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29 Best Things To Do In Donegal In 2024 (Hidden Gems And Tourist Favourites)

29 Best Things To Do In Donegal In 2024 (Hidden Gems And Tourist Favourites)

This guide to the best things to do in Donegal is packed with places that I’ve been to 10+ times over the years and that I’m very confident you’ll love.

You’ll find the tourist favourites, like the towering Slieve League Cliffs, along with many of the best places to visit in Donegal for first-time-visitors.

And you’ll also discover hiddenish gems, like Ards Forest Park, that many who visit Donegal tend to miss.

This guide on what to do in Donegal is a collection of places that I’ve visited many times over the last 35 years and that I plan on visiting many more times in the years to come.

The best things to do in Donegal

This guide to the various things to do in Donegal is in no particular order as such, aside from the number one spot – Sliabh Liag!

I’ve been to all of the places to visit in Donegal listed below and can vouch for each being well worth a look! Dive on in!

1. The Sliabh Liag Cliffs

Slieve League

Photos via Shutterstock

You’ll often see the mighty Slieve League Cliffs reign supreme in many guides to the best things to do in Donegal, and it’s no surprise why – the views from here on a clear day are out of this world.

The cliffs reach a height of 1,972 feet/601 meters, which makes them nearly 3 times higher than the Cliffs of Moher and almost twice the height of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

From the top of the Sliabh Liag Cliffs, you’ll be treated to views out across Donegal Bay and all the way to Sligo and beyond.

Visitor tip: In the peak season, only those with limited mobility can drive up to Slieve League. If you don’t fancy the walk (steep and takes around 30 minutes) you can park at the visitor centre and take the shuttle!

2. The Inishowen 100

Mamore Gap 

Photos via Shutterstock

The Inishowen 100 is arguably one of the most scenic drives in Ireland. This is a 160km route loops around the windswept Inishowen Peninsula.

It takes in many of popular Donegal attractions (like Mamore Gap and Five Finger Strand) and it’ll have you ooohing and ahhing from start to finish.

You’ll want to allow at least 4 to 5 hours to complete the Inishowen 100 drive as you’ll be hopping out often.

Visitor tip: Make sure to take the short walk in to see Glenevin Waterfall. There’s also a handy spot for a coffee with a view at Fort Dunree!

3. Malin Beg Beach

Malin Beg

Photos via Shutterstock

There are some outstanding beaches in Donegal, but the one I find myself returning to the most is Malin Beg Beach (AKA ‘Silver Strand’).

You’ll find it finely plonked at the tip of the Slieve League Peninsula near Glencolmcille. When you arrive, you’ll park up in an elevated area, giving you a good eyeful of the horse-shoe-shaped-cliffs.

From there, you have to take 174 (yes, 174) steps down to the golden sand below. Few Donegal attractions are as enjoyable to visit in the off-seasons as you’ll regularly have the whole place to yourself.

Fancy seeing more Donegal beaches? Carrickfinn Beach, Marble Hill, Kinnagoe Bay, , Ballymastocker Bay and Killahoey Beach, Pollan Bay, Tullagh BayBuncrana Beach, Downings Beach,Tra na Rossan ,Rossnowlagh Beach and Culdaff Beach are worth a visit, too!

4. Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh National Park

Photos via Shutterstock

Glenveagh National Park is home to 16,000 hectares of perfection and it’s one of the best places to visit in Donegal if you’re looking to stretch the legs.

Located a 25-minute drive from Letterkenny Town, it’s Ireland’s second larges park and it’s home to a waterfall, pristine lakes, rugged mountains and Glenveagh Castle, which was built between 1867 – 1873.

For those looking to get a lungful of fresh air, there are several walks you can choose from. One of the most popular walks here is the Derrylahan Nature Trail.

It’s short enough (takes a little under an hour to complete) and it offers brilliant views of the beautiful Glenveagh Valley.

Visitor tip: If you visit during the summer months you can rent bikes on-site and spin around the park!

5. Grianan of Aileach

Grianan of Aileach

Photos via Shutterstock

An Grianan of Aileach is a hillfort that sits on top of the 801 ft high Greenan Mountain on the Inishowen Peninsula.

