The picturesque seaside village of Dunfanaghy sheltered in Sheephaven Bay has everything you could want for a short family break, with lots of local beaches and cosy little eateries. Water sports, horse riding and boat trips are just some of the family-friendly experiences you can try, and it's also a great base to explore the local attractions.
Take a trip to nearby Horn Head and keep your eyes peeled for residents of the headland's seabird colonies, including puffins, gannets, guillemots and more. Younger ones love McSwine's Gun, a natural blowhole that shoots sea water into the air in rougher weather.
Horse riding on the beach
Horse riding on one of Donegal’s endless beaches is perfect for a family day out in Donegal and Dunfanaghy Stables has a range of child-friendly options on Kilahoey Strand. For a post-ride treat, the delicious woodfired pizzas in the Rusty Oven won't disappoint.
A 45 minute trip north to Fanad Head gives you a chance to kill two birds with one stone. It's a gorgeous drive along Donegal's northern coast but it's also a chance to see Fanad Lighthouse, voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. Once you’ve visited you’ll know why. You can even stay the night in one of the lighthouse cottages and wake up to the sound of the waves.
Staying in Portsalon
If you want to stay in the area, a 15-minute drive from Fanad takes you to the epic beach at Portsalon on Ballymastoker Bay, kids love the adventure of sleeping in a furnished yurt at Portsalon Luxury Camping.
South of Dunfanaghy the road winds through the pretty towns of Falcarragh, Gweedore and Dungloe before reaching the buzzy town of Ardara. Known as the festival capital of Donegal, it’s a lively spot nestled in the neck of three peninsulas with access to some of the best places in South West Donegal.
Maghera Beach and caves
The road to Maghera Beach and caves goes past the magnificent Assaranca Waterfall, which tumbles down into a rock pool and is the perfect backdrop for a family photo. The beach itself is just as impressive, with mountains all around and huge caves to wow both you and the kids.
Silver Strand Beach
Donegal has more than its fair share of stunning beaches, but Silver Strand Beach is one of a kind. Sheltered by high cliffs and a horseshoe bay, the fine sand and shallow waters make for a great swimming spot. After a day at the beach, pop into Nancy's in Ardara for a hearty bowl of chowder or some freshly landed seafood.
The winding mountain, road known as the Glengesh Pass, or Malaidh Ghleann Gheis as Gaeilge, guides you from Ardara to the historic Glencolmcille (Gleann Cholm Cille) and is one of the nicest drives in the county. You'll feel like you're travelling back in time as you take in the unspoilt beauty of this magical valley. When you reach the top of the pass, look back on Ardara and prepare to have your jaw drop.
Bundoran by the sea
If you stay on the road from Gleann Cholm Cille through Killybegs, skirting the edge of Donegal Town, you’ll reach the famous seaside at Bundoran in little over an hour. It's no coincidence that this surfing mecca and beach resort is nicknamed “Fundoran”. A wealth of family-friendly activities and facilities make it an obvious place to take the kids.
The Fairy Bridges
On nearby Tullan Strand, head on a family trip to hunt for The Fairy Bridges. These unique stone arches are said to be haunted by the fairies and have been a local family favourite for generations. Don't forget to visit the nearby Wishing Chair, where your little ones can ask the fairies for whatever their hearts desire.
Donegal Adventure Centre
But it's not just about surfing in these parts. The Donegal Adventure Centre is Ireland’s largest surf school and adventure centre, offering everything from archery to abseiling and kayaking to cliff jumping. So even the most adventurous family won't be bored.
If you have more time in Donegal…
Sliabh Liag Boat Tours
See the spectacular Slieve League sea cliffs from a new angle by catching a boat tour from Teelin Pier. There’s always the chance to spot dolphins, whales, seals or basking sharks in these waters. On a good day, you can also take a dip in a quiet cove.