Portnoo Beach

Wild Atlantic Way Donegal Must See Highlights

Posted: 20th June 2022

What is the Wild Atlantic Way?

The Wild Atlantic Way is a 1,550mile/2,500 km route on the West Ireland Coastline and arguably one of the best road trips in the world. The route takes you through 9 counties showing off Ireland’s white beaches, castles, mountains and rugged Islands. 

Wild Atlantic Way & Causeway Coastal Routes

Donegal County Wild Atlantic Way – 310miles / 500km

The start of the Wild Atlantic Way really struts it stuff in Donegal as its rugged coastline rightly puts the wild into the way. The biggest selling point of Donegal for me, is the exceptional remoteness and untamed landscape. Wild camping is legal in Ireland however, the further south you go the more height barriers and ‘no camping’ signs you will find next to the beaches.

I came across no restrictions in Donegal given campers ultimate freedom and the wild camping experience we all lust after. I spent a lot of time bare foot camping a stone throw away from the ocean and collecting wood for small evening beach fires.   

There are oodles of places to visit here but to help you narrow down your options I have shortlisted my favourites. I really do hope this blog encourages you and others to visit Donegal, this is a place where nature prevails and who knows how long that will be the case.  

If you are arriving or leaving from Belfast or Larne you might want to consider adding a 3-day scenic Causeway Route to your trip Causeway Coastal Route. If you would like to carry on south to the next county on the Wild Atlantic Way check out Wild Atlantic Way Sligo. 

15 Must See Highlights

Wild Atlantic Way Donegal Must See Highlights
Map of Donegal

1. Malin Head

Malin Head

Malin Head is located at the northernmost tip of Ireland and on a clear day you can as far as Scotland.

If you are here during the Winter, you may be able to see the Northern lights (the Aurora app will confirm if the Northern lights will be visible).

2. Ballyhiernan Bay

I came across this place by chance, and it ended up being one of my favourite spots, perfect for wild camping. It is a long-exposed beach facing the Atlantic which gives good consistent surf conditions.


3. Doe Castle

Doe’s Castle was built in 1425 and remained occupied until 1909. However, it is far from abandoned as many people flock to see the well-preserved 15th century castle.

Doe Castle

4. Dumfanaghy Beach


If you would like a bit of civilisation or need to top up on supplies head to Dumfanaghy. The beach is a typical beautiful Irish beach with a long stretch of sand and shallow waters. It is good for walking, swimming and horse riding. It is also has a surf rental shop and a selection of pubs and cafes.

5. Magheroarty Beach

Magheroarty beach is an extensive 4km long and is a safe spot for swimming. A natural reef to the left of the pier creates a wave break making it an excellent surf spot.

Climbing to the top of the sand dunes will give you a 360 degrees view. You will see Tory Island to the north and the white point of Mount Errigal to the south.

Magheroarty Beach

6. Mount Errigal

Errigal is a dramatic shaped 751-metre-high mountain. It is the highest of Donegal’s seven sister range and a popular hike due to its majestic surrounds. It should take between 2-3 hours to get up and down, but it is not for the faint hearted as it is rather scrambly towards the top. I would highly recommend you keep dogs on a lead for safety reasons.

Mount Errigal

7. Cruit Island

Cruit Island is linked by a small bridge and there is a road which runs the length of the Island. This place was one of my favourite camp spots, it is great for swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding. There is also a golf course at the very end of the Island.

Cruit Island
Cruit Island

8. Burtonport Old Railway Walk

This is a route originally built for a train which connected Burtonport to Letterkenny between 1903 to 1940. The walk has lovely scenery and woodlands, there are a few different routes from 3 miles to 7 miles. To find out more information on the different walks go to Burtonport Railway Walk

Burtonport Railway Walk

9. Crohy Sea Stacks

Crohy Sea Stacks

This freestanding arch is a hidden gem and not so easy to find. There is a small sign / plague along the road and layby big enough for about 3 cars. You will need to jump over the fence and walk 5 minutes to the opposite side of the field. From here, on the cliff edge you can see the stacks and the way to climb down. Wear decent footwear it’s a steep and rocky climb!

10. Portnoo Beach

Portnoo Beach

Portnoo is a spectacular beach with crystal clear water and safe swimming conditions. At low tide it is possible to walk over to Inishkeel Island where you will find the remains if two churches. 


It also makes a great place to wild camp having a small carpark with public toliets facing the ocean.


11. Kilclooney Portal Tomb

There are many tombs across Ireland, Kilclonney Portal Tomb is dated back to at least 5000 years. This is a typical tomb with two large portal stones standing on either side of an entrance capped with a massive sloping capstone.

Kilclooney Tomb

12. Asseranca Waterfall

Asseranca Waterfall

The road trip to Asseranca and the Maghera Seas Caves (below) has stunning scenery and there are many camp spots. The Waterfall is about 75m high falling down from the mountain.

13. Maghera Sea Caves

The setting for the caves is beautiful. The beach is a 200m walk across the sand dunes from the car park and has the softest sand I have ever stepped foot on, it felt like talc powder under my feet. There are over 20 caves, 8 arches and 5 tunnels that can be visited by kayak or boat. There are few caves you can reach by foot during low tide.

Maghera Sea Caves

14. Malin Beg/Silver Strand

Another one of my favourite camp sites. The silver strand is a tropical looking sheltered cove of white sand to the most western tip of Donegal. I was told coconut shells and sea beans are often found washed up here arriving all the way from the Caribbean.

15. Rossnowlagh

One of Europe’s biggest blue flag beaches and popular for walking, swimming, sailing and surfing. The surf is very consistent here and has been known to get waves as high as 7 metres. If you want a lesson or to hire surf equipment pay Rossnowlagh Surf School a visit in the village. There is also a couple of pubs / restaurants and a very decently priced camp site.

Rossnowlagh Beach
Rossnowlagh Beach

I hope this blog was useful, if you have any feedback on how I can make these blogs better, i.e what information was missing etc please let me know in the comment box below. Other wise enjoy!

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank my local tour guide and one of my best friends Iain, who is always proud to show off his home county.

This blog is for you pal. Your fun loving attitude towards life and great hospitality made up for the dent you put in my van (sorry had to get that in). Much love Irish. Until next time……..


Emma and Jamie xxxxxx

Emma & Jamie
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