Day 13. Sligo to Gweedore
The next couple of days are dedicated to Donegal. Set the bar high in your head – they’re going to be a mind-blowing 48 hours as we make our way around one of the most breath-taking corners of our little island.
You’ll have gotten to bed early the previous night, so get up for 7, eat, and take a little stroll to check out Benbulben. You need to be on the road for 8:30 – we’ve a long, wonderful day ahead.
1. Slieve League
The first stop of the day, Slieve League, is a good 1 hour and 45-minute drive from where you stayed the previous night.
We’re having our earliest start of the whole trip this morning, but it’ll be worth it. Towering above the ocean at 2000 foot, the Sliabh Liag Cliffs are an adventurers dream.
On a clear day, the cliffs offer breath-taking views across Donegal Bay, Sligo and Mayo. Grab a coffee or an ice cream from the little cart at the base of the steps and sit back and absorb the mighty sight in front of you.
2. Malin Beg and Silver Strand Beach
Silver Strand Beach (37-minute drive) is one of those places that makes me question why I’m living in Dublin.
Whether you’re sitting on the grass above and gazing down at it, or walking along the sandy shores and listening to the waves crash, this horseshoe-shaped beach is an unspoiled gem.
Take your time here and bask in the brilliance that surrounds you.
3. Glencolmcille Folk Village and/or beach
Our next stop is the Folk Village in Glencolmcille (15-minute drive). This is thatched-roof replica of a rural village offers a glimpse into what daily life was like in years past.
Each cottage is an exact replica of a dwelling used by locals in each of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Wander through the village at your leisure or take a guided tour if it tickles your fancy.
If the Silver Strand gave you a lust for sea air, you can also take a stroll along Glencolmcille beach.
4. Spin along the Glengesh Pass
The chances of encountering another road like the one at the Glengesh Pass (27-minute drive from Glencolmcille) are slim to none.
It meanders through the seemingly endless mountainous terrain that connects Glencolmcille to Ardara, with more twists and turns than my stomach cares to remember.
As you approach Glengesh from the Glencolmcille side, you’ll come across a little van selling coffee, with a bench close by. Stop off here and you’ll get some great views of the valley below.
5. Assaranca Waterfall
The first time I visited Assaranca Waterfall (15 minutes from Glengesh), we found it by complete fluke.
We had just driven along Glengesh and had managed to get semi-lost. We kept driving away hoping that we’d happen upon something interesting and BANG – Assaranca Waterfall.
What I love about this place is that it’s literally at the side of the road, so if it’s raining away you can kick back in your car, lower the window a tad and soak up the sights and the sounds.
6. The Caves of Maghera and Maghera Strand
Our next stop is just one km from Assaranca Waterfall – Maghera Strand. Maghera Strand is wild. That’s the only way to describe it.But wild in the best possible sense – it’s exactly as nature intended. Pure raw natural beauty.
You’ll find the Maghera Caves beneath Slievetooey mountain and some of the 20 caves are accessible when tides are low from Maghera Strand.
Note: you need to be extremely careful of tides and strong currents – check locally regarding the best time to visit.
7. A Late Lunch in Ardara
By this stage you’re probably starving, so we’ll stop for a bit of food a 15-minute drive from Maghera Strand.
I’ve eaten in Sheila’s Coffee and Cream in Ardara twice now and on both occasions, it was brilliant. If the weather is good, grab a seat outside and watch the world pass you by.
8. Glenveagh National Park
Our next stop, Glenveagh National Park, is an hour down the road from Ardara. Spanning an impressive 16,000 hectares, Glenveagh encompasses most of the Derryveagh Mountains, the Poisoned Glen and part of Errigal Mountain.
For those looking to get a lungful of fresh air, there are several walks you can choose from. We’re going to do the View Point Trail (takes 1-hour) on this trip. Here’s how the folks at Glenveagh describe it;
‘The View Point Trail is perhaps the best short walk option in the Park. It leads to an ideal vantage point for enjoying views of the rugged scenery, with magnificent perspectives of the castle below, Lough Veagh and the surrounding landscapes.
This circular 1.5Km trail starts and ends at the castle, taking from 50-60 min at a leisurely pace. The surface is good at all stages and very steep for several short distances. Follow the direction of the road behind the castle, taking the path uphill just outside the garden gates. The route is signposted from here.’
9. Gweedore or Bunbeg for the night
Tonight we’ll be staying in Gweedore (20 minutes from Glenveagh). I’m going to recommend Teac Campbell, but you can stay wherever tickles your fancy based on your budget.
Check into your room and chill for an hour or two. For dinner, drive to Leo’s Tavern – it’s is a leisurely 10-minute spin from the hotel.
Get an early night and bask in the happiness that accompanies a day of exploring like the one you’ve just had.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.