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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.