A visit to Muckross Head is one of the more unique things to do in Donegal.
Located in southwest Donegal, not far from Killybegs, this is an often-overlooked natural landmark, but ignore it at your peril!
It offers panoramic views, two beautiful sandy beaches, clifftop walks and some fascinating Neolithic remains.
Below, you’ll find info on everything from the Eire sign and Muckross Beach to where to park to get a glorious aerial view.
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Muckross Head
A visit to Muckross Head isn’t as straightforward as some of the other Donegal attractions and you need to know what to look out for before you go. Here’s some handy info:
Located in Northwest Ireland, Muckross Head is a small peninsula 19km west of Killybegs in County Donegal. It’s a 10-minute drive from Carrick, a 15-minute drive from Killybegs and a 30-minute drive from Ardara.
3. Two Beaches
There are two beaches at Muckross Head, one either side of the headland. The westerly facing Muckross Bay is known as Trá na nglór in Irish, meaning “beach of the noise”. Just 200 yards away you’ll find the more sheltered east-facing beach Trá bán, (meaning “white beach” in Irish).
4. Swimming (warning)
Although we’ve tried, we can’t find any reliable official info online about swimming at either of the Muckross Beaches. However, some websites mention strong, dangerous rip currents. So, we’d recommend checking locally before entering the water here.
About Muckross Head
Sitting at the base of Muckross Hill, Muckross Head is best known for its stunning scenery, twin beaches and sea cliffs. The narrow peninsula is popular for rock climbing due to the unusual horizontal rock strata. There is an area of exposed limestone karst and many interesting deposits of fossils, mainly of shellfish and seaweed.
Located 11km west of Killybegs, Muckross Head looks out into Donegal Bay and the uninhabited island of Inisduff (meaning Black Island). On the clifftop there is the word EIRE marked out in white stones. It is one of many signs erected in WW2 to show pilots that they were flying over neutral ground.
Muckross Market House
There is a landmark monument on the tip of the headland known as The Market House. It is thought to be the remains of a Neolithic wall, possibly defensive and running across the headland.
Over the centuries, stones have been removed to build local farmhouses and structures so little is left to provide an accurate assessment. The origin of the name Market House is equally uncertain, but was possibly a location where local produce and livestock were sold or traded.
Muckross Head is 3km east of Kilcar and 1km west of Largydaughton. Access to the headland is along the R263 Towney Road. The road sweeps past two beaches, one on either side of Muckross Head.
A narrow road runs to the tip of the headland. There is a free car park and paths leading out to the edge of the headland with stunning coastal views.
Climbers enjoy the challenge of Muckross Crag, a sea cliff on the southwest side of the peninsula. It has a tidal rock platform providing convenient access. Horizontal layers of sandstone and mudstone have been eroded away leaving many challenging overhands and breaks.
The Climbers Guidebook lists 60 climbs around Muckross, with grading up to E6/6b. The climbs range for 10 to 20 metres and are strenuous, including some roof climbs.
Things to do at Muckross Head
There’s a handful of things to do around Muckross Head in Donegal if you fancy making a few hours out of your visit. Here are some suggestions:
1. Head for a saunter along the sand
The beaches are not very long but provide a welcome stroll in the fresh sea air. Head to the westerly beach and listen to the Atlantic waves pounding and sucking back out to sea as you ramble.
Alternatively, walk out to the tip of the headland to see the landmark EIRE sign and the remains of the stone wall structure.
2. Get a beautiful view of the beach from above
From the top of the headland, you can enjoy stunning views that take in the dramatic coastline. Pause at the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point (here on Google Maps) and you’ll have a glorious view in front of you.
Other points of interest to look for include neighbouring St. John’s Point, Ben Bulben across the bay in Sligo, Croagh Patrick in Mayo and Sliabh Liag.
3. Spin over to the Muckross Head viewpoint
The Muckross Head viewpoint is at the end of the peninsula, with a car park reached along a narrow road.
From there you get a great view of the surrounding area, the ocean in all its moods and many of the landmarks listed above.
Things to do near Muckross Head
One of the beauties of Muckross Beach 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 Muckross Head!
1. Donegal’s ‘secret’ waterfall (8-minute drive)
Donegal’s secret waterfall is a short drive from Muckross Head. It is accessed from a narrow road with very limited parking. The route over the rocks is insanely slippery and you can only visit at low tide. Real caution is needed when visiting this place.
2. Fintra Beach (15-minute drive)
Beautiful Fintra Beach has a sweep of light golden sand and clear Blue Flag water 9km east of Muckross Head. This beautiful family-friendly beach is perfect for sandcastles, ball games and sandy strolls. Rock pools provide opportunities for spotting marine-life. The beach has a car park, showers and a lifeguard service in summer.
3. Slieve League (25-minute drive)
Don’t miss the chance to visit some of the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe at Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) at 596 metres. In fact, they are three times higher than the famous Cliffs of Moher! The best and most impressive views are from a boat at the foot of the cliffs. Alternatively, drop in at the Visitor Centre which runs a shuttle bus to the viewpoint.
4. Glengesh Pass (25-minute drive)
Glengesh Pass is one of the most scenic roads through the mountains of Donegal. The twisting route through the high mountain pass is located 22km northeast of Muckross on the R230. It connects Glencolmcille with Ardara. There’s a small car park and excellent viewing point near Ardara.
FAQs about visiting Muckross Beach and Muckross Head
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Can you swim here?’ to ‘Where is the viewpoint?’.
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.
What is there to see at Muckross Head?
You can get the aerial view from the viewpoint, see the Eire sign, ramble along the beaches and soak up some stunning coastal and cliff views, too.
Can you swim at Muckross Beach?
Although we’ve tried, we can’t find any official information about swimming at Muckross Beach in Donegal. Either avoid the water or ask around locally about swimming conditions. Don’t assume it’s safe.
Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.