A Speedy Guide To Rossnowlagh Beach In Donegal

Rossnowlagh Beach Donegal
Photo left: Kevin George. Right: leahb81500/Shutterstock

The magnificent Rossnowlagh Beach is arguably one of the best beaches in Donegal.

Situated some eight kilometres south of Donegal Town in County Donegal, Rossnowlagh Beach will take your breath away (literally, at times, when it gets blustery!).

This popular surfers’ destination has a 3.2km long beach that’s perfect for long walks or, if you’re feeling hardy, a quick dip!

Water safety warning: Understanding water safety is absolutely crucial when visiting beaches in Ireland. Please take a minute to read these water safety tips. Cheers!

About Rossnowlagh Beach in Donegal

rossnowlagh beach guide
Photo by Lukassek/Shutterstock

‘Ros Neamlach’ in Irish means heavenly headland, and it’s easy to see how the seaside village of Rossnowlagh earned its name.

The nearby beach stretches from the Coolmore cliffs in the south to the rocky outcrop at Carrickfad, which juts out from the headland and is visible at low tide. 

Rossnowlagh is a Blue Flagged beach, awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education. This ‘gold standard’ for beaches ensures there is no industrial, waste-water or sewage-related discharges and that the beach is kept clean.

The beach’s soft golden sands and exceptional views prove enormously popular in the summer months when locals and visitors flock there to surf, swim, walk and relax. 

Things to know before visiting Rossnowlagh Beach

Smugglers creek inn rossnowlagh beach
Photo by @Taratuite

If you’re planning on visiting Rossnowlagh Beach the next section of our guide is just for you.

You’ll find info on parking at the beach, where to stay nearby and where to grab a bit to eat (and a pint, if you fancy!) with a view.

Getting there by public transport

The Seirbhís Iompair Tuaithe Teoranta (SITT) Rural Transport/Locallink Donegal Town to Ballyshannon route serves Rossnowlagh every day.

Connections are available at Ballyshannon and the nearest railway station is Sligo railway. Bus Éireann services from Ballyshannon serve Sligo bus station.


The beach can be accessed by car via three ramps. Walkers can stroll the three kilometres of the wide sandy shores, and also walk several more kilometres all the way to Murvagh Beach.


For swimmers and surfers, beach lifeguards are on duty between 12pm-6.30pm from June until September. Please be careful and ensure that you never enter the water during dangerous conditions.

Rossnowlagh Surfing

rossnowlagh surfing
Photo by Brian Morrison via Tourism Ireland

The slow rising beach faces west into the Atlantic Ocean and Donegal Bay and is funnel-shaped, which will be music to the ears of seasoned surfers.

These two factors tend to result in larger waves, especially in winter. In the past waves of up to 7 metres high have been recorded at Rossnowlagh.

Rossnowlagh Tide Times

If you’re planning on visiting but you want to suss out the Rossnowlagh tide times first, MagicSeaweed is a good resource (the also do a handy Rossnowlagh Surf Report).

Or, if you’d prefer some local knowledge, drop into one of the surf schools or give them a ring – they’ll be able to give you invaluable information.

Rossnowlagh Surf Schools

Two surf schools serve the area. James Garvey set up the Rossnowlagh Surf School in 2014. The Irish Times chose the school as one of the best kids camps in Ireland, and it offers several different surfing packages.

The Fin McCool Surf School has a beachfront location and has been on the go since 2006. Run by the Britton family, the school also puts on kids camps in the summer months and offers introductions to surfing.

If you head off with one of the schools, you won’t need to worry about the Rossnowlagh tide times, surf gear or anything like that.

Where to stay and where to eat

the sandhouse hotel rossnowlagh
Photo via the Sandhouse Hotel

If you plan on sleeping and eating near the beach, you’re in luck – there’s a number of brilliant restaurants and hotels in Rossnowlagh.

Where to eat

Food wise, you can’t go wrong with the brilliant Smugglers Creek Inn in Rossnowlagh. There’s an excellent view from here, too!

Another great option is the nearby Gaslight Inn. Like Smugglers Creek Inn, the reviews for this place speak for themselves. 

Where to stay

This corner of the county is home to, in our opinion, of the best hotels in Donegal – the Sandhouse Hotel. If you’re after sea views and great service, get yourself to the Sandhouse!

There are also plenty of Airbnbs in Rossnowlagh and some good B&Bs. Note: if you book a place via one of the links above we’ll get a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.

Places to visit near Rossnowlagh Beach 

If you’re staying in one of the hotels in Rossnowlagh or if you’re just passing through, you’re in luck – there’s plenty to see and do nearby.

From historical sites to areas boasting immense natural beauty, there’s a number of different adventure opportunities nearby

1. Donegal Castle

Donegal castle
Photo by David Soanes (Shutterstock)

Restored in the early 1990s, Donegal Castle consists of a 15th-century rectangular keep with a later Jacobean style wing and was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan.

2. Slieve League

Slieve league hike
Photo taken by MNStudio (shutterstock)

The Slieve League Cliffs are Ireland’s highest sea cliffs. The Slieve League Cliffs Centre offers guided tours to all those who want to witness the sea at its most magnificent, as well as a gift shop and café.

3. The ‘Secret’ Waterfall

hidden waterfall donegal
Photo by John Cahalin (Shutterstock)

Donegal’s ‘Secret’ Waterfall near Slieve League takes some finding. It is in the village of Largy and should only be visited at low tide. 

4. Silver Strand Beach

Silver Strand Beach
Photo by Milosz Maslanka (Shutterstock)

Also known as the Silver Strand Beach, Malin Beg Beach is another Donegal beach well worth visiting. Part of the Wild Atlantic bay, the surrounding cliffs form a perfect sun trap in the summer.

5. Assaranca Waterfall

ardara waterfall donegal
Photo by Yevhen Nosulko/shutterstock

The Assaranca Waterfall is located on side of narrow road close to Maghera caves near the village of Ardara and can be viewed from your car when the weather is bad.

6. Glengesh

Glengesh Pass donegal
Photo by Lukassek/shutterstock.com

Finally, the Glengesh Pass, also in Ardara, is another scenic, must visit attraction. It runs for about 15 miles through the glaciated valleys, and past old cottages and farms.

Have you visited Rossnowlagh Beach?

We’re all ears! Did you think it was worth the trip? If so, did you just head for a little ramble or did you give surfing a bash?

Let us know in the comments below. Discover loads more things to see and do in Donegal in our Donegal attractions guide.

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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.