A Guide To The Mighty Malin Head In Donegal (Things To See, History + More)

malin head donegal
Photo left: RonanmcLaughlin. Right: Lukassek/shutterstock

The mighty Malin Head is one of the most popular places to visit in Donegal.

Up there with the likes of the Slieve League Cliffs and Glenveagh National Park, this mighty corner of Ireland is steeped in history and it boasts scenery that’ll take your breath away.

In the guide below, you’ll find everything from things to do at Malin Head to an insight into the Star Wars link. Go on – dive on in!

About Malin Head: Ireland’s Most Northerly Point

malin head
Malin Head: Photo by Lukassek (Shutterstock)

Malin Head is the most northerly point in Ireland and you’ll find it located right at the tip of the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal.

The dramatic coastline is characterised by rugged beauty and stunning views. The northernmost tip is around 16km north of the village of Malin, with an accessible car park and walking trails for visitors to easily explore the area. 

Malin Head is also of historical and ecological importance. It has several remains of signal stations and lookout posts strewn across the area, as well as sunken ships off its coast.

You’ll also find a variety of unique flora and fauna, including sea life and birds. There are plenty of opportunities to go fishing, swimming and walking around the point with hiking trails and notable sights to see along the way. 

Malin Head: Some Quick Facts

malin head ireland
Photo by shawnwil23/shutterstock

Before we dive into the main guide, let’s take a look at some quick Malin Head facts, that’ll get you up to speed on the area.

  • Located at the northern tip of the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal
  • It was used as a set in the Star Wars: The Last Jedi film and is where the iconic Millennium Falcon was constructed
  • It’s a good spot to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights or aurora borealis if the forecast is right
  • Malin Head also boasts some historical sites including Banba’s Crown and various WWII lookout points
  • You can also have a pint at Farren’s Bar, the most northerly pub in Ireland which has been serving since 1825

Things To Do At Malin Head

Cafe Banba at Malin Head
Photos via Cafe Banba on Facebook

If you’re planning a visit to Malin Head in Donegal and you’re not sure what to look out for, the section below will help.

It’s easy to visit Malin Head and end up aimlessly wandering around, unsure of where to go, so take note of the points below.

1. Kick-start your visit with something hot at Caffe Banba

You’ll want to start your visit to Malin Head at Ireland’s most northerly bakery and café. Caffe Banba is located at the main car park area of Malin Head so you can conveniently grab a coffee before you start exploring the area.

2. Keep an eye out for the Eire Signs

Eire signs were navigational markers placed around the country to alert WWII pilots they were flying over neutral Ireland. Although many are in disrepair, the Eire 80 sign at Malin Head has been restored so you can see the sign etched into the ground with white stones.

3. See Banba’s Crown

Banba’s Crown marks the northernmost point on Malin Head in Donegal. The old lookout and tower was originally built in 1805 to help defend against a potential French attack but was soon turned into a signal tower. It was named after a mythical Irish queen and is known more locally as simply “the tower”.

4. Take a moment to appreciate the battles that took place here between boat and wave

Malin Head is considered one of the best places in Europe to wreck dive. According to the folks at Mevagh Dive Centre, there are more ocean liners and German U-boats sunk off this particular stretch of coast than anywhere else in the world. With some of the clearest water you can imagine, it’s the perfect place to explore underwater.

5. Keen an eye out for Ballyhillin Beach and Inishtrahull Island

You can also spot Inishtrahull island several miles off the coast of Malin Head. This island is composed of the oldest rock in Ireland which is said to date back around 1.7 billion years.

Another ecological wonder to look out for is Ballyhillin Beach, just along the coast from Banba’s Crown. This unique, raised beach is a clear demonstration of the higher sea levels from thousands of years ago. 

6. Stretch your legs on the Malin Head Trail

The Malin Head Trail is one of the best ways to take in the beauty of the rugged coastline in this part of Donegal. The 1.8km return trail from the main car park takes you along the cliff tops of Malin Head with incredible views of the coast, islands and marine life.

7. Keep an eye out for Hell’s Hole (you’ll hear it before you see it)

If you follow the walking trail from Banba’s Crown, you’ll come across deep ravines on the coast which is known as Hells’ Hole. You’ll hear Hell’s Hole before you even see it with the tide exploding into the cavern with incredible natural force.