This stone fort dates back to the 1st century and it’s situated 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 everywhere from Lough Swilly to Lough Foyle.

If you’re after places to visit nearby, there’s plenty of things to do in Letterkenny to keep you amused!

6. Glenevin Waterfall

Glenevin Waterfall

Photo left and bottom right: Gareth Wray. Top right: Shutterstock

I’ve always thought that Glenevin Waterfall is a little bit like something you’d expect to find on some remote island off the coast of South East Asia.

You’ll find the waterfall on the Inishowen Peninsula, not far from the village of Clonmany.

To get to it you need to walk through Glenevin Valley (the walk to the waterfall is handy and is around 1 km). The trail ends at the base of the 40-ft tall waterfall.

Visitor tip: This is one of the stops on the Inishowen 100 – you’ve heaps of things to do in Donegal a short spin from here!

7. Glengesh Pass

Glengesh Pass

Photos via Shutterstock

The bendy road at Glengesh Pass is one of the most unique roads in Ireland. It connects the towns of Glencolmcille and Ardara and it’s a joy to spin along.

It’s best approached from the Glencolmcille side as you can pull in at the viewing point and then head on down through the valley.

After taking in the view, make your way down along the high mountain pass. You can then do the looped drive that takes in the likes of Malin Beg, Assaranca Waterfall and more.

Drive with care: Walkers and cyclists use this road – always drive with care and vigilance

8. Hikes and walks galore

Mount Errigal

Photos via Shutterstock

Arguably some of the best things to do in Donegal involve popping on a pair of walking shoes and heading off along one of the county’s endless trails.

Now, for some of the walks in Donegal, you won’t need a huge amount of planning while for others, like Muckish, you’ll need decent hiking experience. Here are some of our favourites:

9. Fanad Lighthouse

Fanad Lighthouse

Photos via Shutterstock

You’ll find Fanad Head Lighthouse stood proudly between Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay on the Fanad Peninsula.

The drive to and from Fanad Lighthouse is worth the trip alone, as you pass through some beautifully quaint countryside to reach it.

The working lighthouse, which was nce voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world, dates back to 1817 and has been open to visitors since 2016.

Good for those with limited mobility: You can park right next to the lighthouse and get an eyeful of it without ever leaving the car!

10. Ards Forest Park 

Ards Forest Park

Photos courtesy of Gareth Wray Photograph

I’d argue that Ards Forest Park is one of the best places to visit in Donegal, but for some reason it gets overlooked by many.

Home to 1200 impressive acres, Ards encompasses saltwater lakes, beaches, sand dunes and plenty of gorgeous woodland.

There are 9 different walking trails at Ards and they range both in difficulty and length (from 1 – 4 hours).

My favourite ramble: The Sand Dune trail is a handy, 1km/1.5 hour liner trail that takes in great views of Back Strand and Clonmass Bay

11. Malin Head

Malin Head

Photos via Shutterstock

At Malin Head there’s no messing and no fancy visitor centres – just the Donegal coast in all its glory.

This is the most northerly point on the island of Ireland but, while it attracts the crowds, many leave feeling underwhelmed.

If you plan on visiting, it’s worth getting a sense of what there is to do (see here) before you arrive. There’s a nice coastal ramble and there’s several historical sites to have a nosey at.

You’ll find toilets in the car park along with a little coffee cart. Just keep in mind that, as a visited here is listed as one of the best things to do in Donegal in many tourist guidebooks, it gets very busy during summer.

Aurora Borealis: It’s also one of the more notable places to see the Northern Lights in Ireland during certain conditions.

12. Assaranca Waterfall

Assaranca Waterfall

Photos via Shutterstock

You’ll find Assaranca Waterfall a stone’s throw from Ardara and it’s a handy one to pair up with a visit to Maghera Beach, as it’s only 1km away.

One of the beauties of Assaranca is how accessible it is – the parking area is on the side of the road and the waterfall is right next to it.

It’s most impressive after heavy rainfall and it’s a handy option for those of you wondering what to do in Donegal with someone that has limited mobility (it’s about 20 feet from the parking area).

