Why Donegal’s ‘the coolest place on the planet’ | Take your automobile to Ireland

Kayak alongside the coast to see Slieve League’s spectacular cliffs.
Photograph: Gareth Mccormack/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Ireland’s most rugged and ravishing county has been a much-loved retreat for artists, bohemians, outdoorsy varieties and holidaying households for many years, nevertheless it’s solely now that the remainder of the world is waking as much as the charms of traversing Donegal by automobile. Dramatic, secluded seashores, craggy coastlines, hovering peaks, shimmering lakes, verdant valleys and time-warp harbours – all dotted with atmospheric nation pubs and quaint seafood eating places – just lately propelled this north-west county to the highest of National Geographic Traveller’s Cool List. “It’s a warm-hearted place, but wilderness always feels just a stone’s throw away,” says National Geographic Traveller editor Pat Riddell. “And it is wilderness – world-class wilderness.”

It’s positively the good place on the planet proper now for those who’re a Star Wars fan. The area’s Inishowen peninsula was spectacularly showcased in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with Malin Head getting used to signify bits of Luke Skywalker’s remoted retreat, planet Ahch-To. This solely added to the excitement round this long-overlooked nook of Ireland, additional embellishing its hip credentials and making it the stuff of road-trip desires. If you’re taking your automobile to Ireland by ferry to discover the sights of Donegal, ensure you hop out on the following must-do spots.

Sink a pint at McGrory’s
Unassuming however atmospheric, 1920s family-run McGrory’s resort in Culdaff has lengthy been a neighborhood favorite, due to its open fires, a blinding vary of Irish craft beers and conventional music periods. So a lot in order that Daisy Ridley and the Star Wars crew had an evening on the market round filming, resulting in a gentle stream of Star Wars-struck guests. Making the many of the welcoming ambiance and seafood-heavy menu is now much more of a should.

Swap 4 wheels for 2
While Donegal rewards road-trippers with chic coastal surroundings, remoted castles, personal estates and historical forests, it’s additionally an excellent spot to leap on a motorcycle and blast a few of that Atlantic sea breeze into your lungs. The peninsula at Horn Head, forming a part of Sheephaven Bay, is maybe essentially the most scenic of all of the Donegal peninsulas, the place the cliffs rise to 180 metres (600ft) on the ocean aspect and supply breeding grounds for seabirds such because the European shag and razorbill. The Hornhead loop might be walked or pushed, however biking is one of the best ways to drink all of it in, dashing previous quartzite cliffs, mud flats, dunes and the salty New Lake space, full with distinctive views of the Atlantic Ocean.

A snack van near Slieve League.

Grab a snack earlier than visiting Slieve League. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Scale Mount Errigal
The stark, hanging quartzite mass of 751-metre Mount Errigal looms as you head east on the N56 from Gweedore. This is the tallest peak in County Donegal, and together with Mweelrea, is taken into account some of the satisfying climbs within the county. Alternatively, drive to the coast and take a bracing stroll on the highest sea cliffs in Europe – Slieve League. They stretch 600 metres (2,000ft) above the Atlantic Ocean on the highest level, with spectacular views of the rugged shoreline and Donegal Bay.

Lose your self in Letterkenny
With a inhabitants of almost 20,000, Letterkenny is Donegal’s most populous city, a assured and vibrant former market city well-known for gothic-style St Eunan’s Cathedral – and its Hindu temple too. Donegal County Museum, housed in a 19th-century workhouse constructing, is a good place to get clued up on the county’s former industrial historical past, and, simply south-west of city, the Newmills Corn and Flax Mills have an enormous working waterwheel powered by the River Swilly.

Picnic at Glenevin waterfall
Glenevin waterfall is found on the high of a brief hike of simply over a mile by means of the woods in Clonmany, with properly landscaped picnic areas, footbridges and stepping stones including to the magic of this lovely spot. Stock up on sandwiches, quiches and candy treats at Claire The Bakers in Carndonagh beforehand.

Explore Malin Head on the Inishowen peninsula
Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly level, provides spectacular views, and the northernmost tip, Banba’s Crown, is among the most photographed spots within the county. Sip a flat white from the Caffe Banba espresso truck (which additionally has a standalone cafe in Carndonagh) and see for those who can spot surroundings that made an look in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Take a visit to Tory Island
Tory Island, simply eight.5 miles off the mainland, is an island steeped in historical past and folklore, the place Irish is spoken and the locals elect a king, who acts because the group spokesperson. Seventy-four-year-old musician Patsy Dan Rodgers has been king for twenty years now, ruling over this island of 150 inhabitants, a single street, one church, one grocery retailer, one lighthouse, one hostel and a social membership.

Surf the Atlantic

Learn to catch breakers with confidence.

Learn to catch breakers with confidence. Photograph: Narosa Life Surf School

The Wild Atlantic Way is studded by tiny surf cities and seashores that have develop into legendary among the many European surf group. Bundoran is extensively thought of top-of-the-line browsing spots in Europe, and is unbelievable for all types of water sports activities; and horseshoe-shaped Magheraroarty Strand and sand dune-backed Ballyhiernan Bay are each appropriate for windsurfing and browsing. Beginners can become familiar with the game at Inishowen, which has a number of the most constant waves in Ireland, as a consequence of its publicity to rolling swells. Its lengthy stretches of golden sandy seashores make for secure browsing circumstances and a nice atmosphere for newbies.

Cook your catch
Catch and cook dinner your individual dinner on a fishing journey with An Duanai Mara Boat Charters, primarily based within the fishing city of Killybegs. On these deep-sea angling journeys (mixed with sightseeing journeys round Donegal Bay), you’ll have the prospect to reel in a cod, ling or turbot, watch the skipper fillet it, after which feast on it at close by Kitty Kelly’s restaurant.

Hike Glenveagh nationwide park
Glenveagh nationwide park is one among six in Ireland, encompassing some 16,000 hectares within the coronary heart of the Derryveagh mountains. These lands have been managed as a personal deer forest earlier than turning into a nationwide park in 1975, and that is now bona fide wilderness, home to loads of indigenous wildlife and uncommon plant species.

Explore Ireland from the consolation of your individual automobile with Irish Ferries. Services run between Holyhead and Dublin; and Pembroke and Rosslare, with as much as eight sailings per day – taking both two hours (the Dublin Swift) or three hours 15 (cruise ferry crossing). Prices begin from £79 per automobile and driver every means. For extra info see

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