With its vast horseshoe shape, gorgeous golden sands and beautiful scenery, it’s easy to fall in love with Downings Beach!
Throw in the charming little town of Downings situated right behind it and you’re onto a winner.
In the guide below, you’ll find info on parking, swimming and where to visit nearby. Dive on in!
Some quick need-to-knows about Downings Beach in Donegal
Although a visit to Downings Beach is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Located on the eastern side of Sheephaven Bay, Downings Beach is one of many sheltered beaches in northern Donegal. It’s a 25-minute drive from Dunfanaghy and a 35-minute drive from both Letterkenny and Falcarragh.
There’s an easily accessible car park just off the main Downings main street, down the road facing the Sweet Haven shop (here on Google Maps). As you can imagine, it gets pretty rammed here in the summer months so make sure to arrive bright and early if you want to guarantee a spot.
Downings Beach is a Blue Flag beach, which means it has excellent water quality. Lifeguards will be on duty on this beach from June until September from 12pm until 6pm.
4. Water safety (please read)
Understanding water safety is absolutely crucial when visiting beaches in Ireland. Please take a minute to read these water safety tips. Cheers!
About Downings Beach
Nestled into the protected surroundings of Sheephaven Bay’s eastern flanks, Downings Beach is set in an undeniably great spot away from the wild waters of the Atlantic just to the north.
It’s a lovely landscape you’ll be taking in too here and the beach looks directly across to Binnagorm Beach on the western side of the bay.
It all forms part of the mighty Rosguill Peninsula, an area famous for its variety of coastal habitats including high rock cliffs, offshore islands, sand dunes, salt marshes sandy beaches.
Rosguill is also a Gaeltacht area, with 33% of residents native Irish speakers. There are a ton of other beaches in the area (a couple of which we’ll talk about later) but Downings is certainly one of the most idyllic, and having the town so close is very handy for visits.
Things to do at Downings Beach
This is one of the best beaches in Donegal for good reason – there’s plenty to see and do around the beach here (especially if you’re hungry and/or fancy a tipple with a mighty view).
1. Grab something tasty to-go from the Galley
Every beach town should have a place like the Galley. Whatever your needs, these guys will have you sorted! Situated right in the heart of Downings, it’s a fine spot whether you’re here for a big breakfast, a quick coffee or an indulgent lunch.
Open daily from 10am, they offer a full breakfast menu until 12pm, while lunch and daily specials are available from 12 until 5pm. Alongside gourmet burgers, fish dishes and chicken dishes, they also serve wood-fired pizzas cooked right in front of their customers.
2. Then head for a paddle or a ramble
Once you’ve grabbed yourself a coffee and a bite, make your way down to the beach for a ramble (just head down the street with the car park and you’ll see a sandy path to the beach).
While Downings isn’t the longest beach in the world, it does stretch out a long way so there’s plenty of room to walk. And make sure you kick your shoes off and go for a little paddle – with the bay being so sheltered there’s not much chance of getting attacked by any large Atlantic waves!
There are water sports to enjoy at Downings though if you do feel that way inclined. Activities include swimming, kayaking, boating, windsurfing, sailing and surfing.
3. Kick-back with a pint with a view at the Harbour Bar
If, like me, you’re a sucker for a pint with a view then you’re gonna love the Harbour Bar! Located at the western end of Downings village, the road rises up slightly which gives the Harbour Bar a perfect perch from which to scan the beautiful surroundings of Sheephaven Bay.
So grab yourself a creamy pint and head out onto the deck for some killer panoramas (even better when the sun’s out!). When the sun goes down, look out for their live music sessions and, if your feeling peckish, get a feed from the fabulous seafood offerings of Fisk (adjacent to the Harbour Bar).
Things to do near Downings Beach
One of the beauties of Downings Beach 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 Downings Beach!
1. The Atlantic Drive
If you’re in the mood for a bit more scenery, then Downings is the start point of the short but spectacular Atlantic Drive. Only 12km long, the snaking drive gives cracking views across Sheephaven Bay towards Muckish Mountain and Horn Head and takes you high above the famous Tra na Rossan Bay.
2. Tra Na Rossan Beach
Speaking of Tra Na Rossan! The views are great from the Atlantic Drive but why go for a little wander down to the beach itself? Sheltered by two headlands on the Rosguill Peninsula, there are some lovely views to be had here (especially if you visit at sunset).
3. Boyeeghter Bay
Located on the Melmore Head peninsula, this wonderfully-named beach is spectacular but difficult to access. This hidden beach is accessible via a brand new trail which launched in April 2022 or via a hill next to Tra Na Rossan.
4. Doe Castle
Sitting in a picturesque spot right at the bottom of Sheephaven Bay, Doe Castle dates back to the early 15th century. You can’t tour the castle at the time of writing, but you can visit the grounds. It’s also a short spin from the castle to Ards Forest Park and Glenveagh National Park.
FAQs about visiting Downings Beach in Donegal
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘When’s high tide?’ to ‘Is parking a hassle?’.
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.
Is parking a nightmare at Downings Beach?
During the year, you won’t have any hassle with parking here, however, during the busy summer months, getting a space can be a bit of a mission, so arrive early.
Can you swim at Downings Beach?
Downings is a Blue Flag beach which means that it’s water quality is of a high standard. There’s lifeguards on duty during the warmer summer months.