13. Boyeeghter Bay

Murder Hole Beach

Photos via Shutterstock

You’ll often hear Boyeeghter Strand near Melmore Head referred to as ‘Murder Hole Beach‘. Very sinister altogether!

When the tide is out, as is the case in the photo above, there are two beaches which then turn into one when the tide rolls back in.

In early 2022, a brand new trail and car park launched at the beach which makes getting to it a whole lot easier (info here).

Warning: There are very dangerous currents here. Never enter the water.

14. The Caves of Maghera

Maghera Beach

Photos via Shutterstock

Maghera Strand is wild – wild in the best possible sense. It’s exactly as nature intended. Pure. Raw. Natural. Beauty.

You’ll find the Maghera Caves beneath Slievetooey mountain and some of the 20 caves are accessible when tides are low from Maghera Strand.

The beach is home to pristine white sand and, as you stroll, you’ll be surrounded by towering cliffs on either side.

This is another of several places to visit in Donegal in this guide that comes with a warning – only enter if you can read tide times, as they pose a real risk to your safety.

15. Glencolmcille Folk Village

Glencolmcille Folk Village

Photos courtesy of Martin Fleming via Failte Ireland

The Glencolmcille Folk Village is a thatched-roof replica of a rural Irish village that offers a glimpse into what daily life was like in Ireland in years gone.

Each of the cottages in the village is an exact replica of a dwelling from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

It’s perched in a scenic spit overlooking Glen Bay Beach in south-west Donegal. You can wander through the village at your leisure or take a guided tour.

If you’re after some of the best things to do in Donegal that offer an immersive insight into what ‘old Ireland’ was like, you won’t go wrong here.

16. Knockamany Bens and alpacas

Knockamany Bens

Photos via Shutterstock

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Donegal when the weather is cat, get yourself to the magnificent Inishowen Peninsula.

There are plenty of different places where you can admire a view without leaving the car. One of those places can be found on the Lagg road that leads to Malin Head.

When the road along the coast starts to rise around the Knockamany Bens, pull in at the car park. You’ll be treated to the view above on a clear day.

If you’re wondering what to do in Donegal with kids (or with animal lovers), the  Wild Atlantic Alpaca tour is based here, also. Visitors can can navigate the hills of Donegal with your very own alpaca as a guide.

Tourist tip: Although the photo on the left above looks like it was taken by a drone, that isn’t the case. You’ll get this view right from the car park.

17. Wild Ireland

You’ll find Wild Ireland in Burnfoot, a handy 15-minute drive from Derry City and less than an hour from the mighty Malin Head.

The sanctuary is one of the newest tourist attractions in Donegal, having only opened its doors to the public in 2019.

It’s here that you’ll find an ancient woodland that’s inhabited by some very exotic and wildlife, like brown bears, wolves, red deer, monkeys, wild boar and lynx.

Regarded as one of the best things to do in Donegal for families, Wild Ireland rescues and rehabilitates animals needing sanctuary while working to restore the natural environment through native planting.

18. Dunree Fort

Fort Dunree

Photos via Shutterstock

Dunree Fort and its military museum is the perfect spot to absorb some history along with a serious bit of scenery.

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

There are several weather-beaten barracks that you can have a gander at and, if you fancy, you can listen/watch an audiovisual presentation.

Tourist tip: If you’re exploring Inishowen and then heading to the Causeway Coastal Route after, take the Lough Foyle Ferry – it’s a very scenic time-saver!

19. Donegal’s ‘Hidden’ Waterfall

Largy Waterfall

Photos via Shutterstock

The secret waterfall in Donegal, as it’s often called, is located along the Slieve League peninsula on the coast at Largy village, between Killybegs and Kilcar.

To get to it, you need to follow a trail through a field and then continue along some very slippy stones before arriving to the opening.

This is one of several Donegal attractions that comes with a lot of safety warnings. If the tide comes in when you’re here, you’ll have nowhere to go. I’ve heard of people breaking arms and ankles on the walk to the waterfall.

Warning: Visiting this waterfall poses a very real risk to your safety. If you can’t read tide times, don’t even think about it

20. Visit Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

If you like to plan your trip off TripAdvisor reviews scores, then a visit to our next stop is one of the best things to do in Donegal.

