A Guide To The Breath-Taking Inishowen Peninsula In Donegal: Things To Do, Hotels And More

2 photos of Things To Do In Inishowen
Photo left: By shawnwil23 on shutterstock.com. Photo right: By Cafe Banba on Facebook

The Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal is one of the most magnificent corners of our little island.

Long, sweeping beaches, towering mountains and (plenty!) of hidden gems make the Inishowen Peninsula an absolute joy to explore – once you know where you’re going!

In the guide below, you’ll find everything from things to do in Inishowen (includes handy interactive map) to the best Inishowen hotels.

About the Inishowen Peninsula

kinnagoe bay donegal
Photo by Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

In the very north of County Donegal lies the breath-taking Inishowen Peninsula, the largest, and one of the most scenic, peninsulas in all of Ireland.

Inishowen, which means “Island of Eoghan”,  covers an area of 884.3 km² and has a population of 31,802, so as you can imagine, there is a whole load of things to see and do.

In fact, this gorgeous corner of Ireland is home to many of the best places to visit in Donegal, as you’ll discover below.

The Inishowen Peninsula is also home to a wealth of history, with several historic monuments, like Grianan of Aileach, boasting many a tale from times past.

A map of Inishowen with attractions

The above map of Inishowen is interactive and contains 40 or so different things to do in Inishowen, from historic sites to areas of natural beauty.

Now, we don’t recommend that you just pick up this map of Inishowen and visit the places at random (although you can, of course).

If you’re visiting the Inishowen Peninsula for a bit and you fancy seeing the best of its attractions on one, mighty road trip, keep scrolling – we’ve a ready-made 1-day itinerary for you to follow.

Our favourite things to do in Inishowen in Donegal

2 photos of Things To Do In Inishowen
Photo left: By shawnwil23 on shutterstock.com. Photo right: By Cafe Banba on Facebook

From witnessing the amazing Aurora Borealis and visiting a filming location used in Star Wars: The last Jedi to getting up close with wild bears, the Inishowen Peninsula has it all. 

In the section below, you’ll discover what are, in our opinion, the very best things to do in Inishowen, from scenic drives and cycles to historic sites and much more.

1. Drive or cycle the Inishowen 100

inishowen scenic drive
Photos via Shutterstock

We’re going to kick things off with one of my favourite things to do in Inishowen – the incredible Inishowen 100 drive (or cycle!).

This is a stunning scenic loop of the Inishowen Peninsula that takes you to many of the areas top attractions in a handy loop.

There are so many things to see on the Inishowen 100 that you will be oohing and aahing for about 4 hours (or longer, depending on how long you linger).

From untouched beaches to quaint villages to postcard-worthy mountain views, it has it all. The route got its name because of the approximate number of miles it takes to complete the loop around the peninsula.

2. Visit Fort Dunree Military Museum

dunree fort military museum
Photo left: Lukassek. Right: Lucky Team Studio/shutterstock

If you’re looking for historic sites to visit on the Inishowen Peninsula, look no further than Dunree Fort, just down the road from Buncrana (there’s plenty of things to do in Buncrana, and it’s a great base to explore Inishowen from).

Once a defensive site, it was turned into a military museum and opened to the public in 1986. It’s considered to have one of the best collection of coast artillery guns in the world, perfect for coast artillery gun enthusiasts (if that’s even a thing).

The museum offers a video presentation in the form of an audio-visual theatre, museum displays chronicling the history and an expose of coastal artillery.

There is also underground bunkers which have a diverse range of artefacts to ogle at. Once you have had a history lesson, you can sit down for a lovely cup of tea in their café while appreciating the captivating views.

3. Brave the icy Atlantic on Culdaff Blue Flag Beach

culdaff beach
Photo by shawnwil23 (Shutterstock)

You can’t visit the Inishowen Peninsula and not visit one of its many mighty beaches (Inishowen is home to some of the best beaches in Donegal, after all!).

If you fancy a wee dip, the pristine Culdaff Beach, north-west of the peninsula, is just the spot… if you don’t mind some cold water, that is!

Culdaff Beach is bordered by sand dunes to the west and to the north-west by Culdaff River, south-end of the beach is lots of rocky coves and even rock pools.

Culdaff beach is also 50 meters from Culdaff Village, so don’t worry in case you forgot something (we always do when we get really excited running into the beach). 

