What Is Donegal Best Known For? A Perfect 2-Day Itinerary 2024

Are you in search of an enchanting destination where the transition from one breathtaking location to the next is as seamless as the welcome of the warm-hearted locals? Look no further than County Donegal in Northern Ireland. This 2-day itinerary will give you absolutely everything that Donegal is best known for.

Here you’ll find the beauty of traditional Irish surroundings, untamed ancient landscape, and the genuine warmth of its people combine to create an unforgettable experience. As a solo traveler who embarked on my very first European adventure here, I highly recommend adding this trip to your bucket list. 

As a rookie traveler abroad, I vividly recall my journey from Dublin to Northern Ireland, navigating the public transportation system with the excitement of a wide-eyed wanderer. County Donegal was my first stop, and it left a permanent mark on my soul. In this 2-day itinerary, I’ll share the wisdom I’ve gained from my solo adventures in this awe-inspiring corner of the world.

Our journey through County Donegal will take you from the welcoming arms of the locals to the wild, ancient landscapes that tell tales of centuries gone by. Join me as we embark on this adventure, guided by the heartwarming spirit of the Irish people and the timeless beauty of the Emerald Isle and see exactly what Donegal is best known for.

Short On Time? Here’s A Quick Run-Through For You!

Day 1 At A Glance 

Glencolmcille Folk Village

Start your day early at Glencolmcille Folk Village, an open-air museum showcasing rural Irish life and culture

Local Eatery in Glencolmcille

Enjoy traditional Irish cuisine at a local restaurant or café.

Glen Beach

Head to Glen Beach for a peaceful afternoon, walk along the shore, or relax by the sea.

Visit Ardara

Explore Ardara, a designated Heritage Town famous for its handwoven tweeds.

Stay in Glencolmcille or Nearby Area

Make a night of it in Ardara, dining at one of the many local pubs or restaurants. Stay overnight in Glencolmcille or a nearby town, choosing from cozy B&B’s or guesthouses.

Day 2 At A Glance

Half-Day Trip to Killybegs

Travel to the fishing town of Killybegs, known for its scenic harbor.
Embark on a cruise around Slieve League cliffs, witnessing some of Europe’s highest sea cliffs from a unique vantage point

Seafood in Killybegs

Sample fresh, locally-caught seafood in Killybegs, renowned for its fishing industry.

Hike Around Slieve League

Drive to the Slieve League cliffs in County Donegal, and choose a hiking trail to experience the breathtaking sea cliffs first-hand.

Return and Reflect

Return to your accommodation and reflect on your adventures, perhaps journaling or planning your next day’s activities.

What is Donegal Best Known For?

What To Do In County Donegal, Ireland

If you’re making the journey over to Ireland, then you need to ensure you fit in everything that Donegal is best known for. This handy 2-day itinerary does all that for you!


Day 1Glencolmcille Folk Village and Glen Beach

Glencolmcille Folk Village

Located in Dooey, Glencolumbkille, Glen Folk Village is also known as Father McDyer’s Folk Village Museum. Please note that specific street addresses are less common in rural Ireland than in urban areas. The folk village is well-signposted within Glencolmcille itself. Use GPS navigation or online mapping services to guide you. 

This open-air museum, with its thatched roof replicas, is designed to give  a glimpse into the daily life of the local community from the 18th century onwards. The village is a collection of several traditional Irish cottages, each one themed to a different era.

These historical novelties allow you to step back in time and understand the true rural Irish way of life. This is particularly relevant if you have family roots in the British Isles. The village is compact yet offers enough to see and explore, making it suitable for spending a couple of hours wandering around the cottages and exhibits.

Free parking is available for visitors and entry fees are typically around €6 for adults, with reduced rates for children, students, and seniors. Family tickets are also available. There is a café on-site serving light refreshments, snacks, and traditional Irish dishes and caters to different budgets. The gift shop sells souvenirs and handmade crafts, with prices varying from affordable trinkets to more expensive, artisan products.

Glen Beach

Located at R263, Co. Donegal, the beauty of Glen Beach lies in its natural and unspoiled setting. It’s an ideal location to sunbathe, escape the crowds, and connect with nature.

Access to Glen Beach is typically free, with no entry fee required to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Limited parking might be available near the beach or within a short walking distance. As it’s a less commercialized area, parking is usually free but not formally designated.

Swimming in the North Atlantic Ocean can be quite cool, even in summer, with water temperatures averaging around 12°C to 15°C (54°F to 59°F). Glen Beach, like many remote beaches in Ireland, does not typically have lifeguard services. Exercise caution when swimming or exploring the area, especially given the unpredictable nature of the Atlantic.

Restrooms are not available directly at the beach. It’s common for rural beaches in Ireland to have minimal facilities, so plan accordingly. Rental services for chairs or umbrellas are generally not offered at Glen Beach. Bring any necessary items such as towels, chairs, or shade umbrellas.