The ancient Donegal Castle was constructed by the O’Donnell chieftains during the 15th Century. Then it was burnt to the ground and rebuilt in the 16th century by Sir Basil Brooke.

If you fancy having a look around inside, tours leave every hour and they last for 30 minutes during the summer months.

There’s also plenty of fun things to do in Donegal Town, if you fancy exploring more of the area while your there (there’s also lots of great restaurants in Donegal Town if you fancy a feed).

21. Tory Island

Tory Island

Photos via Shutterstock

Tory Island is one of the more unique places to visit in Donegal. It’s also the most remote inhabited island in Ireland!

You’ll find it around 14.5 km off the coast of Donegal where it’s home to a rugged landscape along with a number of archaeological and monastic sites.

The island’s remoteness has ensured that many of its ancient Irish traditions have remained intact. The most notable of these traditions is the appointment of a king of the island (also known as ‘Rí Thoraí’).

Those that visit can have a nosey around ancient sites, like the round tower that was used by monks to stay safe from Viking raids and explore the wild and beautiful landscape.

22. Horn Head 

Horn Head

Photos via Shutterstock

Horn Head is one of those places that tends to make you feel like the world has momentarily slipped off of its axis. 

The views, the fresh Atlantic air and the roar of the wind and waves combine to shock the senses all at once.

If you don’t fancy a ramble, there’s a nice looped drive from Dunfanaghy that’ll take you up to the viewing point above.

Horn Head is another of the many places to visit in Donegal that often gets missed. Grab some lunch in one of the restaurants in Dunfanaghy and tip up to the viewing point above after.

Tourist tip: If you visit Horn Head, take the spin to Marble Hill Strand and Doe Castle, after

23. Doagh Famine Village

Doagh Famine Village

Photos via Doagh Famine Village on FB

The Doagh Famine Village near Ballyliffin is the perfect destination for those looking for educational things to do in Donegal.

It’s here that you’ll discover the journey of an Irish family from the 18th century to the present day.

You’ll get an insight into Famine times, the long road to peace in Northern Ireland, the economic collapse and more.

If you’re looking for places to visit in Donegal that’ll immerse you with a rich storytelling experience, Doagh Famine Village is a must.

24. Surf and strolls in Bundoran

Bundoran Beach

Photos via Shutterstock

The lively little seaside town of Bundoran is known and loved by surfers the island over. However, if you don’t fancy a dip, there are plenty of other things to do in Bundoran while you’re here.

Grab a coffee (Foam Cafe is a good shout!) and then tackle the Rougey Cliff Walk – it starts at the Bundoran Tourist Office and takes around 45 minutes to finish.

Over the course of the trail, you’ll be treated to glorious coastal views. When you finish up, there are a handful of restaurants in Bundoran for a post-walk feed.

Fancy hitting the waves? Several surf schools, like Murf’s Surf School and Bundoran Surf Company, run surf lessons!

25. Lough Salt 

Lough Salt 

Photo left: Chris Hill. Others: Nomos Productions (via Failte Ireland)

One of the lesser-known places to visit in Donegal is Lough Salt – 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/right depending on which side you approach from.

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 grassy hill (here on Maps).

Cross the road and climb up it. The 360 view that you’ll be treated to is just out of this world. 

26. Charming towns and villages


Photos via Shutterstock

Before you decide on what to do in Donegal, it’s worth taking a bit of time to decided where you’ll base yourself on your Donegal road trip.

Some of the best places to visit in Donegal are the lovely little towns and villages that you’ll find dotted around the county. 

The ones I tend to stay in when visiting Donegal are DunfanaghyBuncrana, Downings and Portsalon. However, here are some others worth checking out:

27. Arranmore Island


Photos via Shutterstock

If you’re wondering what to do in Donegal that’ll take you away from the crowds, take a trip to Arranmore Island, located around 5 km off the coast.

You can explore the island by day and chill by an open turf fire and listen to some traditional Irish music in one of the island’s lively pubs by night.

There’s a lighthouse, plenty of trails and the kind of raw, unspoiled beauty that you’ll only find on a sparsely populated island.