8. Warm your bones at Farren’s Bar

Farren’s Bar is the most northerly pub in Ireland and a great place to warm yourself up with a pint after exploring the area. You’ll be in good company, as even Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) popped into the bar for refreshments during the filming of The Last Jedi.

The Malin Head Star Wars Link

We get countless emails every month asking about the Malin Head Star Wars link. Yes, Malin Head featured in the Star Wars film.

Scenes from the film (The Last Jedi) were filmed at Malin Head over three days in 2016. The location was one of a few spots along the Wild Atlantic Way that the location scouts picked for the storyline. 

The iconic Millennium Falcon was built on the edge of the coastline in Malin Head and the locals recall having the famous actors popping into Farren’s Bar for refreshments. 

Malin Head Weather (Be Warned!)

malin head donegal
Photo left: RonanmcLaughlin. Right: Lukassek/shutterstock

Being at the northernmost point and exposed to the unpredictable weather of the wild Atlantic, the weather at Malin Head can be crazy.

The weather often changes without notice and it can be quite a tough and uncomfortable place to be on a wet and windy day if you arrive unprepared.

You need to be fully prepared for all different weather scenarios at Malin Head. Pack plenty of layers and warm jackets, including wet weather gear. You can check Malin Head weather conditions here.

Seeing the Northern Lights at Malin Head

malin head northern lights
Photo By Michael Gill via Tourism Ireland

Due to the peak in the sun’s activity, Malin Head is often a great place to witness the Northern Lights in Ireland (aka Aurora Borealis).

If the conditions are right, you can catch a glimpse of the dancing lights in the night sky above the peninsula. 

The best months to see the Northern Lights at Malin Head are during the cold winter months and you need to have ideal conditions to get a clear view.

FAQs About Visiting Malin Head

Since starting The Irish Road Trip many years ago, we’ve had endless questions from people thinking about visiting Malin Head.

Below, I’ve attempted to answer the most FAQs that we’ve received. Have a question that we haven’t tackled? Let me know below!

Is Malin Head worth visiting?

Malin Head is often considered one of the must-see places in Ireland. The incredibly stunning views from the peninsula and opportunities for walking, fishing and swimming make it a popular destination.

What is Malin Head famous for?

Malin Head is famous for being the most northerly point of Ireland’s mainland. The area is characterised by its dramatic coastal landscape and historical sites.

What part of Star Wars was filmed in Malin Head?

Malin Head was used as a location set in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The Millennium Falcon was built on the edge of the coastline for the film and the area formed part of the Planet Ahch-to from the Star Wars storyline.

Can you see Scotland from Malin Head?

On a really clear day, you can spot the hills of Scotland over to the east from Malin Head. Emphasis on ‘really clear’…

Things to see near Malin Head in Donegal

inishowen scenic drive
Photos via Shutterstock

One of the beauties of Malin Head is that it’s a stone’s throw from many of the best things to do in Inishowen.

From scenic drives to historic sites, museums and more, there’s plenty to see and do near Malin Head.

1. Five Finger Strand

Five finger Strand donegal
Photo by shawnwil23/shutterstock.com

The Inishowen Peninsula is home to many of the best beaches in Donegal. One of our favourites, Fiver Finger Strand, is a handy 17-minute drive from Malin Head.

You can head for a walk along the sand or you can get a magnificent aerial view of the beach if you visit Wild Alpaca Way at Knockamany Bends.

2. Glenevin Waterfall

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

Next up is Glenevin Waterfall. It’ll take you 26 minutes to get here and there’s a lovely walk from the car park into the waterfall (20 – 25 minute walk).

There’s also a little coffee truck on-site, if you happen to visit during the busier summer months. The walk here is lovely!

3. Doagh Famine Village

Doagh Famine Village donegal
Photo via Doagh Famine Village on Facebook

Doagh Famine Village (34-minute drive) is a museum like no other. This place offers an insight into the bitter-sweet story of how a community living on the edge struggled and survived from the 1800s to the present day.

 

Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you. Very informative. I walked the trail on Malin head today and was not disappointed by the incredible scenery. After Hells hole about 1.1 miles along the well maintained track, you can pass the stone stacks on a loose track and get to see even more extraordinary seascapes. Definitely with the hike.

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