Day #14 – Cliffs, Forests and Castles
Set your alarm for nice and early.
I know I’m like a broken record saying this at this point, but you’ve a sensational day ahead.
Fuel up with a good breakfast and hit the road.
Here’s everything you need to know about day 14!
- A panoramic view of Donegal from Horn Head
- A ramble through Ards Forest Park before heading on to Killahoey Beach
- A castle that looks like something from a Disney movie
- The awe-inspiring Atlantic Drive
- Lunch in the Singing Pub
- Lough Salt for a view that’ll give you goosebumps
- Fanad Lighthouse
- Glamping by the sea
- Hiking gear
- Rain gear
Day #14 Stop #1 – A 360 view of Donegal from Horn Head
Gweedore to Horn Head – 37-minute drive (Leave Gweedore at 8, arrive at Horn Head for 8:37)
Our first stop of Day 14 takes us up to Horn Head, close to the little town of Dunfanaghy.
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.
For those that want to walk it, John O’Dwyer provides a fantastic guide in the Irish Times here.
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.
Day 14 Stop #2 – Killahoey Beach
Horn Head to Killahoey Beach – 13 minute drive (leave Horn Head at 9:47, arrive to the beach for 10:00)
You’ll hear Killahoey Beach 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.
Day 14 Stop #3 – Ards Forest Park
Killahoey Beach to Ards Forest Park – 12-minute drive (leave the beach at 10:30, arrive to the forest for 10:42)
Our next stop is to Ards Forest Park 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 ring forts together with a holy well and a mass rock.
Grab a coffee in Ards Coffee Tree and head off on your merry way.
Day 14 Stop #4 – Doe Castle
Ards Forest Park to Doe Castle – 13-minute drive (leave the forest at 11:50, arrive to Doe Castle for 12:03)
Doe Castle 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.
Fancy checking out more of Ireland’s castles? Here are 7 of the best medieval castles Ireland has to offer.
Day 14 Stop #5 – The Loop around Tra Na Rossan
Doe Castle to Downings – 16-minute drive / Downings to Tra Na Rossan – 13-minute drive (leave the castle at 12:35, arrive to Tra Na Rossan for 13:05)
The drive we’re about to do is called the Atlantic Drive (thanks Frances-anne Gallagher for pointing it out in our 3-day Donegal Road Trip Guide).
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.
Day 14 Stop #6 – Lunch at the Singing Pub
Tran a Rossan view to the Singing Pub – 6-minute drive (leave the viewing area at 13:40, arrive to the pub for 13:46).
If you land here 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.
Day 14 Stop #7 – Lough Salt for an absolute peach of a view
The Singing Pub to Lough Salt – 20-minute drive (leave the pub at 14:40, arrive to Lough Salt for 15:00)
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 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.
Day 14 Stop #8 – Fanad Head Lighthouse
Lough Salt to Fanad head – 40-minute drive (leave Lough Salt at 15:40, arrive to Fanad for 16:20)
You’ll see Fanad Head Lighthouse 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.
Fancy exploring Cork, Kerry, Galway, and Mayo over the course of a 5-day road trip? Here’s our full 5-day road trip guide.
Day 14 Stop #9 – Ballymastocker Bay
Fanad Head to Ballymastocker Bay – 22-minute drive (leave Fanad at 16:40, arrive to the bay for 17:02)
Ballymastocker Bay 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.
Day 14 Stop #10 – Glamping by the Beach
You’re a 9-minute drive from your accommodation for the night – you should arrive here for around 18:00)
At this stage of the day 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.
Where the road trip will take us on day 15 (panoramic views, forts and loads more)
Our 15th day of exploring Ireland takes us onto the absolutely gorgeous Inishowen Peninsula, before making our way towards Derry.
Day 15 offers a solid mix of natural beauty and history (and, of course, food, coffee and a sneaky pint or three…)
Click into page 16 below to have a gander.