Dungloe is one of several towns in Donegal that tends to get overlooked by visiting tourists.
Located a stone’s throw from Donegal Airport, it makes a superb base for exploring this often missed corner of Donegal (the fact that it has some brilliant pubs is an added bonus!).
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from things to do in Dungloe to where to eat, sleep and drink while you’re there.
Some quick need-to-knows about Dungloe
Although a visit to Dungloe is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Situated on the north-west coast of County Donegal, Dungloe is a 10-minute drive from Burtonport (departure point for Arranmore Island), 15-minute drive from Carrickfinn Beach and Donegal Airport and a 35-minute drive from Glenveagh National Park.
2. A Gaeltacht town
Gaeltacht refers to any area in which the government recognises that Irish is the predominant language. A large portion of County Donegal falls into this category, including Dungloe. As such, you can expect to hear a lot of locals speaking Irish rather than English. Don’t worry though, pretty much everyone also speaks English so you’ll be able to get by just fine.
3. Good for exploring an often-missed corner of Donegal
Most visitors don’t spend anywhere near long enough in this part of County Donegal. From Dungloe, you can easily explore nearby islands like Arranmore, as well as the rugged landscape of The Rosses, with its countless lakes, streams, valleys, mountains, and inlets.
As the capital of The Rosses, Dungloe is a lively little town and a hub for shopping and entertainment. There’s no shortage of great places to get a good feed or a refreshing pint, while an array of craft shops provide plenty of interesting keepsakes.
In Irish, Dungloe is called An Clochán Liath, which translates to the “grey stepping-stone”. This is in reference to the river that runs at the bottom of the town.
Until the late 18th-century, the only way across the river was by carefully treading over a large granite slab that lay in the riverbed. In 1782, the current bridge was built, but the name stuck.
Mary From Dungloe International Festival
Held annually at the end of July, this epic festival is a celebration of Irish music that takes place in the heart of town. Besides the music, the main draw is the pageant that seeks out the young woman who best embodies the spirit of the festival.
Contestants, women from Irish communities both around the world and locally, enter the pageant, drawing huge international crowds. The winner is crowned Mary of Dungloe, holding the title for a year and acting as an ambassador for the festival.
Things to do in Dungloe and nearby
There’s a handful of things to do in Dungloe 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. Beaches galore
While it doesn’t have its own beach per-se, you’ll find some of the best beaches in Donegal a short spin from the town. Maghery Beach is just a ten minute drive away and boasts gorgeous gold sand and blue water.
It’s also a haven for kayaking, rock climbing, and stand-up paddle boarding. The white sands of Carrickfinn Blue Flag Beach are less than 20-minutes away.
Backed by towering sand dunes and grassy plains, it’s a popular habitat for a wealth of wildlife, making it a stunning place for relaxing, swimming, and enjoying a little tranquillity.
2. Endless walks
If you’re looking for walks in Donegal, you’ll find countless trailheads a short spin away from Dungloe. The epic Mount Errigal lies just 20 minutes away, with a challenging but rewarding hike to the summit and back.
Slightly further out, you’ll find Muckish Mountain, where you can walk in the footsteps of the miners of yesteryear, taking in lunar-esque landscapes, rusting machinery, and amazing panoramic views from the peak.
3. Arranmore Island
The rugged Arranmore Island is the largest island on County Donegal’s coast and it’s a superb place to visit for a day or so.
The ferry leaves from Burtonport Pier, just a ten-minute drive from Dungloe. After a brief but exciting ferry crossing that takes in stunning coastal scenery such as looming sea stacks and inhospitable coves, you’ll arrive at this ancient island.
Awash with megalithic monuments and ruins, as well as more modern features such as the lighthouse and a Napoleonic watchtower, it’s a must for history buffs.
A looped trail takes in all the best sights and attractions, and you can even rent a bicycle to enjoy it at your own pace. Rich in culture and history, you’ll find a warm welcome in the several pubs on the little island.
4. Cruit Island
If you’re looking for a little peace and quiet it’s worth leaving the beaten track and making the short journey to Cruit Island. A small bridge connects the island to the mainland, so access is easy enough.
Rugged and sparsely populated, it’s an ideal place to escape to nature, taking in the sounds of the crashing waves and singing birdlife. The island is an ideal place to stroll, taking in sand dunes, unspoiled sandy beaches, and deep, blue sea.
Thatched cottages dot the countryside, but otherwise, you’ll be at one with nature. Well, unless you want to take in a round of golf at the unique Cruit Island Golf Club.
