A Guide To The Best Things To Do In Buncrana (Beaches, Drives, Breakfast + More)

things to do in buncrana in donegal
Photo left: Hemi Photography. Right: Tank & Skinny's

If you’re in search of the best things to do in Buncrana in Donegal, you’ve landed in the right place.

There are few corners of Ireland as finely situated for a weekend of adventure as the mighty little town of Buncrana.

Sitting on the lapping shores of Lough Swilly on the Inishowen Peninsula and gazing off towards the hazy hills of the Fanad Peninsula, Buncrana is a lovely little coastal town only a few miles from Derry.

In the guide below, you’ll discover a heap of things to do in Buncrana and plenty more places to visit nearby!

Things to do in Buncrana in Donegal (and nearby)

fort dunree military museum
Photo by Ballygally View Images/shutterstock

So, just a quick note, although the first few things listed below are in Buncrana itself, many of the others aren’t, which is why you’ll see ‘X minutes from Buncrana’ written.

There are several brilliant things to do in Buncrana, but there are endless places to visit within easy reach of the town, which is why this is a combo of the two!

1. Kick-start your visit with coffee and something tasty from Tank & Skinny’s

frank and skinny's buncrana donegal
Photo via Tank & Skinny’s on FB

If you’re looking for things to do in Buncrana to kick-start your day with a very tasty bang, get yourself to Tank and Skinny’s!

Located just a stone’s throw from the shores of Lough Swilly on Swilly Road, Tank and Skinny’s is a bright and stylish café/bistro with gorgeous views of the landscape beyond.

Treat yourself to a fluffy pancake or an indulgent breakfast burrito. Or whatever that thing is on the right in the photo above!

2. Followed up with a ramble along Lisfannon Beach

Lisfannon beach buncrana
Photo by Hemi Photography/shutterstock

A ramble along Lisfannon Beach regularly tops guides to the best things to do in Buncrana, and for good reason – a sunrise or sunset stroll here is the bees-knees!

Located south of Buncrana in Donegal, Lisfannon Beach’s arcing boomerang shape rewards visitors with wonderful panoramas of a unique setting.

A leisurely stroll gives off views of nearby Inch Island and the coastal town of Rathmullen further back. It also forms part of a Natural Heritage Area, serving as an important wetland home for many species of water birds. 

3. Spend a few hours exploring Fort Dunree Military Museum (15-minutes away)

dunree fort military museum
Photo left: Lukassek. Right: Lucky Team Studio/shutterstock

Forts don’t come much more picturesque than this. Just a short 15-minute drive from Buncrana, Fort Dunree is perched on a rocky promontory overlooking Lough Swilly.

It was initially built to guard against potential French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. These days it serves as a museum, housing an enthralling display of military memorabilia, artefacts and large 20th Century coastal artillery.

If you’re in search of interesting things to do in Buncrana, take a tour of the fort and then head for a stroll – the views from here on a clear day are excellent! 

4. The soak up views of Lough Swilly at Dunree Head

fort dunree military museum
Photo by Ballygally View Images/shutterstock

Once you’ve finished devouring all that military history, take a moment to soak up the stunning views from Dunree Head (and get an idea of why they built the fort there in the first place!).

The panoramic views across Lough Swilly are spectacular and there are plenty of vantage points to capture that perfect view, such as the hill behind Fort Dunree and the old lighthouse.

5. Spend the night somewhere unique

secret cottage ardara
Photos via Booking.com

If you fancy basing yourself in the area, nip into our guide to the best accommodation and  hotels in Buncrana for a guide on where to stay.

Buncrana is home to a clatter of quirky Airbnbs, luxurious boutique guesthouses and a handful of hotels that’ll make the perfect base for your adventure.

6. Brave the waves with Inishowen Surf School

surfing on lahinch
Photo by Brian Morrison via Tourism Ireland

The ragged, wind-whipped Donegal coast is on the receiving end of some of Ireland’s most consistent waves, making it perfect to give surfing a go.

And while it might not get the sun of California or the Gold Coast, the long stretches of golden sandy beaches and dedicated instructors means that you’ll be safe hands when you brave the waters. 

The Inishowen Peninsula is home to many of the best beaches in Donegal so, if you’re in search of adventurous things to do in Buncrana, surfing is well worth considering. 

7. And then warm the bones with a post-adventure feed at the Drift Inn

the drift inn buncrana
Photos via the Drift Inn on FB

A functioning railway station up until 1956, the Drift Inn has kept its charming stone-cut façade and now serves up a mighty feed that’ll keep you well satiated.

And despite its train-based past, the rustic interior has a deliberately nautical theme, just to add the Drift’s many quirks. You’ll get plenty of beer and craic here too, as well as live music nights. 

8. Followed by a post-adventure pint in one of the many mighty pubs in Buncrana

blessington pub

But the Drift Inn isn’t the only choice in town if you fancy a nice creamy pint to polish off a day spent conquering some of the best things to do in Buncrana.

From O’Flaherty’s down to the Atlantic Bar, Upper Main St is packed with rather absurd number of pubs and bars for its humble size. And check out the unlikely Art Deco stylings of Oscar’s before nipping in for a pint of plain.

9. Take a spin out to Glenevin Waterfall (20-minutes away)

Glenevin Waterfall donegal
Photos by The Irish Road Trip

One of a number of magical spots in the area, the spectacular Glenevin Waterfall cascades over black rock from a height of 40ft.

Just a 20-minute drive from Buncrana, the soothing sound of the tumbling fresh mountain water is just one reason to head here.

The meandering walk through the Glenevin Waterfall Park is lovely too, with lots of scenic spots along the way. 

10. Drive the Inishowen 100

mamore gap donegal
Photos by Ondrej Prochazka/Shutterstock

Want to really get to know the Inishowen Peninsula? Taking its name from its approximate distance in miles, the Inishowen 100 is a scenic drive around the outer edges of the stunning peninsula.

Passing through a clutch of gorgeous spots – including the wild coast of Malin Head and Mamore Gap’s stunning alpine views – this is a real treat for first time visitors.

11. Grab a coffee at Banba Cafe and explore Malin Head

Cafe Banba at Malin Head
Photos via Cafe Banba on Facebook

Just a 40-minute drive from Buncrana, Malin Head is Ireland’s most northernly point – straight away a pretty cool thing to say you’ve done!

Rugged and unspoilt, it’s also a mighty spot for views and contains a bunch of interesting caves, coves and historical points to explore.

Grab a coffee from Café Banba’s mobile espresso bar and get on your way. There’s also a toilet and parking on-site.

12. Step back in time at Doagh Famine Village (30-minutes away)

Doagh Famine Village donegal
Photo via Doagh Famine Village on Facebook

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Buncrana, discover a thought-provoking window into the past at Doagh Famine Village.

Built around their original thatched dwellings, the walkthrough museum takes you to 1840’s Ireland and depicts the hardships of life with honesty and humour.

Less than 30 minutes from Buncrana, it’s well worth a visit, if not just to appreciate how far we’ve come.

Buncrana in Donegal: What places to visit have we missed?

I’m sure that we’ve unintentionally missed out on some brilliant things to do in Buncrana in Donegal. If you have a place to recommend, let us know in the comments section below.

And, don’t forget, if you fancy staying in the area, hop into our guide to Buncrana hotels and accommodation for central places to stay with great reviews!


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