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A Family Adventure in Donegal

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The epic and expansive land of Donegal, with its craggy coast reaching out to greet the Atlantic, is one of the real undiscovered treasures of Ireland. After months in our own homes, get ready for the family break of a lifetime on our island's north coast.

A visit to the seaside is high on the list of every childhood holiday in Ireland and who even remembers the weather?! When it comes to seemingly endless sandy beaches and quiet coves for family picnics, one county stands out. Yes, we’re talking about Donegal.
Epic views and otherworldly scenery await (there’s a reason why Star Wars was filmed here). Your little ones can search rock pools and hunt for Fairy Bridges, while the older kids will never forget horse riding on the beach or exploring hidden caves. They’ll make the kind of holiday memories you did as a child, as you all uncover the best the county has to offer.
If you are planning a short stay in Donegal, here are some of the best things to do and see. 

Girl with surf board

Discover Dunfanaghy

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 from which to explore the surrounding area.

Horn Head in Donegal

Horn Head

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. The younger ones will love McSwyne'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 will be a highlight of any family break and Dunfanaghy Stables has a range of child-friendly options on Kilahoey Strand (though check their website for restricted options). For a post-ride treat, the delicious woodfired pizzas in the Rusty Oven on Main Street won't disappoint.

Fanad Lighthouse

A 45-minute trip north to Fanad Head gives you the 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. Though tours are currently not taking place, you will soon be able to 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 will love the adventure of sleeping in a furnished yurt at Portsalon Luxury Camping (check their website for details of reduced availibility).

Aerial view of Portsalon Beach, Donegal

Around Ardara

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, giving access to some of the best places in South West Donegal.

The waterfall at Maghera, County 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 that will 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.


Glengesh Pass

The winding mountain road, known as the Glengesh Pass, or Malaidh Ghleann Gheis as Gaeilge, guides you from Ardara to the historic 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.

A group of cyclists in Donegal

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 little ones.


The Fairy Bridges

On nearby Tullan Strand take the kids on a hunt for the 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.

Sunset at the beach in Bundoran

If you have more time in Donegal…

Sliabh Liag Boat Tours

See the spectacular Sliabh Liag sea cliffs from a new angle by catching a boat tour from Teelin Pier. There’s always the chance to see dolphins, whales, seals or basking sharks in these waters. On a good day, you can also take a dip in a quiet cove.

Time to visit Donegal

Family holidays are all about making memories, and your short break in Donegal will be a trip that you and your family will always remember. The only challenge now is deciding what to do on your Donegal visit.

Wherever you're heading to, make sure to contact the attractions and businesses you plan to visit to confirm they're welcoming visitors. And as you travel, look out for the new COVID-19 Safety Charter, a symbol adopted by businesses across Ireland to show their commitment to safety measures — rely on it to bring peace of mind as you embark on a new adventure.

After you make your escape in Donegal, it's time to start thinking about what you'll discover next on the Wild Atlantic Way. Want to go further afield? Find out more about how to make a break for other regions of our amazing island...

  • Donegal lighthouse
  • Malin Head
  • Sliabh Liag


It's finally time to pack your bags and make your escape

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