28. Doon Fort

Doon Fort

Photos via Shutterstock

Now, although Doon Fort is one of the more interesting Donegal attractions, you can’t, from what I can tell, get near it anymore (you used to be able to rent kayaks).

Doon Fort is located on a little island in the centre of Loughadoon, not far from the little coastal villages of Narin and Portnoo and the buzzy village of Ardara.

It’s thought that the fort was once the residence of the O’Boyle Chieftains. Read more about the history of it in our guide to Doon Fort.

29. Quirky accommodation

Lough Eske Castle

Photos via Lough Eske on FB

There’s some excellent hotels in Donegal, regardless of whether you’re after a swanky night away or if you’re looking for family-friendly stays.

Some, like the Shandon, boast mighty views (from hot tubs!) while others, like Lough Eske, boast luxury throughout. Here are some guides to have a nosey at:

Donegal attractions on a map

Donegal map with attractions

What the map looks like

This map of the various things to do in Donegal takes 20 seconds to ‘unlock’ – it’s free, you just need to sign in.

The map is packed with everything from walks and hikes to often-missed viewpoints, beaches, forests and things to do in Donegal for families.

What Donegal tourist attractions have we missed?

Glengesh Pass

Photos via Shutterstock

I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant things to do in Donegal from the guide above.

If you have any places to visit in Donegal that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!

FAQs about places to see in Donegal

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What to do in Donegal with kids?’ to ‘What are unusual things to see in Donegal?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What are the best things to do in Donegal?

Visit Sliabh Liag, take the ferry to Arranmore, soak up the views at Horn Head, spin along the bendy road at Glengesh or visit Glenevin Waterfall.

What are the most unique places to visit in Donegal?

The ‘secret’ waterfall, Doon Fort, Glengesh Pass and Mamore Gap are some of the more unique places to go in Donegal.

We’re wondering what to do in Donegal in 1-day?

24 hours is a tiny amount of time to get around to the various Donegal tourist attractions. Your best bet is to pick a corner of the county and tackle that, e.g. stay in Inishowen and explore the peninsula.

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Thursday 30th of September 2021

Hi Keith, found this post enlightening. I’ve been over 7 trips & the Northwest has become my favorite. I’ll be taking my family over next summer, 2 grand boys in the mix so want them to be in love with Ireland as I am. They are not boys, 21 & 23 🥰 Your recommendations really fit the bill as to what I want them to experience. Thx I’ll try my best to plan the route we are staying in Inishowen for 1 week then traveling south to Galway, Doolin before giving them the Dublin experience. Can’t wait. Slainte!!! 👏🍀🇮🇪

nichola rafferty

Sunday 23rd of May 2021

Hey Keith Just come across your guide to Donegal and I’m fascinated! I grew up in Donegal ( Letterkenny) but moved away in my late teens ( many years ago now !) and reading your guide brings back many memories... and also you’ve mentioned places I didn’t know about ! I’m going back in June and this time I’m being a tourist, coming up through South Donegal in a campervan with my husband so I’m noting all your recommendations ( I’ve only a week so I think we might be back again !!) Keep up the great work thanks Nichola

Keith O'Hara

Wednesday 2nd of June 2021

Cheers Nichola! Glad you found it useful. Have a lovely (and hopefully sunny.....) trip later this month!

Elizabeth Doherty

Tuesday 11th of August 2020

Some great information there Keith!! North West Hiking and Hill Walking Tours does a guided hike up to the lakes in the Urris hills. Mamore Gap is in the Urris hills. It has the most spectacular views from the top. I did it last week and have some great photos ?

Gary Mc Donald

Saturday 1st of August 2020

Keith Really good one of the best things is An Port just outside Ardara. I think there is also a sea / coastal walk towards Slieve League. I think it was on 10 of the best walks in Ireland on lonely planet

Keith O'Hara

Tuesday 4th of August 2020

Thanks for the info Gary! I'll get this added in as soon as I get a chance! Enjoy the summer!

Majella brady

Saturday 6th of June 2020

Keith, there will be a new one to add now. Check out the new water activies in Moville!!!??

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