There are few beaches in Donegal like the stunning Portsalon Beach, aka Ballymastocker Bay.
You’ll find it alongside the town of Portsalon where it has been delighting locals and tourists alike for many a year.
Locals, tourists and… Taylor Swift, but more on that in a minute. Below, you’ll find info on the viewing point and everything else you need to know.
Some quick need-to-knows about Portsalon Beach
Although a visit to Ballymastocker Bay is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Portsalon Beach is located on the north eastern side of Fanad Peninsula. It’s a 20-minute spin from both Ramelton and Rathmullan, a 25-minute drive from Downings and a 30-minute drive from Letterkenny.
There’s parking near the southern end of the beach (here on Google Maps) and there are also toilets on-site and a couple of picnic benches. The car park can get crowded here during the warmer summer months, so make sure to arrive earlier to secure a spot.
Portsalon’s Blue Flag means that it’s an exceptionally clean beach and you can swim in these waters. Lifeguards are on duty between June and September from 12pm until 6:30pm, but always be careful and don’t enter the water in poor conditions.
4. Taylor Swift
Randomly, the American pop star was indeed here in the summer of 2021! Portsalon’s famous footbridge was in the background of a photo she posted to Instagram. Don’t anyone tell you Donegal doesn’t draw the big names!
5. Water safety (please read)
About Portsalon Beach
Also known as Ballymastocker Bay, Portsalon is a beautiful Blue Flag beach with long stretches of sand for rambling, clear water to swim in, plenty of waves for the surfers and sheltered coves for escaping the wind.
The beach is approximately 1.5km long and lies along the R268 between Rathmullan and Fanad Head. In fact, the approach is as spectacular as the beach itself and we’ll chat a bit about that in the next section.
Believe it or not, The Observer once voted Portsalon as the world’s second most beautiful beach so head up here and see if you agree!
Things to do at Portsalon Beach
There’s a handful of things to do in and around Portsalon Beach, the best of which is the view point before you enter the town.
However, the beach walk and the dining-with-a-view options are also well worth considering.
1. Admire it from above, first
When you first lay eyes on Ballymastocker Bay, you may well be inclined to agree with The Observer as the approach from above is remarkable!
Drive up towards Portsalon along the R268 via a twisting clifftop route along the side of Croaghaun Mountain and you’ll be greeted with some glorious views of the beach on approach.
Make sure to pull over into the small viewing point and soak up all of the views (here on Google Maps). And it’s not just the beach you’ll see. It’s basically an epic panorama of the whole Fanad Peninsula and Lough Swilly, so take it all in!
2. Then head for a saunter along the sand
But as great as the views are, you’ll eventually be itching to get down to that expanse of golden sand and go for a ramble.
And at 1.5km in length, there’s plenty of sand too. Especially if you time your visit right during the day, as the beach near enough trebles in width when the tide is out!
Speaking of timing, another way of getting the most out of a little saunter here is to arrive bright and early for sunrise – it’s a way of seeing an already spectacular beach drenched in a blanket of golden rays.
3. Or flick off your shoes and head for a paddle
Surely you must be tempted to dip your toes in the pristine waters of the world’s second-most beautiful beach?!
After you’ve enjoyed the sand and the gorgeous surrounding views, kick off your shoes and go for a little paddle in the clear blue waters of Portsalon.
If you enjoy the feel of the water and would like to explore further, then there are kayak tours of the bay you can go on that’ll give you a cracking new perspective of the beach and the beautiful landscape behind it.
Places to visit near Portsalon Beach
One of the beauties of Ballymastocker Bay is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Donegal.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Portsalon!
1. Great Pollet Sea Arch (15-minute drive)
Just a 15-minute drive north of Portsalon Beach is a wildly different scene and it’s headlined by the stunning Great Pollet Sea Arch. Ireland’s largest sea arch, it was formed as a result of thousands of years of pounding from the Atlantic’s waves and the erosion has left a unique sight.
2. Fanad Head Lighthouse (20-minute drive)
Head right to the top of the Fanad Peninsula to see the historic Fanad Head Lighthouse. While the present lighthouse dates back to 1886, there’s actually been a lighthouse here since 1817 (following a shipwreck six years earlier). As well as its interesting past, you’ll also be treated to some cracking views too.
3. Rathmullan (20-minute drive)
If you want to get stuck into a bit of food and a creamy pint or two, then head down to the little fishing town of Rathmullan. No visit to Rathmullan is complete without a bite to eat in Belle’s Kitchen, while the Beachcomber Bar is a great sport for a pint with a view.
FAQs about visiting Ballymastocker Beach
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Where do you park?’ to ‘When is high tide?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Where is the Portsalon Beach viewing point?
The viewpoint is along the R268 as you drive down into Portsalon. Just make sure to drive slow as you approach and to be vigilant as it’s near a bend.
Was Taylor Swift actually at Ballymastocker Bay?
Although she never confirmed it, she posted a picture on Instagram in summer 2021 that showed what appeared to be the bridge on Portsalon Beach in the background.