If you’re looking for things to do in Inishowen with friends, give surfing on Culdaff a crack – there are several surf schools operating in the area.

4. Or head for a ramble along the outstanding Kinnagoe Bay

kinnagoe bay donegal
Photo by Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

Ah, Kinnagoe Bay – there really are few places like it in Ireland, and you’d be forgiven for missing it, as it can be tricky to find!

There’s a reason Kinnagoe Bay ranked as one of the best beaches in Ireland – it’s simply sensational – there are no two ways about it!

Located on the east coast of the Inishowen Peninsula, this hidden gem is home to clear calm waters and golden sand.

The bay is a bit tricky to get to so exercise a little caution when you head down the steep pathway towards the beach.

5. Grab something hot (and something tasty!) from Cafe Banba

2 photos of Cafe Banba
Photos via Cafe Banba on Facebook

Café Banba is known as Irelands most northerly Coffee Shop, located in Ballyhillion, Malin Head (the most northern point of Ireland) on the Inishowen Peninsula.

This family-run business can cater to even the fussiest eater with an impressive menu that includes pies, stews, soups, chilli, hot and cold sandwiches and freshly brewed coffee and tea (there is more but it will only make you hungry).

The company pride themselves on using local ingredients, with one of the local favourites being Hot Chocolate made by the “Hot Chocolate man” which is how one of the owners is fondly referred to locally. 

6. And then explore Malin Head (one of the most popular things to do in Inishowen)

malin head
Malin Head: Photo by Lukassek (Shutterstock)

Malin Head isn’t just a catchy name, it’s also the most northerly tip of all of Ireland. It is usually the start or end of the Wild Atlantic Way and is famous for its breath-taking (literally) coastal scenery.

At the very tip of the headland is Banba Crown, home to a derelict tower called…”The Tower”, built by British admiralty sometime in 1805 to guard against a possible French invasion.

You can also see some of Europe’s largest sand dunes from the coastal road heading towards Malin Head. Another great reason to visit Malin Head is at night, especially if the Northern Lights are forecast and you can see them in all their beauty.

Incredible views and historic sites on the Inishowen Peninsula

If you haven’t already guessed, the Inishowen Peninsula is up there as one of our favourite places to visit in Ireland. And if you needed more of a reason to visit, you’ll find plenty below.

The next section on things to do in Inishowen tackles views, views and more views. Oh, and some historic sites you’ll love, too!

1. Enjoy one of the best views in Ireland up at Knockamany Bens

Five finger Strand donegal
Photo by shawnwil23/shutterstock.com

This really is one of the greatest views on the Inishowen Peninsula, if not in all of Donegal. Aim for Knockamany Bens where you will find a small parking area on your left.

From here, you will be able to see the highest sand dunes in Europe, the whole Trawbreaga Bay and across the Bay you can see the Isle of Doagh.

The views here really are sensational, and you’ll appreciate the true size of Five Finger strand while watching the waves crash against it over and over.

2. Listen to the water crash at Glenevin Waterfall

2 photos of Glenevin Waterfall
Photo left: By Pavel_Voitukovic. Photo right: By Michelle Holihan. (on shutterstock.com)

Located near Clonmany, a visit to Glenevin Waterfall makes you feel like you’ve reached the heart of the woodland’s ecosystem.

A bit like that thing from the Avatar movie, actually…! With a never-ending supply of fresh mountain water to keep you entertained, this is the perfect place to kick-back for an hour or so.

The walk to the waterfall is just as magical, there are little elf houses on the way and the enchanting sound of birds singing really adds to the experience.

There are also picnic areas available, a toilet on-site (in the car park) and a snack/coffee truck that’s there during the busier months.

3. Soak up some history at Grianán of Aileach

Grianan of Aileach donegal
Photo by Tom Archer via Tourism Ireland

The incredible Grianán of Aileach is located 250m above sea level atop Greenan Mountain. The views are breathtaking and you can see the waters of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly glistening away.

It is thought that the fort dates back to 1700 BC, a time when Tuatha de Danann (a supernatural race) invaded Ireland before the Celts, building strong stone forts on top of hills for defensive purposes.

They worshipped Dagda (one of the many Celtic Gods and Goddesses) who ordered the building of the fort as a burial monument for his deceased son.

4. Grab another incredible view up at Mamore Gap

mamore gap in donegal
Photo via Failte Ireland

The mighty Mamore Gap is, along with the incredible Glengesh Pass, one of the most unique roads in Donegal.

