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22 of the Best Things to do in Donegal on an Adventure-Packed 3-Day Road Trip (Full Itinerary)

An action-packed 3-day Donegal Itinerary

Day #2 – Cliffs, Forests and Castles

Set your alarm for nice and early on the morning of #DayTwo.

Tonight, we’ll be staying somewhere a little unique thanks to the folks at Portsalon Luxury Camping (#NotAdAd).

Fuel up with a good breakfast and hit the road.

Stop #1 – A 360 view of Donegal from Horn Head

Gweedore to Horn Head – 37 minutes drive

Our first stop of #DayTwo 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.

horn head donegal
Photo by Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

If you’d prefer to avoid the walk, the drive around Horn Head is also fantastic.

There are two viewing points that 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.

Stop #2 – Killahoey Beach

Horn Head to Killahoey Beach – 13 minute drive

You’ll hear Killahoey Beach often referred to as Dunfanaghy beach – it’s a gorgeous Blue Flag beach that’s popular for watersports.

Stop off here, take the shoes and socks off and get a lungful of Atlantic air as you trudge along the shore.

Stop 3 – Ards Forest Park

Killahoey Beach to Ards Forest Park – 12-minute drive

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.

ards forest park donegal
Photo by Martin Fleming via Failte Ireland

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.

Stop 4 – Doe Castle

Ards Forest Park to Doe Castle – 13-minute drive

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.

doe castle donegal
Photo by Gardiner Mitchell
via Failte Ireland

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.

Stop 5 – The Loop around Tra Na Rossan

Doe Castle to Downings – 16-minute drive / Downings to Tra Na Rossan – 13-minute drive

I’ve tried and tried to find what this drive is called (maybe there’s no name for it) but I haven’t had any luck – if there is a name for it, let me know in the comments below and I’ll update the 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.

Wild Atlantic Beaches.

A post shared by Keith O’Hara ?? (@keith_ohara) on

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.

Stop 6 – Lunch at the Singing Pub

Tran a Rossan view to the Singing Pub – 6-minute drive

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.

Stop #7 – Lough Salt for an absolute peach of a view

The Singing Pub to Lough Salt – 20-minute drive

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.

lough salt donegal
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

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.

lough salt things to do donegal
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

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. 

Stop #8 – Fanad Head Lighthouse

Lough Salt to Fanad head – 40-minute drive

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.

Stop #9 – Ballymastocker Bay

Fanad Head to Ballymastocker Bay – 22-minute drive

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.

Ballymastocker Bay donegal
Photo by Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

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 #2 Wrap Up

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.

glamping in donegal
Photo via Portsalon Luxury Camping

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 woodburning stove.

Click ‘3’ below to check out day 3 of our Donegal road trip ?

Howaya!The purpose of this site is to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories.No spam. Clickbait. Or boll*x. Ever.Keith

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  1. Hey 😊 so me and 5 other friends are leaving for Sligo (sorry I said Donegal in the other message 😁). I’d appreciate if you could give us some advice on what we should see. Thank you in advance! I love your account!!

    • Hey,

      Sorry, I was away for a few nights – just catching this now.

      There’s a load of different things to do in Sligo, especially if you’re happy enough to get out and about and do a bit of walking and hiking.

      Here’s a guide I wrote a few weeks back to the best things to do in Sligo.

      If you get the weather for it, the Queen Maeve Trail, in particular, is incredible.

      Have a great trip.



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