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Exploring South Donegal

A day exploring can be done without even leaving Lough Mardal Lodge which is set on 90 acres of private land which you must definitely explore - take a bogland ramble by the lake and discover the beautiful flora & fauna unique to this habitat or hike up the hill from where (on a clear day) you can see stunning panoramic views of the surrounding lakes, Donegal Bay, Dartry, Sliabh League and the Bluestack mountain ranges.  

Venturing further afield there is no shortage of places to check out. Wild, stunningly beautiful, full of character and utterly unspoiled Donegal is a county traditionally less travelled to than other more popular parts of Ireland. The incredible success of the Wild Atlantic Way has shone a new spotlight on Donegal however and it is being re-discovered as the hidden jewel in Ireland's crown. Re-affirming this National Geographic Traveller named Donegal the ‘Coolest Place on the Planet for 2017’ and Lonely Planet named Donegal 'Best in Travel' in 2023. So, you don't have to just take our word for it!

Lough Mardal, Donegal, Ireland

The Wild Atlantic Way

“The longest defined coastal touring route in the world”, Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way stretches along the rugged and dramatic Atlantic coast from Donegal to West Cork. The route takes in iconic landmarks and 'Discovery Points', breath-taking scenery, an itinerary of adventure and cultural, natural & gastronomic gems. Lough Mardal Lodge is perfectly positioned between Rossnowlagh and Murvagh Discovery Points on the Donegal route of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Beaches

Some of Ireland's most beautiful blue-flag beaches are within a short drive; Rossnowlagh Beach - a renowned beginner's surf beach so plenty of action - and Murvagh Beach which also has a lovely forest walk running parallel. Towards Bundoran there is the gorgeous (but busy!) Tullan Strand with some good cliff walks on which you'll find the Fairies' Bridge and Wishing Chair.

 

Fintra Beach is another wonderful beach which is just on the otherside of Killybegs (48km), Ireland's largest fishing port, which is always impressive to see with it's huge fleet of big trawlers - and while you're there picking up some scampi or calamari in the uber-popular Seafood Shack is a must. (Be warned of long queues in the summer.) The stunning Maghera Beach is 57km away but well worth the day out on a blue sky day. Post your beac photos on social media and your friends will think you're in Bali. Picture postcard epic Donegal scenery on the way there and you'll pass the Assaranca waterfall en route. And if you're going that far definitely pop into the pretty village of Adara and visit Nancy's, one of Donegal's most loved pubs, for a drink or a meal and check out traditional handweaver Eddie Doherty's and the fantastic Donegal woollen shop Campbell's just a few doors up from it. The stunning new Donegal woollen jumper you will have inevitably picked up by then will be the envy of all your friends back home!

Lovely Nearby Spots to Check Out

Breezy Hill - 8.4km

A ten minute drive from here, Breesy Hill is 258 metres high and is a relatively easy climb (for adults & kids) that is rewarded by stunning panoramic views as far as the eye can see, most of the surrounding landscape is designated as special areas for conservation.

Creevy Pier - 17km

A charming little pier with beautiful sea views and a popular swimming & fishing spot with lovely clifftop walks. The Salt & Ember mobile sauna is there on Saturdays from 10am. And the local Creevy Pier Hotel is a good spot for a bite to eat.

Castle Caldwell Forest Walk - 13km

A beautiful mature forest located on a peninsula on the shore of Lough Erne with walking and bike trails of varying lengths. Great spots to picnic looking out across the glistening lake. A hidden gem, just a short drive across the border in Co. Fermanagh.

Donegal Castle - 18km

Built in 1474 by Hugh O’Donnell, chief of the O’Donnell clan, Donegal Castle was among the most impressive castles in the country. Located in Donegal Town it is open to the public all-year round with guided tours available on the hour every hour.

The Bank Walk, Donegal Town - 19km

A lovely scenic 2.3km walk through natural woodlands overlooking Donegal Harbour.

Salthill Pier, Mountcharles
(Wild Atlantic Way Discovery Point) - 27km

A beautifully scenic bay and local secret swimming location. Make sure to get a freshly made crepe or an ice-cream in Salthill Cabin which also happens to have a quirky petting zoo around the back. Plenty of shoreline spots for a picnic.

Glengesh Pass, Donegal

A Little Further Afield

St. John's Point Lighthouse - 47km

One of the longest peninsulas in Ireland and a thrilling drive with stunning scenery. Discover the sheltered coral beach along the way before reaching the striking Lighthouse and clifftops at the end of the wild and rugged tip of the Point.  For a great  walk, park the car at the beach and walk to the Lighthouse (30 min walk) - and make sure to walk out to the cliffs beyond the lighthouse.

Sliabh League - 69km

It takes just under an hours drive but so worth it (and the drive itself is beautiful)..the majestic Sliabh League. Located in the Irish-speaking Gaeltacht region of County Donegal Sliabh League are the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe rising over 600m above the ocean. There are plenty of walks and trails for varying skill and fitness levels up along the cliffs with breath-taking panoramic views of Donegal Bay. 

Muckross Head - 58km

On the way to Sliabh League, a stunning and wildly dramatic headland with (yet another) beautiful beach.

Glencolomcille - 73km

On the western-most tip of Donegal a gorgeous seaside village with epic landscape and ocean views.  Great walks and great pubs to sink a pint or a hot whiskey afterwards. 

 

You can visit the re-created traditional Irish Folk Village with thatched cottages giving visitors a glimpse of what rural life in Ireland was like in the 18th century.

Glenveagh National Park  - 81km

The remote and hauntingly beautiful grounds of Glenveagh Castle is definitely worth a visit if you have a day to spare. A late 19th century castellated mansion built as a hunting lodge with 40,000 acres of mountains, lakes, glens and woods with its own herd of red deer. "Literally heaven on earth." Trip Advisor, 2017.

This is just a very small selection of places definitely worth exploring while in Donegal. There are endless others. For more information and further inspiration see:
Go Visit Donegal and Donegal Tourist Office

Read Irish Indepdent Travel Writer Pól Ó Conghaile's recommendations here:  Secret Ireland: Donegal Bay

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