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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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Adrian Scullion

Tuesday 29th of November 2022

We are planning for a three week trip using your 18 day guide which has been really useful. We will be travelling in our 7.2m Motorhome. Are there any roads on the route that you think we should avoid. Thanks Adrian and Sheila


Thursday 29th of September 2022

How many miles in total?

Mark Vanstone

Wednesday 24th of August 2022

Great guide Keith - we are planning a 10 day trip in a motorhome with our dog Max, I don;t see anything related to some of the locations as to whether they are dog friendly or not e.g. if a visitor attraction do they let dogs in or if beaches are you allowed to walk your dog on it (or between certain dates only) etc...I understand you may not have a dog but any guidance you can provide would be well received - thanks

Kim Medcalf

Wednesday 17th of August 2022

Looks like a great itinerary, thank you. Can you tell me the total average number of km a person would drive on this trip? I am trying to get an idea of what gas would cost. We would rent a small car. Thanks


Saturday 16th of July 2022

Loftus House is closed while it’s being turned into a luxury hotel.

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