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

Day 15. Portsalon to Derry

So, we’re on to our final lap of the Donegal stretch of our road trip as we move into day 15.

Just writing about Donegal has given me an itch to book a couple of nights there over the next few months!

If you can, get up early and enjoy the sunrise from your bed and then get on the road for 8.

1. Grianan of Aileach

Grianan of Aileach donegal
Photo by Tom Archer

If you stay in Portsalon, you’ll be an hour drive from our first stop of day 15. The Grianan of Aileach is a hillfort that sits on top of the 801 ft high Greenan Mountain on Inishowen.

According to these lads, the stone fort is said to date back to the 1st century on the site of an early Iron Age multivallate hillfort.

The drive up to Grianan of Aileach is worth the trip alone. When you reach the top you’ll be treated to a magnificent 360 view that takes in Lough Swilly, Lough Foyle and the gorgeous countryside of the Inishowen Peninsula.

2. Dunree Head

dunree fort military museum
Photo left: Lukassek. Right: Lucky Team Studio/shutterstock

Our second stop of the day (40-minute drive from Grianan of Aileach) takes us to Dunree Head to check out Dunree Fort and the military museum.

The Museum is positioned in a wonderful setting that overlooks Lough Swilly on the on the Inishowen Peninsula.

There are several weather-beaten barracks which you can have a gander at and if you fancy along with an audiovisual presentation.

3. Mamore Gap

mamore gap in donegal
Photo via Failte Ireland

If you’ve never visited Mamore Gap (15-minute drive from Dunree Head) before, then you’re in for a treat.

Found on the Inishowen Peninsula this immensely scenic drive twists and turns through the gap along a steep route.

It’s hard not to admire the sheep and cyclists battling their way up the steep hillsides as your car (mine did anyway) struggles against the incline.

Once you reach the summit of Mamore Gap it’ll immediately become evident why this is one of the best things to do in Donegal.

The view from the top is one of those scenes that paints itself upon your mind forever. Wild. Remote. Unspoiled. Mamore Gap will take your breath away.

4. Glenevin Waterfall

Glenevin Waterfall donegal
Photos by The Irish Road Trip

The first time I laid eyes upon Glenevin Waterfall (13-minute drive from our last stop) it mustered up images in my mind of the first Jurassic Park movie.

The waterfall looks like something that you’d find on a prehistoric island from a land that time forgot.

Once you’ve parked the car, you’re around a 15 minute walk away that’ll take you along a lovely pathway that’s surrounded by trees.

5. Malin Head

malin head
Photo by Lukassek (Shutterstock)

Next up is Malin Head. It’s a 30-minute drive from the waterfall so, when you’re ready, head off on your merry way.

After visiting Malin Head recently, the one thing that hit me, and that stuck with me long after my visit, was the sheer power of mother nature.

As I stood and gazed out at the jagged rocks that jutted from the water nearby, I was half deafened from the whistle of the gales that whipped over the Atlantic coupled with the sound of water clattering against rock.

There are several walks you can do here – the road walk to Banba’s Crown is roughly 12km and will take you around 5 hours depending on fitness levels.

6. Lunch in the Seaview Tavern

restaurant in the shandon

If you fancy a bit of a feed, take the handy 4-minute drive from Malin Head over to the Seaview Tavern.

Chill for a while and fuel up for a busy afternoon and evening ahead. There’s a good chunk of exploring left to be done today!

7. Kinnagoe Bay

kinnagoe bay donegal
Photo by Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

When you finish up eating, hit the road and take the 38-minute drive out to the beautiful Kinnagoe Bay.

We’ve visited many a great beach over the past few days, and this one is the icing on the cake. You can view the bay from the road above or take a walk down to the sand to give the legs a ‘wee stretch’.

8. Derry City Walls

derry city walls
Photo by Brian Morrison

Our next stop takes us out of Donegal (45-minute drive) and into the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland – Derry.

The walls were constructed between 1613-1618 as a defense against the early seventeenth-century settlers from England and Scotland.

They form a walkway around the inner city and provide a unique promenade to check out the layout of the original town. Spend some time walking the Walls of Derry for a stroll into a bit of rich Irish history.

9. The Free Derry Corner

free derry corner
Photo by Louise Price via Wikipedia Commons

You’re a 2-minute stroll away from one of our last stops of the day – the Free Derry Corner. This is a now-iconic landmark in the Bogside neighbourhood of Derry,

The corner, and the surrounding streets, were the scene of the Battle of the Bogside in 1969 and Bloody Sunday in 1972.

Please do take some time to read about both of the above events. It was first painted in January 1969 and has seen many iterations since.

10. Dinner in Derry

pint of guinness kilkea bar
A very creamy pint

I’m going to recommend that you head to the Sooty Olive Restaurant – mainly because I love the name, but also because the reviews for the place are through the roof.

Get in, order food, and spend some time looking back over what has been a crazy two weeks!

11. Portstewart for the night

Portstewart Town
Photo by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

When you’ve finished eating and chilling, tip on to Portstewart. It’s a 50-minute drive away, which isn’t ideal, but it’ll set us up nicely for the following day.

I’m going to recommend that you stay at 17 Seahaven Court for the night. Check-in to your room and if you fancy a nightcap, walk a short 10 minutes to the Anchorage Inn.

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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