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
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
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
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 (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
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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.