I’d argue that Carrick is one of the most overlooked of the many villages and towns in Donegal.
The pint-sized Carrick is a fine place to use as a base for exploring the magnificent southwest Donegal.
Home to some excellent pubs and places to eat, it’s a charming little spot that’s a stone’s throw from many of Donegal’s top attractions.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from things to do in Carrick to where to eat, sleep and drink while you’re there.
Some quick need-to-knows about Carrick
Although a visit to Carrick is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
The bijou village of Carrick is located on the southwest coast of Donegal in the province of Ulster. It’s a 10-minute drive from Glencolumbkille, a 15-minute drive from Killybegs and a 25-minute drive from Ardara.
2. A quaint Irish village
Carrick is a charming Irish village that’s all-too-often overlooked. It’s a lovely spot to stay in and explore the surrounding coastline and it provides a timeless sense of rural Ireland as it used to be. It is also home to several excellent pubs.
3. An excellent base for adventure
Carrick is close to many thrilling attractions, both natural and manmade. Look forward to scenic hikes, dramatic coastline, some of Ireland’s best beaches and countless scenic drives, historical sites and plenty more (see below).
Carrick is a small rural village in Donegal with a population of around 265. It is a rare example of a typical Irish village with its laid-back lifestyle, friendly pubs and sense of community.
The name “Carrick” comes from the Irish An Charraig meaning “rock”. The village has a number of cosy pubs, shops and cafes as well as a Church built in the 1850s and dedicated to Saint Colm Cille.
The village has a national (primary) school and a secondary school which is noted for its Gaelic football team which has won several trophies. Known as the Gateway to Sliabh Liag (Slieve League), it is home to the legendary Silkie Irish whiskey distillery.
Things to do in Carrick and nearby
There’s a handful of things to do in Carrick 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. Spend a fine day at the Slieve League Cliffs
The Slieve League Cliffs are a gem just 5km southwest of Carrick on the North Atlantic coast. Lashed by waves, the cliffs are among the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe standing 596m (1955 feet) above sea level.
One of the best ways to view the precipitous sheer drop is from a viewpoint known as Bunglass. From the car park there’s a stunning Sliabh Liag View Walk following a Pilgrim’s Path along the clifftop (good hiking experience needed).
Pause at the Cliffs Centre and viewpoints overlooking the Napoleonic signal tower, old turf workings and Giant’s Table and Chair rocks.
2. And a wet one at the Sliabh Liag Distillers
Where better to spend a wet day than taking a guided tour of the local Sliabh Liag Distillers on Line Road in Carrick? Book a guided tour of this family-owned distillery which produces fine Silkie Irish Whiskey and An Dulaman Gin in several Donegal locations.
Tours of the Carrick distillery are €10 and include a tasting of the premium maritime gin. The original distillery, An Dúlamán Gin Distillery, is west of Sliabh Liag, close to where the Abhainn Bhuí and Glen Rivers flow into Teelin Bay.
3. Visit Donegal’s ‘secret’ waterfall
You’ll find Donegal’s secret waterfall a 10-minute drive from Carrick. It is accessed from a narrow road with very limited parking, so avoid weekends especially during summer.
The access is treacherous so visitors are advised to take great care on the slippery rocks. You should also check the tide timetable as the waterfall is only accessible at low tide.
4. Or saunter along one of many nearby beaches
There are so many beautiful and deserted sandy beaches just a short drive from Carrick. Muckross Beach (10-minute drive) is one of two beaches on either side of Muckross Head. Fintra Beach (15-minute drive) near Killybegs is a sweep of light sand backed by dunes.
5. Spin along the very bendy Glengesh Pass
It’s hard to beat Glengesh Pass if you’re looking for a snaking scenic drive through the mountains of Donegal. The road winds through the lush Glengesh Pass and is amazing whether you’re walking, cycling or snaking around the bends in a car.
Glengesh Pass is one of the highlights of Donegal and the high mountain pass connects Glencolmcille with Ardara. There’s a coffee stop at the top of the pass and a small car park and viewing point near Ardara that’s a great place for capturing the dramatic scenery.
6. See the stunning Assaranca Waterfall
Thirty minutes by car from Carrick and a short distance southeast of Maghera Beach, the Assaranca Waterfall is reputedly one one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Donegal. It offers a torrent of white water cascading down the rocks to the pool below and is particularly impressive after heavy rain.
