Burtonport is another of the more overlooked towns in Donegal.
And, while it’s known by many as the departure point for Arranmore Island, this is much more than a one horse town.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from things to do in Burtonport to where to eat, sleep and drink while you’re there.
Some quick need-to-knows about Burtonport
Although a visit to Burtonport is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
2. A scenic fishing village
Burtonport is a pretty little fishing village on the wild and often under-explored coast of northwest Donegal. It’s a quiet alternative to some of the other towns in the area and it’s a great base for Arranmore.
3. A good base to explore a side of Donegal that’s often missed
Many people often overlook this corner of Donegal, but it’s a great gateway to several islands and parts of the county that are often missed, including Arranmore, Gola and Owey Island. And what’s not to love about exploring somewhere off the beaten track?!
As with many other places in the county, Burtonport’s name comes from a landowner in the early days. In this case, it was Burton Conyngham, who built houses on Rutland Island and used Burtonport to access the island.
He built a small pier for himself, which was referred to as Burton’s port and hence, it eventually became the town’s current name, Burtonport.
Burtonport has always been a thriving commercial fishing port and community, however, the tightening of quotas has reduced the fishing fleet and forced a bit of diversification in the local economy.
However, with the rise of tourism, sailing and water spots, the village is gaining an increasing name for itself outside of the fishing industry.
Things to do in Burtonport and nearby
There’s a handful of things to do in Burtonport and you’ll find many of the best things to do in Donegal a short spin away.
Below, you’ll find everything from hikes and walks to beautiful beaches, castles and much more.
1. Take the ferry to Arranmore
Arranmore Island is just a few miles off the coast from Burtonport. It’s easily accessible via the modern car and passenger ferry which runs throughout the year. The ferry service takes about 15 minutes and you can spend the entire day exploring the island.
It truly is a hidden gem of a place for visitors and yet, it’s the second largest of Ireland’s inhabited islands. There are marked trails around the island, so make sure you bring good walking shoes with you.
You can have a nosey at Arranmore Lighthouse, see the famous steps or rent a bike and peddle around the coast.
2. Visit one of the many nearby beaches
There are a number of beaches a stone’s throw from Burtonport, if you fancy kicking back on the sand for a while. Cruit Island Beach just a 15-minute drive away and it’s one that’s often missed (but well worth a visit).
You’ll find Carrickfinn Beach a 20-minute drive away (next to Donegal Airport) while Bunbeg Beach is a 30-minute spin away and tends to be quiet outside of the busy summer period.
3. Take the ferry to Gola Island
Gola Island is a 500-acre island off the coast of Burtonport and a ferry service runs to and from the island during the year (check their Facebook page for details).
Visitors to Gola can soak up views of the surrounding coastline, saunter along two white sandy beaches, see numerous relics of times past and see everything from sea arches and a graveyard to cliffs and more.
4. Climb Mount Errigal
If you’re looking for hikes in Donegal, take the 30-minute drive from Burtonport and tackle the mighty Mount Errigal which stands 2464-ft high. This is a moderately tough hike that stretches for around 4.5km.
It should take 2-3 hours, depending on how long you spend admiring the incredible view from the top. You can park to the south east of the mountain, off the R251 between Gweedore and Dunlewy, where the trail starts.
5. Explore the Poison Glen
Just a 35-minute drive away, the Poison Glen is a beautiful valley east of Burtonport near Glenveagh National Park. Surrounded by the Derryveagh Mountains and at the foot of Errigal Mountain, it boasts some glorious scenery.
If you have good walking shoes, you can explore the valley on foot and take in the incredible landscapes on one of the many walking trails. You can also check out the ruins of the old church built around 1830.
It sits at the base of Mount Errigal, and the setting of the church with the mountain towering in the background is one of the most popular images from the region.
Places to stay around Burtonport
I you’re looking for accommodation in Burtonport and nearby, there’s a mix of hotels, guesthouses and self-catering options to choose from. Check these out:
1. The Viking House Hotel
Just 6km away from Burtonport village, this boutique hotel is one of the best places to stay nearby. Just 3 minutes walk from the beach and near the village of Kincasslagh, the hotel was once owned by the singer, Daniel O’Donnell. With coastal views, an onsite restaurant and bar and within great proximity to all of the great attractions listed above, it’s our top pick for a stay in this part of Donegal.
2. Inisean Ocean View
Located south of Burtonport in Dungloe, this quaint B&B is situated within quiet gardens just back from the pier. Some of the double rooms offer sea views and you can easily walk down to the pier or town for a coffee or a meal.
3. Harbour Front Apartments
If you want to stay close to Burtonport, these apartments are another good option. Suitable for families and large groups, some of the apartments feature balconies looking towards the harbour and ocean.
Pubs and restaurants in Burtonport
There’s a handful of pubs and restaurants in and around Burtonport for those of you that fancy chill with a post-adventure pint and a fine aul feed. Here’s some suggestions:
1. The Lobster Pot
The award-winning Lobster Pot is one of the most popular places to eat in Burtonport. It’s an incredible seafood restaurant serving up the freshest fish straight from the harbour. Located on the main road in town, it’s popular amongst locals and tourists alike.
2. Harbour Front Café
The Harbour Front Café is a great spot to head for breakfast and a coffee if you’re in town. Just back from the harbour, they serve sandwiches, paninis, an all day breakfast and there’s a separate kids menu, too.
3. The Wheelhouse Café
This nautical themed café looks out onto a private lake, with outdoor patio seating for when the sun is shining. The family run business boasts delicious dishes from fish and chips to homemade seafood chowder. They also offer a variety of vegan options, too.
FAQs about Burtonport in Donegal
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What is there to do?’ to ‘Where’s good for food?’
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.
Are there many things to do in Burtonport?
No, but this town’s big draw is that it makes a nice alternative base to explore from, as it has endless attractions right on its doorstop, and some excellent pubs and restaurants that call it home.
Is Burtonport worth visitng?
If you’re looking for a base to explore from, yes. If you’re not, it’s worth nipping into for food or a coffee or as a stopping point before you head to Arranmore.
Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.