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

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

Day 14. Gweedore to Portsalon

Set your alarm for nice and early. I know I’m like a broken record saying this at this point, but you’ve a mighty day ahead.

Fuel up with a good breakfast and hit the road.

1. A mighty view at Horn Head

horn head donegal

Photo by Susanne Pommer/shutterstock

You’re a 35-minute drive from where you stayed last night (if you took my recommendation) to our first stop of the day – Horn Head.

There’s two options for this stop – you can throw on the walking boots and head off on a walk along the cliffs (takes roughly three hours), or you can drive the Horn Head loop.

If you’d prefer to avoid the walk (which we’ll be doing for this trip), the drive around Horn Head is also fantastic.

There are two viewing points where you can get out at and admire the scenery that surrounds you; the first is on the north side and here cliffs dominate.

The second overlooks Dunfanaghy with Muckish and the Derryveagh mountains providing the perfect backdrop.

2. Killahoey Beach

Dunfanaghy in Donegal

Photo via LR-PHOTO on shutterstock.com

You’ll hear Killahoey Beach (13 minutes from Horn Head) often referred to as Dunfanaghy beach – it’s a gorgeous Blue Flag beach that’s popular for water sports.

Stop off here, take the shoes and socks off and get a lungful of Atlantic air as you trudge along the shore.

3. Ards Forest Park

ards forest park donegal

Photo by shawnwil23/shutterstock

Our next stop is to Ards Forest Park (12-minute drive) where you can choose from nine different trails to head off on.

Over the course of your stroll, you’ll encounter sand dunes, beaches, salt marshes, saltwater lakes, rock face and, of course, coniferous and deciduous woodlands.

You’ll also happen upon the remains of four ringforts together with a holy well and a mass rock. Grab a coffee in Ards Coffee Tree and head off on your merry way.

3. Doe Castle

Doe Castle donegal

Photo via Tourism Ireland

Doe Castle (13-minute drive) is one of those structures that looks like it was plucked straight from a Disney movie.

The castle was strategically built out on a jutting rock that places it within the protection of an inlet from Sheephaven Bay.

You can access the grounds of the castle for free or you can take a guided tour for €3 euro per person. If you’d like to read about the history of the castle before visiting, you can do so here.

Related read: Check out our guide to 28 of the best Irish castles that are worth visiting during your trip.

4. The Loop around Tra Na Rossan

Tra Na Rossan

Photo by Chris Hill

The drive we’re about to do is called the Atlantic Drive. It’ll take you 15 minutes to get from Doe Castle to Downings and then 13 minutes to get out to the viewing point above.

I did a trip around Donegal a few months ago and this, for me, was the best part of the trip. The sun was blazing, the roads were quiet, and around every narrow bend some new, unexpected piece of scenery slapped me in the face.

From Doe Castle, you want to point the Batmobile in the direction of ‘Downings’ and continue on to ‘Tra Na Rossan view’ (it’s marked out on Google Maps).

Pull in to the first safe spot you find at the side of the road and just soak up the view.

5. Lunch at the Singing Pub

the singing pub donegal

Photo via thesingingpub.ie/

You’re a 5-minute spin from a solid spot for a bit of lunch.  If you land at the Singning Pub on a sunny day, grab a seat outside and enjoy the view.

I was driving by here and it was the name that caught my eye, so I decided to head up to see what it was all about.

The lads serving on the day were a bit of craic and more than happy to chat away, offering a good dollop of local knowledge along with a decent feed.

6. Lough Salt for an absolute peach of a view

Lough Salt Donegal

Photo by Mark McColl (Shutterstock)

This was another highlight of my trip because I didn’t know this place existed – I simply saw a road that caught my eye and kept driving.

Lough Salt (20-minute drive from the Singing Pub) is a small mountain lake located at the base of Lough Salt Mountain.

Keep driving until you come to the little parking area that’ll be on your left as you drive up an incline.

From here, you can check out the lake to your left. When you’ve had your fill, take a look around to your right and you’ll see a small grass hill.

Cross the road and climb up it. The 360 view you’ll be treated to is just out of this world. On the day that I visited, I took a book with me and sat for an hour or so.

7. Fanad Head Lighthouse

fanad lighthouse

Photo by shawnwil23 (Shutterstock)

You’ll see Fanad Head Lighthouse (40 minutes from Lough Salt) dominate many guides around the best things to do in Donegal. There’s no real mystery why – it’s a special place.

The drive to and from Fanad Lighthouse is worth the trip alone, as you pass through the beautifully quaint countryside that leads to it.

Standing proudly between Lough Swilly and sandy Mulroy Bay, Fanad Head Lighthouse has been voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world.

The whole craggy coastal area that surrounds the lighthouse is just out of this world.

Sit up on the stone wall to the left of the lighthouse and switch off for a while. Soak up the sounds of the ocean and bask in the beauty of one Ireland’s most spectacular corners.

8. Ballymastocker Bay

ballymastocker beach

Photo by Peter Krocka/shutterstock

Ballymastocker Bay (22 minutes from Fanad) is a superb Blue Flag beach, and it’s our final stop for day two of our road trip.

Once voted the 2nd most beautiful beach in the world by the Observer Magazine, it offers tremendous views out towards the Inishowen Peninsula.

When you’re finished here, take the short spin to Portsalon Beach and have a ramble or just kick-back and take it all in.

9. Glamping by the Beach

glamping in donegal

Photo via Portsalon Luxury Camping

You’ll be relieved to know that you’re a short 10-minute drive from our final stop of the day. At this stage, you should be well and truly wrecked, but content that you’ve filled your day with a tonne of exploring.

Grab a bite to eat in the Pier Restaurant (7-minute drive from where you’re staying) and get back to enjoy your unique bed for the night.

Tonight, you’re glamping in Portsalon Luxury Camping, which is nestled on a hillside and enjoys spectacular views of Lough Swilly, Mulroy Bay, Knockalla mountain and the Inishowen Peninsula.

Kick-back in a hammock and listen to the crackle of the fire from your wood-burning stove.

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John Duke

Monday 4th of April 2022

Morning Keith O Hara I have been looking at your 18 days tour of Ireland I am arriving on the 14th April at Rosslare can I start my tour on day 2 I am driving a small camper van can you tell me about camp sites on my around please and do I have to book or just turn up my name is John Duke

Keith O'Hara

Wednesday 6th of April 2022

Hey John! You'll find campsites in most counties along that trip. The best way to do it is to just give it a Google and then suss out a spot with good reviews (I've never stayed in a campsite in Ireland, so I wouldn't like to lead you astray). In terms of booking. I'd recommend doing so if you're visiting during the busier months of the year, like summer. I hope this helps!

Julie

Tuesday 11th of January 2022

This was a great trip to read through. I understand how tired you are after writing so much - my husband and I are coming to Ireland from the U.S. in May 2022 for 3 weeks, and I've been planning everything myself for many months. Lots of great suggestions for places to visit, things we shouldn't miss, etc. Also, many of the things you suggested are already part of our plans, so it made me feel like I had done a good job! Thanks for all of the great help - we can't wait for the trip to begin!

Jan

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

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.

Akshay Bansal

Tuesday 14th of January 2020

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.

Uli Moissidis

Sunday 11th of August 2019

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

Keith

Monday 12th of August 2019

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.

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