Take guides to the best things to do in Donegal with a pinch of salt (yep, including this one).
There’s an absolute bounty of Donegal tourist attractions and it’s almost impossible to label any one of them as the ‘best’.
In this guide, we’ve taken the most popular places to visit in Donegal (along with several ‘hidden’ gems) and popped them together for you in an easy-to-browse guide.
At the end, we’ve also included a Google Map with hundreds of Donegal attractions plotted that makes it easy to find places to go.
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.
We’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
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.
2. Beaches galore
There’s some outstanding beaches in Donegal and, while many get packed out during the summer months, most are reasonably quiet throughout the rest of the year.
From the hidden gem that is Tramore near Dunfanaghy to the well-trodden shores of Marble Hill, here are a few of our favourite sandy stretches:
- Killahoey Beach
- Carrickfinn Beach
- Five Finger Strand
- Ballymastocker Bay
- Kinnagoe Bay
- Pollan Bay
- Tullagh Bay
- Buncrana Beach
- Downings Beach
- Marble Hill
- Silver Strand
- Tra na Rossan
- Rossnowlagh Beach
- Culdaff Beach
3. The Inishowen 100
The Inishowen 100 is arguably one of the most scenic drives in Ireland. This is a 160km scenic drive that loops around the windswept Inishowen Peninsula.
The route takes in many of popular Donegal attractions (like Mamore Gap) 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.
4. Hikes and walks galore
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:
- Mount Errigal
- Glenveagh National Park walks
- Horn Head
- Inishowen Head Loop
- Ards Forest Park
- New Boyeeghter Bay trail
- Glenevin Waterfall Walk
5. Glenveagh National Park
Glenveagh National Park is home to 16,000 hectares of perfection. For those looking to get a lungful of fresh air, there are several Glenveagh National Park 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.
You can also drop into Glenveagh Castle when you visit and grab a cup of coffee in the cafe on the grounds, if you fancy.
6. Grianan of Aileach
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!
7. Charming towns and villages
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. Here are our favourites:
- Donegal Town
8. Fanad Lighthouse
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.
Once voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world, you can either take a guided tour or admire it from afar (you can park next to the viewpoint).
9. 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.
If you’re looking for educational and fun things to do in Donegal for families, this is a great option.
10. Ards Forest Park
Ards Forest Park is another one of those places to visit in Donegal that tends to get overlooked quite a bit, which is a shame.
Why?! Well, there’s 9 (yes, 9!) different trails here to ramble along. Over the course of your stroll, you’ll find:
- Sand dunes
- Salt marshes
- Saltwater lakes
- Rock face and, of course, lots of gorgeous woodland
11. Malin Head
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.
It’s also one of the more notable places to see the Northern Lights in Ireland during certain conditions.
12. Assaranca Waterfall
Next up is Assaranca Waterfall. You’ll find this peach of a spot 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. Murder Hole Beach
You’ll often hear Boyeeghter Strand near Melmore Head referred to as ‘Murder Hole Beach‘. Very sinister altogether!
This is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland. 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).
14. Dunree Fort
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.
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!
15. Donegal’s ‘Hidden’ Waterfall
The secret waterfall in Donegal, as it’s often called, is one of few Donegal attractions that comes with a lot of safety warnings.
You’ll find the hidden waterfall on the Slieve League peninsula on the coast at Largy village, between Killybegs and Kilcar.
Visiting here poses a real risk to your safety and you should only visit if you understand the tide times (see our guide to finding it).
16. The Caves of Maghera
Maghera Strand is wild – wild in the best possible sense. It’s exactly as nature intended. Pure. Raw. Natural. Beauty. It’s also home to several caves.
You’ll find the Maghera Caves beneath Slievetooey mountain and some of the 20 caves are accessible when tides are low from Maghera Strand.
However, 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.
17. Glenevin Waterfall
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 Thailand.
There’s a tropical and almost prehistoric feel to it and I mean that in the best possible sense. 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).
18. Glengesh Pass
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.
It you visit, make sure to drive slowly and to keep an eye out for walkers and cyclists.
19. Arranmore Island
Ireland’s islands don’t get half the credit that they deserve. One of the more popular islands is 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.
20. Visit Donegal Castle
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).
Tip: Doe Castle near Dunfanagy is much less accessible than Donegal Castle, but it’s worth seeing if you’re nearby
21. Tory Island
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. Glencolmcille Folk Village
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. 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.
23. Knockamany Bens and alpacas
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 their very own alpaca as a guide.
24. Doon Fort
Doon Fort is arguably the most unique fort in Ireland. That’s saying a lot, considering the hefty competition from the likes of Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór
You’ll find it finely plonked on an 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 the fort and how to get to it in our guide to Doon Fort.
25. Horn Head
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 (especially if you head off on one of the walks), 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.
26. Doagh Famine Village
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.
27. Quirky accommodation
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:
- 7 of the finest spa hotels in Donegal
- 11 brilliant hotels in Donegal near a beach
- The best luxury stays and 5 star hotels in Donegal
- 17 quirky places to go glamping in Donegal
- 11 scenic places to go camping in Donegal
- 21 of the most unique Airbnbs in Donegal
28. Surf and strolls in Bundoran
The lively little seaside town of Bundoran is known and loved by surfers the island over. If you fancy trying your hand at surfing, you can take to the waves with a number of surf schools in the area that’ll show you the ropes.
If you just fancy a stroll, grab a coffee from the town and then head for a saunter along Tullan Strand. This a lovely little spot (if the weather isn’t mental) to stretch the legs.
While you’re there, tackle some of the many other things to do in Bundoran or nip into one of the restaurants in Bundoran for a bite to eat. This is a handy option if you’re searching for things to do in Donegal with a group.
29. Lough Salt
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/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.
Cross the road and climb up it. The 360 view you’ll be treated to is just out of this world.
Donegal attractions on a map
So, we have the Google Map above ‘locked’. This isn’t ideal, I know – but here’s why we’ve done it (it takes seconds to access):
- If you sign up (free), we can show you relevant, personalised ads on our website
- This costs you nothing, but it helps us get a fairer price from advertisers
- By doing this, you’re helping us pay the bills (we’re hugely grateful for any support)
The Google Map above is packed with everything from walks and hikes to often-missed viewpoints, beaches, forests and things to do in Donegal for families.
It’s all colour coded and it’s very handy if you’re visiting the county and you’re looking to find places to visit around you.
What Donegal tourist attractions have we missed?
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.
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!!! 👏🍀🇮🇪
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
Wednesday 2nd of June 2021
Cheers Nichola! Glad you found it useful. Have a lovely (and hopefully sunny.....) trip later this month!
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
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!
Saturday 6th of June 2020
Keith, there will be a new one to add now. Check out the new water activies in Moville!!!??