5. Crohy Head Sea Arch
Just a short drive south of Dungloe takes you onto the Mullaghmullan Peninsula and more specifically, Crohy Head – a photographers dream. From here you can take in amazing views out to the wide open Atlantic Ocean.
The sea is dotted with incredible rocky structures, including the epic sea arch known as “The Breeches”. Photographers flock to this place to capture the unusually shaped structures.
6. The Poisoned Glen
Just 15-minutes from Dungloe is the mysterious Poisoned Glen, or An Gleann Neimhe in Irish. Sitting at the foot of the mighty Mount Errigal, the glen boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the county.
It takes in sweeping valleys bordered by moody mountains, crisscrossed with bubbling brooks, and dotted with glittering loughs. The area is steeped in myth and folklore, with tales of giants, evil eyes, and heroic deeds.
It’s a great place for walking and with the “Seven Sisters of Derryveagh” mountain range nearby, many paths lead up to the peaks.
7. Crolly Waterfall
This beautiful waterfall is easy to get to and just a short drive away from Dungloe. Following a series of tiny country roads will get you there, and you can normally see the cascade from the road itself as it crashes down from the hillside.
The entire area is great for a little sightseeing, with numerous loughs, heather-covered slopes, and fields strewn with boulders.
Hotels in Dungloe
If you’re in need of somewhere to stay in the town, you’ve got a few fantastic options. Here are our favourite guesthouses and hotels in Dungloe:
1. Waterfront Hotel Dungloe
As the name suggests, the four-star Waterfront Hotel boasts excellent views over the bay and a central location. The 49 bedrooms and suites are all modern, cosy, and come complete with all the mod-cons. There’s also a bistro bar and the 106 Atlantic Restaurant, serving up super-fresh seafood, hearty breakfasts, and tasty lunches.
2. The Midway Bar & Guesthouse
Located slap bang in the middle of town, the Midway Bar & Guesthouse is a charming place to stay that’s never far from the action. The rooms are comfortable and stylish, boasting all the amenities you could wish for. Meanwhile, the bar serves up excellent meals, focusing on fresh, local ingredients transformed into a wealth of Irish and international cuisine.
3. Radharc an Oileain
Just a five minute walk from the town centre, this gorgeous bed and breakfast offers peace and tranquillity paired with proximity to a host of attractions. The en-suite guest rooms are tastefully decorated, comfortable, and come with lots of little touches to make your stay special. A hearty full Irish breakfast is served in the charming dining room, while the peaceful garden is a top spot to relax.
Pubs and restaurants in Dungloe
Being on the Atlantic coast, Dungloe has top-quality seafood on its doorstep. Paired with a bustling atmosphere, it’s home to some brilliant restaurants and pubs. Here are some of the best:
1. Patrick Johnny Sally’s
Housed in a stunning stone cottage, this quirky little pub oozes charm and promises a good time. The outdoor terrace enjoys a fantastic view over the bay and is the ideal place to sink a few pints while taking in the view. Inside you’ll find a friendly crowd of regulars, darts, and plenty of good craic.
This impressive-looking bar and restaurant offers a fantastic dining and drinking experience. With two floors and three bars in total, there’s something for everyone. The food, which includes some of the best mussels you’ll find, is prepared using local ingredients, covering a range of dishes to please everyone. With regular live music and traditional decor, there’s a buzzing atmosphere and great craic.
3. Bridge Inn Dungloe
Situated by the river, the Bridge Inn is a superb choice for anything from a quiet pint to a special meal with friends. Split into several areas, there’s something for everyone, including a pool table and TV for sports, a traditional pub area, and a modern restaurant section. The food is made to order and top quality with the menu offering cuisine from around the world.
4. The Butter Rock Restaurant
This is the place for lunch in Dungloe if you’re looking for hearty, homemade goodies. They provide a varied menu that takes in gorgeous fish and chips, sandwiches, pies, lasagne, amazing desserts (check out the cheesecake), and much more. A bustling little cafe with a friendly atmosphere, it’s something of an institution.
FAQs about visiting Dungloe
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is there anything to do in the town?’ to ‘Where’s good for a pint?’.
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 Dungloe?
No, there aren’t. However, Dungloe makes a mighty base to visit many of Donegal’s attractions from – it’s a short spin from hikes, castles, beaches and much more.
Is Dungloe worth visiting?
If you’re looking for a base to explore this corner of Donegal, 100%! The fact that it’s home to some lovely old-school pubs is an added bonus!
I was born in a quiet corner of a Gaeltacht on the Dingle Peninsula. Over the years, I’ve explored Ireland far and wide, from the wilds of West Clare to the shores of Sherkin. Particularly fond of heritage, history and hikes (and words beginning with ‘H’, apparently…).