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July 6, 2011


Discovering Northern Donegal

by Julianne Mooney

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I’m going to write up some of my personal recommendations over the next few weeks on this blog. This does not mean you don’t have to go out and buy the Time Out Guide to Ireland. In fact, if anything it should spur you to buy a copy so you can rummage through for more detailed info. I’ll pick and choose particular places and sites, saving lots of the good bits for you to read in the guide.

If it’s a remote and rugged coastline you want, Donegal’s northern peninsulas offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Inishowen is the least visited of the peninsulas making it more attractive to those wanting to avoid crowds. For good food, modest accommodation and great live music, stay over in McGrory’s in Culdaff. Along the loop drive to Malin Head stop off at Five-Finger Strand; blustery and wild on a windy day, or tranquil and positively tropical on a sunny day.

Pollan Bay is stunning and skirts the town of Ballyliffin -a town with an unusual number of hotels suiting all budgets, but Buncrana is more appealing with a buzzy vibe and has one of the peninsula’s best restaurnts – The Beach House (think New Island chic). Breezy and modern, with stunning views and excellent food make it a must visit. A few miles out of town is The Red Door , which was closed during my visit, but I’ve heard nothing but good reports. I intend to visit soon!

Harry’s Bar  in Bridgend has been creating a stir being awarded for all sorts of good things, namely their excellent food and is a good place to stop off before embarking on your trip up the peninsula.

From Buncrana jump on the car ferry over to the lovely town of Rathmullan on Fanad Peninsula. If you’ve some cash to spare, Rathmullan House is old-world luxury, but relaxed and unassuming.Fanad peninsula has one of the most beautiful beaches – Warden Beach in Portsalon, which should be approached from the south, as the views are spectacular. For a refreshing cup of tea and delicious home-made scones drop in to the quirky Tea Stop, randomly placed along the L1072 between Portsalon and Fanad Head. From here the drive around the headland and across to Rossguill Peninsula will take your breath away.

If you’re looking for a lively town with plenty to do, then head for Dunfanaghy. Walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, surf, golf, you name it Dunfanaghy has it. Drop in to Narosa Surf Shop as they organise all of the above and know everything there is to know about the area. I found in most seaside towns the surf shops tend to be the best place to get advice on what’s going on in the area. Starfish Cafe and Muck’n’Muffins are delicious for lunch stops.

To see the old Ireland, do a trip out to Tory Island and then approach the east of the county via the Bloody Foreland.

I’ve visited Donegal many times, but spending 10 days travelling the county opened my eyes to how many fantastic places there actually are. My advice? Visit the peninsulas, take hiking boots for Mt Errigal, do not miss Glenveagh National Park and take time to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

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