A weekend in Donegal

As I write this (October 2020) the world is a very strange and fast changing place. We’d managed a weekend picking up a bit more of the WAW, from Donegal town to Fanad, in early September for my husband’s birthday. When we returned, we planned to do another peninsula, the Inishowen 100 route, for my birthday in October. We’d even booked the hotel and a spa treatment. And then Covid restrictions were increased, particularly in all of Donegal, and the trip had to be postponed. So here’s my most recent visit, with heartfelt hopes that it will not be too long before we are return.

Day 1: Donegal town

The trip from our house to the car park by the marina in Donegal, behind the Central Hotel where we were staying, takes a little over 2 hours, so it’s very doable for a short break. I picked up a few leaflets from the friendly and helpful staff at the tourist office, and we checked into the hotel. They had a one-way sytem in place, including one up and one down lift, which was being totally ignored by guests. We did a bit of aimless wandering around the main square, and called into the Blueberry Cafe for lunch. I had some delicious grilled Irish goats cheese salad with olive tapenade and red onion jam, and managed to resist the temptation to have a glass of wine as they only had Sauv Blanc.

Off we set for Sleive League Cliffs. There’s a lot of roadworks ongoing at present in Donegal, which let’s face it is a good thing, but can add a few minutes to your eta. Watch out for the signpost to the viewing point, there’s a good car park with loos, though the shop is currently closed. Apparently you can go through the gate and drive up a bit closer to the cliffs, but we didn’t realise that, and weren’t in the right shoes to do a bracing hike. So I’ll have to come back to that one some time. We called into the visitor centre on the way back, which is worth a look around.

Our next stop was Malin Beg, and wow what a stunning dramatic beach! Golden sand, crashing surf, rock stacks and a waterfall. Oh and 167 steps to walk down (and then up) to reach it. My Fitbit was seriously impressed.

Through Glencolumkille where we didn’t stop at the folk viallge, and onto the great Glengesh Pass, a thrilling, swooping road through the mountains.

I was permitted to over-rule the sat-nav and find a route back to the hotel which avoided the roadworks, and we had booked a table for dinner that evening in the Thai-fusion themed restaurant. I had 2 starters – a Tom Yum soup, and then a fishcake, and enjoyed every mouthful.

Day 2

Saturday morning means parkrun! Sadly they are all suspended for now, but it is still possible to do a “freedom” parkrun at any of the official routes that are open. I believe there are only 6 in the world run on a beach. I’ve done Portrush several times, and managed a freedom run at Inch Beach earlier this year.

This morning we were off to a recent addition, that at Narin Beach. It’s a busy spot, with swimmers, surfers, runners and dog-walkers. But what a view!

There are a number of cafes nearby for post-run treats, there’s even a BnB which I’m very tempted by! We couldn’t resist the fish shaped waffles and yoghurt granola creation served up by Pirates. We continued our journey, fantasising about running a parkrun-biker- dog-friendly BnB……

Next stop was Dungloe, with the world’s cutest police station. Located a whippy ice-cream in the Cope shopping centre, but somehow missed the Daniel O’Donnell visitor centre.

Burtonport is the ferry terminal that serves Arranmore, which I’d visited way back in my youth. There’s not too much to see here, though I would have liked to sample the lobster.

I hate camping, but we have an agreement that I will do one trip a year. So our next stop was Sleep Hollow, an adults only campsite run by a very friendly and Covid-aware owner, and which has clean loos, showers, and campers kitchen. I let R crack on at setting up the awning, table, chairs etc, while I explored the walk by the river.

The only problem with a campsite by the river is MIDGES! We’d forgotten to pack any insect repellent, but the owners gave us some incense sticks to burn, and some cream to apply to those tempting ankles. (Also on the list of things we ought to have brought was a citronella candle, kitchen roll, fresher coffee, and a bigger kettle)

We’d booked a dinner reservation at Leo’s Tavern, an Irish music iconic place, being the home of Enya and Moya Brenna, of Clannad. The walls are covered with gold discs, photos and newspaper cuttings, but no live music tonight.

Day 3

The next day, we packed up and set off around Bloody Foreland, with stunning views in every direction. We stopped for breakfast baps in Dunfanaghy, where the bacon and egg butties with Ballymaloe relish even persuaded me, a non-meat eater, to tuck in. It was tricky to find our way round Horn Head, as the signage wasn’t great. I thought it would be a circuit drive, but it seemed to be a tight road up to a car park, with any further exploring done on foot.

There’s a fab bridge to take you onto the next peninsula, greatly reducing the journey times.

At Fanad Head lighthouse, there is now a car park- visitor centre -loo- shop, and you need tickets to get any closer to the lighthouse.

We came back via Portsalon, and then dropped the WAW in favour of the Mulroy Drive along the eponymous bay.

I do hope it won’t be too long before we are able to return.