Be mindful of the environment, practice Leave No Trace principles, and ensure you take all belongings and trash away with you.

Visit Ardara

Ardara, a charming and vibrant town located in County Donegal, Ireland, is renowned for its stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm community spirit.

Located in a scenic area known for its breathtaking mountains, pristine beaches, and rugged coastlines, Ardara is often referred to as the “Festival Capital of Donegal” reflecting its lively calendar of events and celebrations.

Dining in Ardara includes traditional Irish pubs with hearty meal menus to cafes and restaurants and accommodates modest to mid-range budgets.

Ardara’s general vibe is one of warmth, community, and tradition. The town’s streets are lined with colorful shops, traditional pubs, and friendly faces. The town’s commitment to preserving its cultural heritage satisfies your desire for an authentic Irish experience.

Things To Do In Ardara

Ardara offers a wealth of activities and attractions for all interests and budgets.

Explore the Ardara Heritage Centre to learn about the town’s rich weaving and textile history. The area is famous for its handwoven tweeds and  traditional workshops.

Enjoy scenic drives through the Glengesh Pass, hike to the Assaranca Waterfall, or visit the Maghera Caves and Beach for stunning natural landscapes.

💫Fancy Something Different? Try An E-Bike Tour Here!💫

Ardara is a hill walker’s paradise, offering routes like the Bluestack Way and Slí na Finne, showcasing the natural beauty of Donegal.

The region is perfect for fishing enthusiasts and golfers, with ample opportunities for both freshwater and sea angling, and several scenic golf courses nearby.

Festivals In Ardara

Ardara is famous for its vibrant festivals, drawing visitors from all over:

The Cup of Tae Festival: Celebrates traditional Irish music each May, honoring the legendary fiddler John “The Tae” Gallagher.

The Ardara Walking Festival: Offers guided walks through the stunning scenery of Donegal, held in March.

The Ardara Matchmaking Festival: A nod to Ireland’s traditional matchmaking heritage, with fun and festivities each November.

Day 2 – Killybegs, Slieve League, and Hike

Half-Day Trip to Killybegs

Renowned for its large deep-sea fishing port, Killybegs is an ideal destination for visitors interested in maritime life, fresh seafood, and coastal beauty.
Here’s an expanded itinerary to fill about three hours in Killybegs:

Walking Tour of the Harbor

Witness the comings and goings of fishing boats, some of which are among the largest trawlers in Ireland. Enjoy the scenic views of the boats against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding hills.
Information boards along the harbor provide insights into the local fishing industry and the town’s history.

Visit the Killybegs International Carpet Making & Fishing Centre

Discover the town’s history in carpet making, with Killybegs carpets once gracing the floors of the Vatican and the White House.

The center is located at the Town Pier, and often hosts demonstrations, providing a hands-on experience of traditional carpet weaving.

Visit to the Maritime & Heritage Visitor Centre

If time permits, stop by the Maritime & Heritage Visitor Centre. The center features exhibits on shipbuilding, maritime history, and the natural environment of the region.
It’s an excellent spot to gain more insight into the town’s connection to the sea and its cultural heritage.

Seafood Lunch at a Local Eatery

Sample fresh, locally caught seafood such as fish and chips, seafood chowder, or grilled catch of the day, complemented by the view of the harbor.

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Drive to the Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) cliffs and prepare to be amazed! Slieve League offers two options for hiking, or hill-walking: Pilgrim’s Path and One Man’s Pass.

Pilgrim’s Path

Length: Approximately 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles) one way.

Duration: The hike typically takes about 1.5 to 2 hours one way, depending on your pace and how often you stop to enjoy the views.

Difficulty: This trail is considered moderate in difficulty. It’s less challenging than One Man’s Pass but still requires a decent level of fitness.

Terrain: The path is well-defined and traverses boggy and rocky terrain. It involves some gradual ascents, but nothing too steep or strenuous. You should wear appropriate footwear and be cautious as the path can be slippery, especially after rain.

Views: The trail offers spectacular panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Slieve League cliffs, and the surrounding countryside.

Historical Significance: The path has historical importance as it was traditionally used by pilgrims visiting the site. Along the way, you can see remnants of old church ruins and stone crosses.

Wildlife: The area is known for its diverse birdlife, and with some luck, you might spot various seabirds along the cliffs.

Know Before You Go

The weather can be unpredictable. Check the forecast and prepare for changing conditions. Stay well back from the cliff edges, as gusts of wind can be strong and sudden.

While the path is well-marked, carrying a map or a GPS device is recommended for any hiking trail.

