Dunree
- Greenan Mountain
How to Plan your trip to Donegal?
The closest low-cost airport to Donegal is in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It’s still a few hundred kilometers away, so you can rent a car right in the Airport of Belfast. Find the cheapest and most convenient flights on Skyscanner.
For climbing the cliffs of Donegal, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance.
If you prefer hotels, I recommend Booking.com as the best hotel search engine which offers the lowest prices (in my experience, 90% of the time).
There you have it. Make sure to get some of the sites above to your weekend itinerary.