A Weekend in Donegal

Donegal blew me away! I hadn’t heard much about Donegal so I had absolutely no expectations and maybe that’s one of the reasons why I was so impressed. It is absolutely one of the nicest places I’ve ever visited!

It wasn’t until after our trip that I found out that Donegal took the number one spot on The National Geographic’s 2017 Cool List! I’m not one bit surprised and after reading this post, I’m sure you’ll also agree!

Getting There

We travelled from Dublin to Donegal by car. The journey was a lot quicker than either of us had anticipated at 2 hours 50 minutes and it was relatively straight all the way. It cost us €80 in petrol to get there and back, just in case you plan on making the trip.

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way, slieve lead, Malin head, game of thrones, starwars
You can fly to Donegal too (thank you to the lovely air hostess on my Snapchat who taught me that)! Flights are around €75 per person return and take about an hour. The landing into Donegal airport was recently voted the second most scenic landing in the world by PrivateFly. However, if you want to see as much of Donegal as possible, you’ll need a car with you. Also, driving along the Wild Atlantic Way was a fantastic experience and I highly recommend doing it at least once!

Where to stay in Donegal?

We booked the Radisson Blu Hotel in Letterkenny the day before we travelled and it was very reasonable! The hotel was lovely, the rooms are basic, but it’s spotless clean and very central.

Price: €129 per room with breakfast and you can book here.donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way, slieve lead, Malin head, game of thrones, starwars, letterkenny, Radisson blu hotel
Just after we arrived, we had lunch in The Yellow Pepper, which was just around the corner from our hotel. I got Tapas and Darren had a flatbread pizza and it was absolutely delicious! You can view the full menu here.

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Things to See and Do in Donegal

Where to start? There’s so much to do in Donegal, we didn’t get to do some of what we would have liked to but that just means we’ll have to go back!

Malin Head

Malin Head in Donegal is the northern most point in Ireland and home to some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen, anywhere in the world! It was about an hour drive from Letterkenny.

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way, slieve lead, Malin head, game of thrones, starwars
I thought I heard that a Star Wars movie was filmed there but when I Googled to confirm, I couldn’t find anything that looked legitimate. I think I might have made that up!

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There’s a little path that takes you around the mountain (is it classed as a mountain?) and I suggest you bring shoes with good grip, if you don’t want to fall like me! Darren managed to catch my fall in our Travel Vlog (see below).

Culdaff Beach

We visited Culdaff Beach on the way back from Malin Head and it’s the definition of a hidden gem. It’s a tiny little beach, really quiet, with beautiful greenery, white sand and turquoise water.


We were hoping to get a takeaway and eat it on the beach but we couldn’t find anywhere close by. Such a stunning spot for a picnic or late night wander.

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way, slieve lead, Malin head, game of thrones, starwars
These pictures were taken at 8pm so you can imagine how much whiter the sand looks in the day time!

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way, slieve lead, Malin head, game of thrones, starwars

Glenveagh Castle and Gardens

If there’s a castle, I’ll find it!

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Glenveagh was about a 20 minute drive from Letterkenny. The gardens are spectacular.

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way, slieve lead, Malin head, game of thrones, starwars, glenveagh
We walked to the castle, it was a 4km walk, so wear runners and not a pair of Penney’s mules like me!

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way, slieve lead, Malin head, game of thrones, starwars
You can rent bikes, which I usually love to do! The minimum time you could rent for was 3 hours and we weren’t planning on staying that long, so we didn’t bother. There’s a little mini bus too which is so handy! It’s only €1.50 each way (picture of the bus stop below). We got the bus back from the castle but I wouldn’t have gotten it both ways, the gardens are beautiful and not to be missed.

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way, slieve lead, Malin head, game of thrones, starwars
You can do a tour of the castle but we had just missed one and it was an hour wait until the next one.

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Price: Access to the gardens and grounds of the castle is free however it’s €7 to take a tour of the castle. The bikes are €12 each or €18 for an electric one.

Port Salon Beach

This was my favourite part of our trip. I just could not get over this place. We had lunch in the Port Salon Golf Club and the food was delicious!

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way
Now, in saying that, the food wasn’t anywhere near the standard of the Yellow Pepper; it was homemade style food, but it was really tasty. The views from the Golf Club were amazing but we found it hard to capture that with the camera!

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way
After lunch, we went down to the beach and honestly, it was the cleanest and quietest beach I’ve ever visited.

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way
The weather was stunning, it was in the mid-20s, and yet the beach was still dead! It’s like a holiday town, they have caravan/mobile home parks and chalets and I could see myself spending a week there easily (if we were guaranteed the weather, of course!).

donegal, portsalon, ireland, beach
I just loved it there, it was like another world and I can’t believe we have towns like Port Salon in Ireland. I need to find more of them!

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way
Price: The beach is free. It was €18.50 per person for a 3 course meal in the Golf Club which is very reasonable especially considering the food was gorgeous!

Fanad Lighthouse

We never made it to Fanad Lighthouse because it closed at 5:15pm and we didn’t want to leave Port Salon Beach that early! I wanted to go because you can actually go into the lighthouse which is rare! It’s only about 10 minutes from Port Salon so you can do both on the same day.

Price: €8 per adult and you can read more about it here.

Slieve Liag

Slieve Liag mountain has some of the highest cliffs in Ireland, in fact, some of them are 3 times higher than the Cliffs of Moher. You can get a boat trip around the mountain and sometimes dolphins and basking sharks can be seen! Slieve Liag was about 1 hour 45 minutes in the car one way and we had so much to fit in during our stay, so we didn’t get to do it this time.

Price: The boat trips are around €20 to €25 per person depending on the numbers on the day. You can read more about it here.

I hope I’ve convinced you to visit Donegal! It really wasn’t an expensive weekend at all. For transport, accommodation and spending money, we spent about €280 for the weekend.

donegal, ireland, portsalon, beach, Irish beach, Northern Ireland, wild Atlantic way, slieve lead, Malin head, game of thrones, starwars

Travel Vlog

We have some really exciting travels coming up and I’d love you to follow our adventures on Facebook and Instagram. In the meantime, if you want to read more about our travels, please click here.

Thanks for reading as always,

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A Lifestyle Blog by Carly Colgan Bates