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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 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.

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Jan Garvey

Thursday 25th of April 2024

We did your tour last year, we thought you being Irish and living in Ireland you would have more knowledge of Ireland than us. We followed your Itinerary to the letter only choosing different accommodation from time to time. This tour was the best ! I would recommend it every day of the week. The views, the walks, the people, I will remember this adventure forever, I'm so glad I found your page. Thank you for your hard work it is very much appreciated, and for anyone out there, do It ! trust the Itinerary you won't be disappointed its amazing.

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!


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!


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.

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