Have you ever considered a weekend trip to Donegal? Go for something a little different and explore the county that has a lot to offer. Donegal is located on the north west of the island of Ireland and is one of the biggest counties at nearly 4,900 km². However, only 160,000 people live there so there is plenty of room to explore, peace and quiet.
Did you know that there are 13 Blue Flag beaches up there, the Northern Lights can be seen from certain points and that National Geographic even named it the Coolest Place on the Planet in 2017?! These are good enough reasons for a weekend trip to Donegal, but here’s some more straight-to-the-point information to help plan your adventure.
For Irish visitors, a very good option is a road trip! It will take approximately 3h from Dublin, 3.5h from Limerick, 5h from Cork and 2.5h from Belfast. If you are starting from a point on the west coast, you should obviously consider doing the Wild Atlantic Way (if you have time!).
Not everyone has a car or the stamina to drive that far, which means that the bus is a good option. Dublin to Donegal with Bus Eireann is approx 4h and you can take the 30 or the x30 for €42 return. Limerick to Donegal requires 2 buses and if you’re starting from Cork you might as well avail of the Wild Atlantic Way open road bus service for €60!
If you are in Dublin you also have the option of flying from Dublin Airport to Donegal Airport for around €67 Fri-Sun return in July, €70 Fri-Sun return in August, €67 Fri-Sun return in September and €70 Fri-Sun return in October. Random but great side story: The landing experience at Donegal Airport was voted the Most Beautiful Landing in the World by Private Fly in 2018!
P.s the 4 hour bus is €42 return… and a 1 hour plane is only €67 return, I’ll leave that one to you!
What to Do!
There are many fab things to do in Donegal and they mostly comprise of unbelievable scenery and some authentic Irish sessioning. In the small towns and coastal hot spots there are plenty of pubs, hostels and bars for some good ould Irish sing song and lock ins.
By day there are landmarks such as Mount Errigal, which is a 751 metre mountain and the tallest peak in all of Donegal. This is the mountain in the featured photo and apparently the views from several points along the way are out of this world, it’s almost hard to believe we have it right here in Ireland!
Along with pub fun and peaceful nature escapes, the following are some of the most popular things to see and do during a weekend trip to Donegal.
There are many events and festivals held in Donegal, however the most famous has to be Sea Sessions in Bundoran. This annual music and surfing festival is a really unique experience and I have heard nothing but fantastic things about the June event. This year was a huge success, so if you are interested for 2019, make sure to check out their website here.
The romantic Fanad Head is located at the tip of the Fanad Peninsula and is known for its iconic lighthouse and beautiful beaches. Explorers can enjoy the stunning views during a walk along the rugged coastline and may even spot seals or whales. You can even stay in the lighthouse if you gather enough friends!
Considered to be the most northerly point of Ireland, Malin Head located in Inishowen, is a picture perfect look out point. This landscape is so impressive that it was chosen as a Star Wars filming location. You can enjoy a rewarding adventure to the top of the cliffs and watch the sunset up there… or if you are lucky in the winter, you can even see the Northern Lights!
This is probably the best known monument in Donegal and is situated in Inishowen, on a hilltop 250m above sea level. The view from the stone fort of Aileach is breathtaking as it overlooks the glistening waters of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly, which is a glacial fjord (who knew there was glacial fjords outside of Norway…)
This is also a perfect spot if you want to pop over to Derry City (20 minute car ride), don’t forget that this is Northern Ireland though, so you will need your Pounds Sterling at the ready, hai!
Marble Hill Beach is one of the best beaches in Donegal. Known for its silky sand and beautiful blue waters, it’s easy to see why it got the Blue Flag status. Surfing, kayaking and sailing are really popular here and there are places to grab an ice cream or a drink nearby too!
Where to Stay During Your Weekend Trip to Donegal
There are plenty of places to stay in Dún na nGal. For hostels, the very central and highly rated Donegal Town Hostel (starting at €38pp) looks good. Then there is also the environmentally conscious Errigal Youth Hostel (starting at €20pp) and the simple but amazing coastal location of the Malinbeg Hostel (starting at €38pp) looks like a right oul Irish College throwback!
Of course, my fave option is Airbnb and there are tonnnes of Donegal listings there. I honestly wasn’t expecting so many places up for grabs but you will see that there are loads of cute private cottages, entire cabins, apartments with killer views and plenty of private rooms listed.
I hope you are utterly convinced that a little weekend trip to Donegal should be on your Ireland bucket list, I surely am! Thinking of more weekend trips? Check out this Paris post.