Those that pass along Mamore Gap will be treated to fabulous views of Lough Swilly, Urris, the Fanad peninsula and North Inishowen.

The pass is located 14km north of Buncrana and 250m above sea level, the Mamore Gap is highly regarded as an area of natural beauty (so get your phone ready for some snaps).

Close to the summit of Mamore Gap you can spot a number of holy relics such as a holy well and an alter of statues where an annual mass is held every August.

Once you reach the top of the pass, you will be rewarded with, yep you guessed it, a spectacular panoramic view with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the hills on the other.

5. Step back in time at Doagh Famine Village

The Doagh Famine Village is one of our favourite things to do in Inishowen. Before the famine hit Ireland, the population was around 8.2 million and today it stands at just 4.9 million.

Thanks to people like Pat Doherty, who started Doagh Famine Village 20 years ago, we can educate people about one of the darkest times in Ireland.

Pat created the Famine Village to tell the story of how his family before him survived the famine from the 1840s until today. 

The guided tour shows what life was like before electricity or modern medicine, emphasising the importance of community, family and the Irish spirit.

Unique things to do in Inishowen

inishowen peninsula cottages
Photo used with permission of Mamore Cottages

Our next section is dedicated to the more unique things to do in Inishowen for those of you that fancy a slightly different experience.

Below, you’ll find everything from hiking with Alpacas to unique accommodation (see photo above) and much more.

1. Experience something very unique with Wild Alpaca Way

wild alpaca way
Photos via Wild Alpaca Way on Facebook

our first attraction is hands down one of the most unique things to do in Inishown – hiking… with ALPACAS. Yes, alpacas.

With Wild Alpaca Way, you get to take these gorgeous fluffy fellas on a lovely hill walk through some of the most stunning parts of the Wild Atlantic Way.

The trek takes just under 2 hours and there are plenty of photo opportunities as you travel with your very friendly new friend.

2. Then see brown bears in Donegal at Wild Ireland

wild ireland donegal
Photo left: Canon Boy. Right: andamanec (shutterstock)

It’s crazy to think that some centuries ago, Ireland was akin to the Amazon in regards to rainforests but due to deforestation and destruction, many habitats were destroyed in the process. 

Now for the first time in thousands of years, Wild boar, Lynx, Wolves and Brown bears are finally back together in the Irish forest.

Wild Ireland is an animal sanctuary that focuses on recreating the natural habitats of many animals, allowing them a place to live freely.

A lot of the animals were rescued from circuses, laboratories and horrendous pet trades, but now they can live in the wild as they should. 

3. Spend the night in a traditional Irish cottage

outside the thatch
Photo used with permission of Mamore Cottages

If you really want a glimpse into the Donegal way of life then consider spending the night in a traditional Irish cottage (or in one of the many unique Airbnbs in Donegal).

At Mamore Cottages, you can watch the sun set or embrace the warmth of an open turf fire after a long day of conquering many of the best things to do in Inishowen.

The cottages have been restored to replicate the style they were created back 150 years ago, with some additional home comforts too.

4. And a rainy morning exploring Inishowen Maritime Museum & Planetarium

Located in Greencastle, the Inishowen Maritime Museum was first opened back in 1994 and really is one of a kind.

Exhibitions include a 19th-century rocket cart which was used to help survivors of wrecked ships, a Lough Foyle punt and there is even a room dedicated to the infamous Spanish Armada, which sank back in 1588 off of the Irish coast. 

The museum also has a craft, coffee and souvenir shop, so you can leave with something to remember the trip there.  There is also the planetarium, which includes the only permanently-installed concert laser in Ireland.

Inishowen hotels (that are central and that have incredible reviews)

the best Inishowen hotels
Photos via the Castle Inn Hotel

OK, so, know you know what to do on the Inishowen Peninsula, it’s time to pick a base from the many Inishowen Hotels or Airbnbs.

In this guide, we take you through the best hotels in Inishowen, while also giving you a look at some gorgeous boutique guesthouses in the process.

Take your time when choosing – many of the Inishowen hotels in our guide have been picked due to location (and reviews). Location matters as it’ll mean less driving and more time spent soaking up the scenery.

Originally from County Tyrone, Johnny's yearning for new experiences and cultures has taken from Bundoran to Bangkok and everywhere in between!

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