Greencastle is a lovely scenic base to explore the breath-taking Inishowen Peninsula from.
Once a stronghold of the Anglo-Normans as they battled to establish control in the remote north-west of Britain, Greencastle has something to offer history and outdoor lovers alike.
From walks that will blast away the cobwebs, to ferry trips that make the most of the coastal scenery, it’s one of the more popular towns in Donegal to explore from.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from things to do in Greencastle to where to eat, sleep and drink while you’re there.
Some quick need-to-knows about Greencastle
Although a visit to Greencastle is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
You will find Greencastle on the north coast of County Donegal on the shores of Lough Foyle. It’s a 40-minute drive from both Malin Head and Buncrana, a 30-minute drive from Derry City and a 1-hour and 15-minute drive from Portstewart.
2. A scenic base
You’ll find many of the best places to visit in Donegal a short spin from Greencastle. From mountains and national parks to historic sites, museums, lively pubs and more, there’s endless things to do in Greencastle and nearby (more on this below).
3. Perfect for the Inishowen 100
This Inishowen 100 takes you to the peninsulas most scenic corners . It takes its name from the approximate distance in miles of the signposted drive. The official start point is in Bridgend and the route takes in spectacular coastal scenery, the Urris Hills, as well as the outlying islands.
Greencastle’s name comes from the castle in the area, which, in turn, may have been named after the green freestone with which it was built. The now craggy castle was constructed by the Anglo-Normans in 1305 to provide a base in Ireland’s north west.
There is also a Martello fort near the Norman ruin, which was built as a guard against French invasion during the Napoleonic wars. The first proper pier in the town was built in the early 19th century and has been added to a few times since.
There’s now a popular ferry service that runs between Buncrana and Rathmullan seasonally. It’s one of many towns in Donegal that comes alive during the summer months when tourists flock to it.
Things to do in Greencastle and nearby
There’s a handful of things to do in Greencastle 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. Soak up the views from Magilligan Point View (8 minutes away)
From the car park at Magilligan Point View, you will find a unique panoramic view over Lough Foyle to County Derry. The view carries on to the Binevenagh Plateau, Magilligan Point and along the coast towards Portrush.
On the far shore of the lough, you can also see the Magilligan Martello Tower built in the early 18th century to guard against French invasion. This is a very hidden gem in Donegal.
2. Visit the magical Kinnagoe Bay (10 minutes away)
But like many of Donegal’s beaches, it has those delightful golden sands. Because it is so sheltered, it’s a popular sunny-day-destination, however it tends to be quiet for most of the year.
3. Or saunter along the sand at Culdaff (20 minutes)
There is also the gorgeous Culdaff Beach, well worth exploring too for another great place to soak up County Donegal’s stunning coastal scenery. While there, visit the old pump house and Cloncha High Cross to get a feel for the rich history and heritage of the area.
The beach is one of Ireland’s most famous strands— strands are shores or beaches of the sea or ocean, while a beach is the shore of a body of water, especially when sandy or pebbly—thanks to its golden sands and sparkling turquoise waters.
As the village is close by, afterwards you can pop into one of the lively pubs for food or a drink.
4. Take the Lough Foyle Ferry
If you were to drive the route it’d take around around 1.5 hours – so this is a very scenic time saver that treats you to views along the way.
There’s heaps of places to visit once you land in Derry, from beaches and mountains to castles, caves and more.
5. Visit Malin Head (40 minutes)
Malin Head is the most northerly point of mainland Ireland and located in the townland of Ardmalin. It is also the start or end of the Wild Atlantic Way, where you will find breath-taking coastal scenery, wildlife in abundance and quirky historical curiosities.
There’s also a coffee cart near the car park during the busier months, so you can kick-start your visit with something to heat you up (it gets very windy here!). There’s plenty of trails in the area to head off on including the 1.8km Malin Head Trail.
6. Or one of many other beaches
- Five Finger Strand (30-minute drive)
- Pollan Strand (30-minute drive)
- Tullagh Strand (40-minute drive)
Donegal is famous for its beaches. The Five Finger Strand is known for its dunes, which are up to 80 metres high and are among the highest in Europe, while Pollan Strand stretches from the village of Ballyliffin to the Isle of Doagh, more than 3 kilometres.
Another beauty is Tullagh Strand, a horseshoe shaped beach overlooked by Binnion Hill and very popular with walkers.
Places to stay around Greencastle
There’s some excellent hotels in Greencastle for those of you that want to make the town your base while exploring Donegal. Here are some suggestions:
1. The Castle Inn
The Castle Inn Restaurant & B&B is to be found on the shore-front in Greencastle and has a reputation for quality, fresh locally sourced food and offers visitors stunning views over Lough Foyle. The B&B rooms are superbly decorated, with the statement wallpaper matched to the bed linen and a welcome tray that greets new arrivals.
2. Templeview Lodge
Templeview Lodge Greencastle offers four-star accommodation and beautiful views of the area. Make sure you set yourself up for a day’s exploring the countryside with the substantial Irish fry—with a choice of eggs done the way you specify, sausages, bacon, black pudding, white pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans and toast.
3. Endless self-catering options
There are plenty of self-catering options in Greencastle for those who prefer more freedom on their holidays. You will find places right next to the water, apartments in the harbour area, townhouses, cottages, rustic log cabins and more. Ideal for families and couples alike, most options will offer you use of the entire property.
Pubs and restaurants in Greencastle
There’s some class pubs and restaurants in Greencastle for those of you looking to make your belly happy. Here are our favourites:
1. Ferryport Bar
A small, but friendly pub, the Ferryport Bar is popular amongst locals and tourists alike. There is music at the weekends and a beer garden, which fills up quickly in the summer. It is right next to the ferry stop, so a great place to stop off after your coastal trip.
Sit outside or sit inside at this wonderful local institution, where you can visit for a drink and soak up the atmosphere. It is a popular place when the big games are on and there are also pub quizzes for the competitively minded. On Fridays, treat yourself to the haddock and chips.
3. Kealy’s Seafood Bar
Kealy’s Seafood Bar has been family run since 1989, when James and Tricia Kealy returned to his childhood home in Greencastle along with their young children and transformed his parents’ pub into a seafood restaurant as befitted its setting. Firm favourites include grilled John Dory, pan fried Monkfish and local oysters.
4. Michael John’s Pub
You won’t miss Michael John’s Pub when you visit Greencastle, thanks to the colourful puffin mural that adorns the side wall advertising the pub’s name. Visit for the great views you get from the decking outside, the Guinness and the warm welcome you will receive from the host.
5. The Castle Inn
Make sure you choose the Wild Atlantic Seafood Chowder when dining at the Castle Inn to sample the best of the local produce. The airy restaurant with its modern décor also serves up specialities such as Cajun-grilled salmon, beer-battered cod and chips or a 10-ounce aged sirloin steak sourced locally.
FAQs about visiting Greencastle
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What is there to see in the town?’ to ‘Where is there to visit close by?’.
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 Greencastle worth visiting?
Greencastle makes a great base to explore from. If you’re not staying here, it’s a good stop-off point for a bite-to-eat or a coffee before heading up along Inishowen.
Are there many things to do in Greencastle?
Aside from the Lough Foyle Ferry, not really. However, the town makes a mighty base to explore Inishowen and Derry from and it’s home to some great pubs and restaurants.
Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.