The waterfall is located close to the road and there’s a free roadside pull-in for parking about 10 vehicles. You can view the falls from the car park so it is suitable for those with limited mobility as no walking is required at all.
7. Step back in time at Glencolumbkille Folk Village
Celebrating its 55th anniversary in 2022, the Glencolmcille Folk Village is just 10 minutes’ drive from Carrick. It’s a cluster of thatched cottages representing a replica rural Irish village and showcasing some of the daily practices that would have been part of daily life centuries ago.
It is overlooking Glen Bay Beach in the Gailtacht (Irish-speaking area of Donegal) this living history museum is best enjoyed with a guided tour. Learn about the challenges of lighting and heating pre-electricity and learn about music, dance and crafts.
Places to stay in and around Carrick
There’s a handful of great places to stay in and around the town of Carrick. Here are three options with excellent reviews online:
1. The Rusty Mackerel
Located next to the dramatic Sliabh Liag Cliffs in Teelin, the Rusty Mackerel provides a warm welcome to those in search of comfortable accommodation with a bar and restaurant onsite. This historic inn has double and family rooms (for 3 guests) all with ensuite bathrooms. Light and spacious, the rooms have quality bedding and tea/coffee facilities. They all have direct access to the beautiful courtyard.
2. Slieve League Lodge
Slieve League Lodge offers hostel accommodation along with a bar and restaurant in the heart of Carrick village. This family-run lodge has ensuite bedrooms and excellent facilities including a fully equipped kitchen, laundry and common guest lounge with free Wi-Fi and large-screen TV. Ideal for long-stay visitors with either self-catering or bed and breakfast options.
3. Kilcar Lodge
Located on Carrick Road, Kilcar Lodge has comfortable guest rooms including a sitting area, satellite TV, free Wi-fi and parking. Bed and breakfast includes a full Irish breakfast to start the day. There’s a shared lounge for relaxing in the evening after a day’s hiking and exploring.
Pubs in Carrick (and nearby)
There’s some brilliant pubs in and around Carrick that you won’t want to leave. In particular, Evelyn’s and the Rusty Mackerel are hard to beat:
1. Evelyn’s Central Bar
Evelyn’s Central Bar is one of the most popular watering holes in the Carrick area (it’s especially good during winter when the fire is blazing). It is known for its good music, great hospitality, live music and plenty of craic. Most importantly, it serves a great pint.
2. The Rusty Mackerel
Located in Teelin, the Rusty Mackerel is a pub with a traditional interior, a popular restaurant and excellent accommodation. It has a full bar and a cosy open fire. It’s a great place to find Trad evenings of live music, a pint or two of Guinness and a friendly atmosphere. It serves excellent food too.
Hegarty’s Bar and Restaurant is part of the Slieve League Lodge. It’s a traditional Irish bar with everything you would expect – good food using Irish produce, local seafood and a fully stocked bar. The family-run business has strong links with Gaelic football and offers traditional music all year round.
Places to eat in Carrick
There’s a handful of great restaurants in Carrick that are well worth nipping into if you’re in need of a feeding. Here are three to try:
1. Kelly’s Kitchen
Also part of the Slieve League Lodge on Main Street, Kelly’s Kitchen is an popular spot for a bite in Carrick. It offers a comfortable casual dining experience in the restaurant adjoining the main bar. It offers tasty Irish cuisine, daily specials and home bakes with friendly service.
2. K-wok Carrick Chinese
If you fancy a Chinese, the K-Wok on Main Street is the place to head for. It specialises in authentic Cantonese, Peking, Szechuan and European dishes and is a favourite with the locals. Perfect for a night in, it offers take-away food from 4pm to 10.30pm daily.
3. Wild Atlantic Takeaway
The Wild Atlantic Takeaway offers tasty Indian cuisine along with pizza, burgers, sausages, kid’s meals, kebabs, wraps and a whole lot more! Opt for a Tandoori Starter and then choose mild or medium hot curry dishes along with a host of sides. The menu is endless with everything cooked fresh to order.
FAQs about Carrick in Donegal
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is this a good place to stay?’ to ‘Is there much to do in the village?’.
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 Carrick?
Aside from the distillery, no. However, what gives Carrick its ‘x-factor’ is that it makes a great base to explore this corner of Donegal from. It’s a charming little village close to plenty to see and do.
Is Carrick worth visiting?
The chances are you’ll end up in Carrick if you’re exploring this corner of Donegal. It’s a pretty little town, although there isn’t much to do in the village, it’s a nice little place to ramble through.
Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.