Ireland's best-loved destinations
...and best-kept secrets

Donegal, Sligo & Northwest Ireland

Ireland Travel Companion

When it comes to sheer wild beauty, the landscapes of Ireland's Northwest have no equal, on the Emerald Isle or perhaps anywhere else. Rugged coastlines, windswept moors and plunging valleys capture a sense of poetic drama which the Yeats brothers, proud natives of this region, could scarcely have expressed in their own artistic works.

Offering perhaps less tourist infrastructure than the likes of Dublin, Cork, Beflast and Killarney, this wild expanse of Ireland is one for those who like to get outdoors. Northern Ireland Tours offer so many beautiful and varied terrains that your camera and your walking boots become almost essential.

You might equally pack your clubs and your golf shoes, for this is the home of links golf in the Republic. Courses such as County Sligo, Buncrana, Ballyliffin, Portsalon and Rosapenna could scarcely offer a more alluring backdrop to their notable fairways and greens.

Donegal, Sligo and the Northwest of Ireland

Plan a vacation in Donegal & Sligo

Leitrim's Lakes and Loughs

With less mileage on the Wild Atlantic Way, and a more inland location, County Leitrim is perhaps overshadowed by the neighbouring counties of Sligo and Donegal. But visitors who pass by without exploring the glens, lakes and loughs for which Leitrim is famed will most certainly be missing out. Find out more about Leitrim tourist attractions by visiting www.leitrimtourism.com.

Slieve League

Their southern cousins, the Cliffs of Moher, may get more attention and publicity, not to mention more footfall in terms of tourist traffic, but the cliffs of Slieve League are their equal in beauty and their superior in height. In fact, plunging some 600m into the sea below, these cliffs are thought to be the highest in Europe.

Couple walking down a narrow Irish road in Donegal Breath-taking view over Slieve League, Donegal Man admires the view over Slieve League, Donegal Plan your own trip

Approaching by car, you can almost reach the clifftops themselves without getting your boots dirty; a carpark is within a very short distance of the astonishing views which have brought you here. The more adventurous visitor might consider hiking the Pilgrim Path to Slieve League's summit. At five miles and with a fair incline, the journey will demand up to six hours depending on group make-up.

To see the opposite view, i.e. looking up, boat trips are also an option. Head to Teelin pier where departures are relatively frequently throughout peak-season daytimes.

The Glengesh Pass

This part of Ireland has some fantastic country routes, and self-drive visitors to Sligo and Donegal will not be short of photo opportunities along the way. One which is sure to please is The Glengesh Pass which runs from Ardara to Glencolumbcille. Passengers with a delicate stomach might want to take their travel sickness tablets before they embark on this narrow and tumbling sequence of tight hairpins, but if you keep you camera at hand you will have every excuse to make regular stops.

Errigal Mountain

This ascent will require more than just your walking boots: a knowledge of mountain safety and possibly a local guide might be called for, especially on days where the weather is anything less than bright and dry. At a fairly towering 752 metres, Errigal Mountain is a pleasant but challenging climb for any hobbyist hillwalker, and the main paths are not of the best quality.

However, the rosé quartzite haze of the summit almost invites you to make you way up and drink in the intoxicating views that await you there. This is the wild country at its best.

Glencolmcille Folk Village

Situated 50 minutes' drive from Donegal Town or 25 minutes from the fishing port of Killybegs, the Glencolmcille Folk Village (also known as Father McDyer's Folk Village Museum) is a thatched-roof replica of a traditional Irish rural village. Comprising a number of small cottages, called a "clachan", the village atops a hillside with a commanding sea view over Glen Bay Beach in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) of South West Donegal. A popular living-history museum, Glencolmcille was built and is maintained by the people of the local area.

Maghera Beach and Caves

If you have enjoyed the Glengesh Pass, then rest up and take the family on the kind of adventure that demands a barbecue and a bucket and spade. Although weather-dependent, this is an old-school family day out which won't cost much but is sure to please. (Drivers will have to pay €3 for parking. Don't go home without eating an ice cream!)

The beach itself looks like it belongs in a different hemisphere: stretches soft white sand are gently ironed flat by an enticing turquoise sea. Fair warning: only the stout of heart should head for the sea until the latter stages of the summer season: Ireland is not famed for its warm sea water. Those who do venture out will find a gentle gradient underfoot, making the water ideal for swimmers and paddlers alike.

The caves are no less beautiful than the beach itself, with multicoloured rock formations forming an artistic array of dizzying shapes. A very atmospheric space away from the more established tourist destinations.

Accommodation in Donegal, Sligo and the North-West

Hotels in the North-West of Ireland

B&Bs and Guesthouses in Donegal and Sligo

Hostels in the North-West of Ireland

My Ireland Travel Guide