Offering perhaps less tourist infrastructure than the likes of Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Killarney, this wild expanse of Ireland is one for those who like to get outdoors. Ireland's North West offers so many beautiful and varied terrains that you want to pack your walking boots as well as your camera.
Others may be equally inclined to bring their golf shoes and sample the world-famous links courses on offer here. But for those who are less drawn to the region's coastal landscapes, the Donegal and Sligo's quaint towns and villages will offer plenty of distraction for anyone willing to look.
Use this page to find the North West's top destinations and its hidden treasures, too.
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Explore the top attractions of North West of Ireland.
Slieve League Cliffs are found on the South-West coast of County Donegal. Known to be one of the highest Sea-facing cliffs in Europe. Take in the stunning view, depending on the clarity of the day of course, of Donegal Bay and the Sligo Mountains.
A place of Christian pilgrimage for hundreds of years and a port for Monks journeying back and forth to Iceland, Slieve League is a wonder to behold.
There are no guard rails past the viewing platform, so be careful when visiting with small children. Also, the walkways along the cliffs are made of stone and are slick during rain. Study outdoor footwear is recommended.
Let Sligo invite you into its myriad of pedestrian streets with small, independent shops guiding you from one entertaining diversion to the next. As you travel further south toward County Clare, listen out for traditional music and dancing, as the Irish folk music nights ("trad sessions") and céilidhs invite you into traditional Irish pubs along the way.
Recovering after a Friday night session with the locals, head for one of Sligo's Saturday-morning markets: Beltra Country Market, Benbulben Craft Village Farmers Market, Sligo Farmers Market and Sligo Flea Market all offer a great local atmosphere and, while you might not need to buy many groceries while you're here in Ireland, there will plenty of other little temptations to keep you entertained. When looking for relaxation and tranquillity on your Ireland vacation, the North West of Ireland is seen as a great choice.
Just 10 minutes north of Sligo on the N15, you will find Rathcormac Craft Village with its quaint Artisan Food and Craft Market. Worth a visit if you're looking for some authentic Irish crafts souvenirs.
Like Sligo, Donegal town makes an ideal base for its surrounding attractions and should be viewed as such, rather than as a thriving tourist destination in its own right. Visitors will find plenty of pleasant places to eat, drink and make merry, as well as lots of places to lay their weary heads in comfort. The town itself will provide curiosities and distractions for a daytime of discovery, but the region's most engaging attractions arguably lie outside the towns themselves.
Historically, Donegal owes its prominence to its strategic location at the mouth of the Donegal bay, a fact borne out by the presence of the impressive and imposing Donegal Castle. Located on a curve of the River Eske, the castle was built in 1474 and would remain an enduring monument to the power of the O'Donnells until the downfall in 1607. When all was lost, leader Rory O'Donnell destroyed the castle himself before fleeing to France.
Restored in 1623 and again in the 1990s, the castle which visitors find today is in very good condition and, with guided tours every hour, it certainly merits a visit.
On a pleasant day, why not hop on the Waterbus and take a cruise around Donegal Bay? Look ou for a white building with blue signage, just across the carpark from the tourist office.
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.
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. A hike on Errigal Mountain can really set your tour of Ireland apart.
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.
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.
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.
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 atop 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.
The Caves of Kesh are 16 caves, some of which are interconnected, found in the village of Keash, County Sligo. Remains of humans and animals dating back to as far as 10,000 B.C have been found in the caves during excavations in the 20th century. Amazingly, remains of reindeer were found on top of burnt charcoal, suggesting that the animal had survived in Ireland until the human period.
The climb up to the caves is fairly strenuous. A reasonable level of fitness and some sturdy shoes are recommended for this rewarding excursion.
The Glenevin Waterfall can be found as part of the Glenevein Valley walk in County Donegal. There are newly refurbished picnic areas dotted throughout the walk and there are footbridges and stepping stones in place to navigate the various streams running along the walk.
There are toilets on site, as well as a cafe. The walk to the waterfall is a very gentle 1km, manageable for most walkers.
Found in the pristine seaside landscape of Bundoran, County Donegal, The Allingham Arms is the ideal base for anyone looking to explore the tranquillity of North Western Ireland.
Find the attractions and destinations of the other regions of Ireland here.