With a backdrop of sloping green hills and vibrant flowers, Kinnagoe Bay in Inishowen resembles a tropical beach in The Seychelles. Time your visit around a sunrise or a sunset and you might just be lucky enough to get this secluded slice of paradise to yourself.
History buffs may know that the Spanish Armada ship, La Trinidad Valencera, sunk off the shore of Kinnagoe in 1588. Make time to read the plaque at the entrance to the beach which tells the story of that fateful day. Afterwards, drive along the coast road to see the spectacular views from Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point.
Visit Culdaff Beach in the scenic village of Culdaff and explore its three rocky headlands, Black Rock, Bucker's Rock and Lady's Rock. With scenic views of Culdaff River, the “big beach” is where you’ll enjoy walks, sea swims and a spot of surfing. The “small beach” feels more secluded thanks to the headlands, but get there early as it can get busy in the afternoons. As a Special Area of Conservation, take some time to admire the striking landscape as you arrive at Culdaff Beach.
Base yourself in beautiful Ballyliffin and visit Pollan Strand, just outside the village. With views of Malin Head and Glashedy Island, this golden strand is beyond breathtaking. It’s a wonderful spot for windsurfing and there’s plenty of opportunity for family fun in the eco-friendly area beside the beach. If you have time to spare, stay overnight in a nearby holiday cottage and wake up to the sound of the waves.
Sloping towards the Atlantic Ocean, Portsalon Beach was once voted the second most beautiful beach in the world by readers of The Observer magazine. Its mile-long stretch of soft white sand is popular with walkers while sea swimmers can’t resist the lure of the sparkling clear waters.
Enjoy amazing views from every angle as you gaze out to Lough Swilly and the Inishowen Peninsula. Make sure you get a shot from the road above the beach on your way into Portsalon village, this is one holiday snap you’ll want to frame.
Visit the pretty seaside village of Downings and check out Downings Beach, a sheltered bay. As you walk along the strand where peaceful waves lap against the shore, you’re greeted with breathtaking scenery of Sheephaven Bay and magnificent Muckish mountain. Stroll barefoot along the white sand and soak up the serenity. After, head into the village and visit Fisk Seafood Bar for spiced butter prawns and fresh crab claws.
With its dramatic sand dunes and rocky headlands, Marble Hill in picturesque Dunfanaghy is one of Donegal’s most striking beaches. Swim with ease in the shallow waters and the calm shore is ideal for families to splash around in. The peaceful strand of Marble Hill is popular with birdwatchers, listen out for the corncrake calling when you visit.
Near the charming village of Annagry, don’t miss an opportunity to visit Carrickfinn Beach. The golden strand is bordered by sand dunes and machair grasslands, soak up the spectacular views of Gweedore Bay as you stroll along the shore. Visit during summer and you’ll be treated to stunning displays as the colourful wildflowers bloom. If you’re visiting on a weekend, drop into Caisleáin Óir, a nearby pub where trad sessions take place every Saturday.
When in Donegal, a visit to Narin and Portnoo Strand is an absolute must. With crystal clear waters and white sand, it’s no surprise that this beautiful beach is a Blue Flag destination. Look out for colourful kites billowing in the wind as children giggle and race along the strand, or watch swimmers tackle the chilly Atlantic Sea. At low tide, walk from the beach to Inishkeel Island to find old church ruins and if you visit during the summer months, book in with Donegal Yoga Retreats and catch a session on the beach.
Visit Malin Beg Beach in the Gaeltacht area of Glencolmcille. Walk down the stone steps to the scenic strand and bask in the captivating sea views. Feel the sand beneath your toes and if you’re feeling brave, this is a fine place to swim. After a bracing dip in the refreshing water, pick up a warming hot chocolate or coffee in the nearby Silver Strand Café.
Less than 2km from Killybegs, Fintra Bay is a popular beach for locals and visitors alike. Drive downhill to the beach and tell your passengers to watch out as scenic Donegal Bay comes into view. The sheltered waters and shallow lagoon make it a popular beach for families, excellent for splashing around and building sandcastles. Then head to Ahoy Café in Killybegs for a late lunch and tuck into their delicious seafood tacos.
People rave about Rossnowlagh Beach for a reason and you’ll understand why when you visit. Experience amazing views of Donegal Bay and the towering sea cliffs at Slieve League. Blue Flag beach Rossnowlagh is one of Ireland’s top surfing destinations with swells reaching heights of 20ft. With 4km of soft golden sands, walkers are entranced by the mesmerising views.
At low tide, stroll along the shore and you’ll come to Murvagh Beach, a shallow beach bordered by Murvagh forest, where there are even more trails to explore.