Along the 2,500km stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way, there are 15 Signature Discovery Points that mark out a place of spectacular beauty. Surrounded by the swirling ocean and miles of white sand beaches, Fanad Head is one of those points, right at the tip of the peninsula of the same name. You’ll get the best views from Fanad Lighthouse itself, which you can explore on a guided tour. There’s also self-catering accommodation available in the lighthouse keeper’s cottages, if you want to live the seafaring life for a night or two.
Head for around 11km off the main Mulroy trail and take a detour on the Knockalla Coast Drive. Make your way along this meandering road and enjoy the striking views of both Knockalla, known as the "Devil’s Backbone", and the pristine beaches along the coast. The road curves around the headland from Fanad Lighthouse out to Portsalon, incorporating the mountains and the sea in one fell swoop.
Just a 10-minute drive from Portsalon, Moross Castle is a 16th century tower house that’s well worth a detour. Only one corner of the original castle remains, standing among the jagged rocks and thick grasses of this tiny island, which is linked to the shore via a short causeway. To get back to the main road you’ll pass over a traditional stone bridge at Ballykinard, which is a great spot to stop for a quick photo.
The Colmcille Trail is a 7km route that runs along the shores of its namesake lake from the town of Milford. Walk along this peaceful trail and you’ll pass through dense woodland and greenery beside the water’s edge, as well as points of historical interest like a 17th century church and old standing stones. Another great spot for a walk is the Woodquarter Forest Trail, a 1.5km route that weaves through the trees and overlooks Gull Island and Inishyweel in the bay below.
There are plenty of adventures to be had around Donegal, from rock climbing to abseiling. But you can also take to the waters of Mulroy Bay and go kayaking with Eco Atlantic Adventures in Woodquarter. For the ultimate experience, head out at dusk on their full moon kayaking tour, and enjoy paddling in the calm waters as the sky darkens.
Think of scuba diving and you might imagine tropical islands in far-flung lands. But the diving around Donegal is some of the finest around, with plenty of underwater sites to explore. Head to the Mevagh Dive Centre and discover some stunning diving spots, including a range of shipwrecks, some of which are found at a depth of only 10 metres. There are also scenic dives where you’ll find an abundance of sea life.
Downings has a growing reputation as a hotbed of great restaurants, but Fisk Seafood Bar has been a favourite for years. With great views over the beach and a menu of classic dishes with interesting twists, this is the perfect pitstop for those who love their food. Try the Vietnamese prawn banh mi or the crab grilled cheese, with four different kinds of cheese melted with crab meat in sourdough bread.
This pretty cove may be surrounded by dramatic cliffs and rocks, but the bay itself is blissfully calm. Kick off your shoes and take a paddle in the waters of the Atlantic, or walk along the headlands for great views of the open sea. Time your visit to coincide with the sunset and those views will be all the more mesmerising.
Take a walk along the beach and enjoy the sound of the waves crashing against the shore with the scent of the sea in the air. The 1km boardwalk at Cuan Na Rí leads to Trá Mór (Tramore), one of Donegal’s prettiest beaches. Follow the path as it weaves through the dunes and then head further on for a stroll along the sand.
Doe Castle sits right on the edge of the sea at Sheephaven Bay, overlooking the water from a rocky outcrop surrounded by trees. Once the home of the MacSweeney Clan, this 15th century castle has a fascinating history that intertwines the Battle of Kinsale and the sinking of the Spanish Armada. You can learn all about its history on a guided tour, which is available every day in July and August. Otherwise, you can stroll the grounds of the castle on your own and enjoy the beautiful views.
Stop off at Ards Forest Park, one of the most varied forest parks in the country. Across dense woodlands, rocky shores and stretches of white sand beaches, the trails weave through 1,000 acres of diverse habitats with routes suitable for all abilities. Alongside the salt marshes and lakes there are some interesting archaeological sites dotted around the park, including a few megalithic tombs hidden in the forest.