💫Prefer To Take It Easy?
Unwind On A Slieve League Coastal Tour💫

One Man’s Path

Length: The actual One Man’s Pass section is relatively short, but it’s part of a longer hike along the Slieve League cliffs. The full hike, including One Man’s Pass, can extend up to 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) one way.

Difficulty: This trail is considered challenging and is recommended for experienced hikers. It requires good balance and a head for heights due to its narrowness and proximity to steep drops.

Terrain: The trail is narrow, with a steep drop on one side and a sheer cliff face on the other. The path is rocky and can be quite slippery, especially in wet conditions.

Navigation: It’s crucial to stay on the path. The pass can be dangerous in high winds or poor weather, so it’s vital to check conditions before you start and be willing to turn back if necessary.

Views: One Man’s Pass offers some of the most spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Slieve League cliffs, and the surrounding countryside. On a clear day, you can see as far as Donegal Bay and the surrounding counties.

Experience: The hike is exhilarating and offers a sense of adventure. It’s known for providing a feeling of solitude and a deep connection with nature due to the rugged and remote setting.

Know Before You Go

Safety is paramount. Avoid this hike in bad weather, and always inform someone of your hiking plans. Wear sturdy hiking boots and bring appropriate gear, including water, snacks, and a windproof jacket.

The area is ecologically sensitive. Stick to the path to minimize your impact and take all trash with you. Restroom facilities are available at the car park area near the entrance to the hiking trails. It’s advisable to use these facilities before starting your hike, as there are no restrooms along the trails.

There are no food facilities directly at Slieve League. However, you can find cafes and restaurants in nearby towns like Carrick and Teelin. It’s a good idea to bring your own water and snacks, especially if planning a longer hike and intend to include mindful, healing breaks.

The initial part of Pilgrim’s Path is more accessible and offers viewing points for those unable to hike the full trail. One Man’s Pass and other rugged parts of the trail are not recommended for those with limited mobility.

During peak tourist season, there may be shuttle services from the lower car park to the viewing point near the cliffs. This service is subject to availability and weather conditions. Parking is available at the base of the cliffs, but it can fill up quickly during peak times.

There are no fees to access Slieve League. However, donations are welcomed at the visitor center to help with maintenance and conservation efforts.

Parking is generally free, but donations are appreciated. It is available at the base of the cliffs, but it can fill up quickly during peak times.

Visit Silver Strand Beach

 A secluded and picturesque beach near Malin Beg village, County Donegal, southwest of the town of Glencolmcille. Similar to the beaches in Portugal, Silver Strand offers a glimpse into the geology of coastal European landscapes.

It lies in a remote area, nestled in a beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay and surrounded by high cliffs, making it one of the most picturesque beaches in Ireland.
The beach is accessed via a series of steep steps leading down from the parking area, which adds to its secluded feel. The descent (and subsequent ascent) can be a bit challenging, but it’s well worth the effort for the breathtaking views and peaceful setting.

Where To Stay In Donegal

So now you’ve got an idea of what you can do during your visit, and what Donegal is best known for…but where can you stay to enjoy all this?

Luxury Accommodation

💫Lough Eske Castle Hotel & Spa💫

Located about an hours drive from Glencolmcille, this luxurious 5-star castle hotel is set in a historic building amidst beautiful woodlands. With elegant rooms, spa facilities, fine dining restaurant, and picturesque surroundings, the price range of a stay here is certainly high end, but is justified with its luxury status and amenities.

Mid-Range Accommodation

💫Slieve League Lodge💫

Situated in Carrick – only a short drive from Glencolmcille- Slieve League Lodge is a comfortable and welcoming guesthouse offering a cozy stay. They have well-appointed rooms, an on-site bar, and are in a convenient location for exploring local attractions. The price point of a stay here is moderate, providing good value for the amenities and location.

Budget Accommodation

💫Glencolmcille Hostel (An Oige Irish Youth Hostel Association)💫

Sat in the heart of Glencolmcille, this hostel offers dormitory-style accommodation, perfect for backpackers and solo travelers. With shared rooms, communal kitchen, and lounge area, this is a very affordable options, catering to those on a tight budget.

Final Thoughts: What Is Donegal Best Known For?

As your two-day adventure in the heart-stirring landscapes of Donegal comes to a close, think back on all your adventures. 

Whether the awe-inspiring Slieve League Cliffs were your favorite, or the step back in time visit to Glencolmcille Folk Village, each moment had a spark of Irish magic.
Donegal is not only an exploration of Wild Atlantic beauty, but also an experience of the heart, as you embrace the warm hospitality of its people.

Feeling a connection to nature and Irish culture will create a vacation filled with love and joy, and is a gift you give yourself. Following this itinerary of everything Donegal is best known for will leave you feeling satisfied with your time spent here.

At time of writing, there are currently no Coronavirus measures limiting tourists to enter Ireland. This is in accordance with the information provided on gov.uk.

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