The Inishowen Head Loop is one of my favourite walks in Donegal.
It stretches for around 8km along the breath-taking Inishowen Peninsula and takes around 2.5 hours to complete.
Over the course of the stroll, you’ll be treated to stunning coastal scenery and, if you visit outside of summer, the chances are you’ll have the whole place to yourself.
In the guide below, you’ll find info on parking, the trail and what to expect. Dive on in!
Some quick need-to-knows about the Inishowen Head Loop
Before you pull on your hiking boots and hit the trail, let’s go over the basics. Take the 30 seconds to read the bullets below to get yourself up-to-speed:
Inishowen Head marks the extreme northeastern tip of County Donegal and is just 30 km or so from the most northern point of Ireland, Malin Head. Jutting out into the Atlantic, it forms the western barrier of Lough Foyle as it spills into the sea. From the headland, it’s possible to see the the west coast of Scotland and Islay.
A handy car park marks the start of the walk (here on Google Maps). With space for around five cars, you’ll normally not have any trouble finding a spot. A large map of the route can be found in the car park, with signs pointing you in the right direction to get started. Alternatively, you can park at Stroove Beach Car Park (here on Google Maps), and hike the short, albeit uphill, section to the trailhead.
3. Length + difficulty
The trail covers a total of 8 km or so, with an ascent of around 250 metres. With some steep climbs, it’s rated as a moderate walk, and is not suitable for wheelchairs or buggies. Having said that, if you’re in reasonable health, it makes a challenging yet rewarding walk. On average, it should take around 2.5 hours to complete.
4. Part of the Inishowen 100
The Inishowen 100 is one of the most scenic drives in Ireland. It stretches for around 100 miles, taking in much of Inishowen Head, including sections of this looped walk. If you’re planning to enjoy the drive, it’s worth checking out the walk as well.
5. Not the Inishowen Peninsula Loop
You’ll often see this walk referred to as the ‘Inishowen Peninsula Loop’ online. This only takes you around Inishowen Head, if you’re looking to walk around the entire peninsula, you’re looking at a much, much longer walk.
About the Inishowen Head Loop
Inishowen Head is among the most spectacular parts of Irelands, offering up amazing coastal views. The looped walk tackles a range of trails, including boggy paths, country roads, and cliff top walks.
Along the way, you can expect to enjoy diverse scenery, from the initial craggy cliffs to soggy marshlands and finally summit views across the surrounding countryside.
Ancient and modern landmarks dot the landscape, including an old WW2 watchtower, ancient churches and forts, and the spot from which St. Columba finally left Ireland for Iona, Scotland.
The views along the way are breathtaking, making the somewhat strenuous climb more than worthwhile.
An overview of the Inishowen Head Loop
While the route is fairly well signed — look for the purple arrows — it helps to have a basic understanding of the trail in advance so you know what to expect.
You can split the Inishowen Head Loop into three main stages. Let’s break each of them down:
Starting the walk
You can complete the loop in either direction, though for this guide we’ll go clockwise. From the official Inishowen Head Loop car park, head down the hill towards the Stroove Lighthouse.
When you meet the main road, take a right. Follow the road for about 800-metres, passing a number of houses along the way. When you reach Carrowtrasna Road, take a right.
Climbing Crocknasmug’s Shoulder
Crocknasmug is a peak on Inishowen Head that reaches 322-metres in height. The trail now begins to climb as you follow a laneway that shortly degenerates into a bog path as it skirts the summit of Crocknasmug.
After about a kilometre, you’ll reach a T-junction. Take a right here and continue to climb. After another kilometre, you’ll reach the highest point of the walk, but if you want to reach the summit, you’ll need to leave the trail for a bit and head left, where you can clearly see the peak.
From here the views are fantastic.
The track now leads downhill along a remote stretch. The only signs of life are the disused farmstead ahead of you, at the foot of Glenanes Hill. You’ll notice two trails on your left, but keep heading straight on the main path as it sweeps around to the east and towards the ocean.
Beautiful ocean views open up around you, and you’ll shortly see a picnic table on your left, a great place for lunch. The path soon curves round again, leading back to the car park on a mostly flat trail that turns from muddy track to gravel path to tarmacked country road.
Enjoy the incredible views along this stretch and don’t forget to look back! As you near the car park, you’ll see a plaque on the left-hand side of the road which marks Portkill, the place that St. Columba set sail to Iona from.
There’s also a nice seated viewpoint on the right-hand side. From here, it’s a short 500 metre walk back to the car park and the end of the walk.
Things to do near the Inishowen Head Loop
One of the beauties of the Inishowen Head Loop 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 Inishowen Head!
1. Stroove Beach (2-minute drive)
While Stroove Beach is fairly small, it has a lot to boast about. With its iconic lighthouse as a backdrop, it looks out across the north coast of Northern Ireland. A tranquil and sandy beach, it’s surrounded by stunning rock formations and craggy cliffs. Sheltered and peaceful, it’s lifeguard protected daily throughout summer.
2. Kinnagoe Bay (15-minute drive)
One of Ireland’s best-kept secrets, Kinnagoe Bay is a beautiful, sheltered little beach surrounded by rugged coastline and cliffs. There’s a small car park which is reached by driving down a steep, narrow, and twisty road. A stunning place to relax and explore the rock pools, the golden sands are backed by steep green slopes.
3. Magilligan Point View (15-minute drive)
A point on the official Wild Atlantic Way, there’s a small car park at this magnificent viewpoint, making it easy to reach. From here you can see for miles around in all directions, taking in views of Northern Ireland, Lough Foyle, and the surrounding countryside. A top spot for photo opportunities!
4. Malin Head (45-minute drive)
Malin Head is the most northerly tip of Ireland and a land of stunning scenery. It’s not far from Inishowen Head, and it’s well worth driving out to see the incredible views of the sea as it smashes against the craggy cliffs. A number of other natural wonders are also nearby, including Hells Hole, Stone Stacks, and Kitters Beach. Once you’re done, treat yourself to a tasty pint or two at Farren’s Bar.
FAQs about the Inishowen Head Walk
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is this the Inishowen Peninsula Loop?’ (it’s not) to ‘Where do you park?’.
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 the Inishowen Head Loop hard?
This is a moderate walk that’ll take you roughly 2.5 hours to complete. There’s some stretches of incline on the walk, which you’ll need decent fitness to complete.
Where do you park for the Inishowen Head Walk?
There’s an official car park for the walk (see guide above) and there’s also the car park at Stroove Beach (we prefer the former if there’s space to park).