Around Ireland In 18 Days: A Coastal Road Trip Of A Lifetime (Full Itinerary)

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

Slieve league hike
Photo taken by MNStudio (shutterstock)

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
Photo by Milosz Maslanka (Shutterstock)

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

Glencolmkille folk village
Photo by Christy Nicholas/shutterstock

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

glengesh pass ardara
Photos by Lukassek/shutterstock.com

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

Assaranca in Donegal
Photo by Monicami/shutterstock.com

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

maghera strand donegal
Photo by Gareth Wray Photography

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

ardara in donegal
Photo via Google Maps

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

Glenveagh National Park
Photo by Chris Hill

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

dunlewey Church
Photo by Lukassek (Shutterstock)

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.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I have been using your guide for the past few months to plan my Ireland trip set for April 2019. I figured it was about time I dropped a comment!! 🙂 Your guide has helped me tremendously as it seems to encompass everything we are looking to find in Ireland…. raw natural beauty, unique experiences, good coffee, and good beer! Can’t thank you enough. I hope to comment again once we return!

    • Ah, thank you. I’m glad. Getting comments like this make it worth it.

      I hope you’re trip goes well.

      Cheers,

      Keith

  2. This is seriously the best travel guide ever. I was getting stressed because I’ll be solo traveling all of March and haven’t planned much (by design) and this gives the perfect outline of exactly the things I want to do and see. So thank you for the enormous amount of time this must have taken. So much appreciated.

    • Haha! Cheers dude.

      Glad you found it useful. This took roughly 3 weeks of research and writing… and rewriting.

      I hope the trip goes well.

      Keith

  3. We’re traveling to Ireland in November, 2019 and thank you very much for your outline and information. Question: On maps, it shows Northern Ireland almost like another country. Do you need anything to pass from Ireland to Northern Ireland and back, or is it all in the same? Seems trivial, but it could make a big difference if we plan to do things in Northern Ireland and then we could possibly not have the proper travel documents. Also, do you know if your passport is all you need or if you need a travel visa? Thanks for your time. Have a great day!. WandanTexas

    • Hi Wanda,

      You’re welcome.

      Northern Ireland is technically part of the UK, so it is regarded as a different country.

      Currently, there is no form of ‘hard’ border, but there’s been a lot of talk about the potential of one with Brexit looming.

      If you’re driving a rental car, this is where things can get tricky. I had one from Europa car recently and was told I’d be automatically charged (they have GPS devices within the rental) whenever my car passed into Northern Ireland – the max total charge was 90 euro, I believe.

      If you’re renting a car, be sure to check this in advance.

      I hope this helps.

      Keith

  4. Hi,
    This is a great guide, but if you had a few extra days…
    Three Castle Head is also stunning. You are close enough to it when you are heading for brow head. Well worth it!
    Lough Hyne in Skibbereen is also beautiful, lovely forest walk and salt water lake to swim in. Night time kayaking with the bioluminescent water a must!
    Enjoy,
    Joanne

    • Thanks for the recommendations Joanne.

      Love Lough Hyne in particular. Did the forest climb with my dad last summer on a hot day in July – great spot!

  5. Question for Keith and others. We have a wonderful opportunity to spend a month in Ireland and in previous trips we’ve enjoyed many of the same activities you do…hiking, enjoying the featured sights and geography in general, informal dining, great pubs, etc. We have never been north of Westport, county Mayo. Would it be worth it to spend a week in the Sligo / Donegal region? If yes, we would rent a house for the week. Is there a town that would be central to this region that you could recommend as a home base? We would be there in late August/early Sept 2020.
    Thanks in advance for your response (or anyone else who could add their thoughts)

    • Hi Bill.

      Abbbbbbbbbbbsolutely spend a week in Sligo and Donegal.

      There’s a tonne of things to do in both, regardless of whether you decide to do something active or just chill.

      Personally, I’d spend half in Sligo and half in Donegal.

      Here’s a guide to 48 hours in Sligo that should help, along with a 3-day guide to the best things to do in Donegal.

      In terms of where to stay – I love Strandhill and Rosses Point. For Donegal, it’s hard to beat Ardara.

      I hope this helps!

      Keith

  6. Hi Keith,
    I am planning our road trip to Ireland in october and I love your Instagram account. I like to use your suggestions for our schedule.
    On day 11 you suggest to leave Westport and Achill on the same time (16:55) ? So this is a pretty long day 😉 I prefer to stay an extra night on Achill Island. What do you think?
    Thanks
    Uli

    • Aha! OK, that’s clearly a mistake on my part. I’ll get those times updated!

      I love Achill, personally.

      There’s nothing bad that can come from a second night spent there.

  7. Hi Keith,

    I am considering travelling to Ireland this summer via road-trip and AirBnBs. While researching, I found your blog and found it very helpful and resourceful.

    I am travelling from New Delhi (India) with my extended family (infants, toddlers, siblings, wife, parents etc.). Assuming this might be our only trip to Ireland together as a family, I am interested in covering Ireland comprehensively within a limitation of 11-13 days.

    Is it possible to shorten the suggested 18-day itinerary to the above duration by bypassing some of the locations or sites. I understand this would mean we missing a few locations, but need your help.

  8. Really digging this blog!! I have the travel blog so bad and Ireland is next on the list – your recommendations are speaking to me! Thanks for taking the time to create all the wonderful road trips / ideas.

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