How does this work?
Donegal bay, County Donegal, Ireland

Slieve League Coastal Drive Along Donegal Bay

Spectacular views and hidden gems along your way to these sea cliffs.

provided by
Viewed 23806 times
    This guide contains photos
 (1 vote)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 33 miles / 53 km
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly
Overview: Enjoy the best sights and sounds around the magnificent Donegal bay - one of the great scenic road journeys in Ireland. With Donegal Town as our base, we weave along the coast road to make our way to the wonder of nature that is the Slieve League sea cliffs walk, some 600m above the Atlantic.

This guide is one of the guides available on the 'Donegal Town App', all available for free - simply click on the link to the Donegal Town App bundle. You will then need to individually download the guides you'll wish to have on your Android or iPhone.

The Slieve League sea cliffs, along with Croaghaun down in Achill, are the two highest sea cliffs in Ireland, some three times higher than the Cliffs of Moher and with a lot less of the crowds and the hype. In short, Slieve League is possibly the best reason to come to south Donegal and will be a walk that you will savour for years to come. As such, Slieve League might eclipse other gems in the area so we hope this driving guide ensures you know of some other great places along the way. Where possible, we give you what a place's Irish name is and what it means.

Go 'in through' as the locals call it - you're 'in through' once you get beyond Killybegs and all folk west of here are known as coming from 'in through'. Now you know... Ideally, you should take a few days to do this drive properly, thus ensuring you sample the nightlife of Kilcar, the fishing of Carrick, the gardens of Salthill and the rich history of Killybegs. With attractions this good, you really don't want to rush things.

This guide is included in our comprehensive free Donegal App under the Best of Donegal Bay tour - see the link for it on the right hand column. Works on both sat navs and smart phones.

Tips: Ensure you familiarize yourself with the route beforehand. There are some breathtaking scenes along the way with plenty of stops required. Clearly, there'll be heights galore on this journey so if you have vertigo or the likes, think twice; on Slieve League itself, crossing the One Man's Pass is only for the fearless. For Slieve League, full hiking gear from rainwear to sturdy boots is required as is water, a phone and perhaps walking sticks if you can get them. If doing the walk for the first time, a knowledgeable guide is recommended to enjoy Slieve League properly.

Do not use this App while driving. The guide is offered subject to acceptance of the Licence Agreement, which is linked on the right hand column of this page. If you are downloading, we recommend the use of the EveryTrail Pro app, which allows for offline map usage of the guide.

Last updated: August 2014. Spot any typos or mistakes or got any suggestions to improve this guide? Email

2014 UPDATE: A lot of effort has gone into providing this free travel guide for your enjoyment. In return, we'd kindly ask you to either like it on Facebook or retweet it on Twitter below. Or if logging on to EveryTrail, please rate this guide. Thank you.

Points of Interest


Donegal Town

Area: Donegal. In Irish, Dún na nGall - Fort of the Foreigners.

Donegal Town is well covered in our guides - see our heritage, food and nature guides for yourself. As regards a hidden gem, we'd have to say that Donegal Chartered boat trips run by captain Paul Ricketts offers a great way of sightseeing Donegal Bay and doing a spot of fishing - well recommended.

086 609 6035

Hall desmesne

Area: Hall Desmesne. in Irish, Dúiche an Halla.

Slane Castle gets all the attention, but rock impresario Lord Henry Mountcharles's other ancestral pile is here on the shores of the bay - you can see it from the road surrounded by trees. He has been known to come up and cut the odd ribbon for fetes in Mountcharles or Monte Carlo as the local wags call it, but otherwise the country house is locked up and out of bounds (and no longer in his ownership). The Marquesses Conyngham were the greatest landowners in County Donegal with land once extended to 122,230 acres in the county.

The hidden gem here is the great walk to the pier - let that fresh sea air fill your lungs and imagine how horrid it would be to have such serenity spoilt by rock concerts in the large field beside Henry's old 'house'!

Salthill gardens

Area: Salthill Desmesne. In Irish, Cnoc an tSalainn - salt hill.

Elizabeth Temple set about transforming the gardens of her home, Salthill House, well over 20 years ago and today, we can all enjoy the results of what is without a doubt the finest garden in the area. Not content with throwing her doors open most days to the public, a recent addition is live classical music being performed beside the gardens.

Opening Dates/Times 2014 TBC, but 2013 was:
Tueday 7th May to 26th September
Monday to Thursday 2pm to 6pm
Saturdays Only in
May June & July 2pm to 6pm

Entrance fee e5. No dogs please.
Group Tours welcome.
Approved by Office of Public Works.

Phone: 00353 (0)74 97 35387

Salthill Gardens
Co Donegal


Area: Inver. In Irish, Inbhear Náile - the inlet of the sea of St. Naul.

Along the N56 route is the village of Inver on the fishing river of Eany. There are two churchs, two shops (Spar and Cassidy's), two primary schools and of course two pubs, the Milltown and the Rising Tide, all well worth a visit. It has a great unspoiled beach you won't hear too much about and if you're lucky enough to be about for one of their regular amateur productions run by the prodigious Kay McAleavey, you'll see a community in perfect harmony and with great talent. Location of the last mass rock used in Ireland up until 1895 - look out for St. Naul's church which is the site of the mass rock.

The Donegal Bay area has long been noted for large whales and even gave rise to a whale fishery being established in Inver in 1759. This whaling station was established by Thomas Nesbit from Inver who had five new boats commissioned in London for the enterprise. The function of the station was to produce whale bone and blubber to be rendered down to oil. These were important commodities at the time for export to England. Thomas Nesbit is also credited as inventing the harpoon gun, which was used all over the world in whale fishing. The remains of his whaling station can still be seen in Inver today. Not such a sleepy village, eh?


Area: Dunkineely. In Irish, Dún Cionnaola - Kineally's fort.

Every year in the month of July or August the small town of Dunkineely hosts a 3 day weekend Summer Street Festival. Events over the years have included a parade through the town, soap box derby races, live bands, pub quizzes, sporting competitions, classic car show, wheelie bin races and digger and tractor driving competitions.

Festivals are ten a penny in Ireland, but it is in places like Dunkineely that you'll find a vibrancy and and old world charm that slicker bigger and costlier events cannot achieve. It's old fashioned in look and feel - St. Mary's Hall is alas no longer a buzzing dance hall, but if you;re looking for the best fish supper in Donegal, it is Dunkineely's local chipper, Baskin's Cafe - the town's hidden gem. Fresh fish and proper chips for e7.20? Brilliant.

Castlemurray House Hotel

You're on the coast of the finest bay in Ireland, a few miles from its premier fishing port, you like good seafood, good views and good service? With Castlemurray, you've got all three. Ensure you get in a walk along St. John's Point if possible as it juts defiantly into the Atlantic - a great place to see dolphins and act like King Canute. Well briefly...

074 9737022

Castlemurray House Hotel
St. Johns Point

The river of beauty

Area: Bruckless. in Irish, An Bhroclais - the badger's den.

This peaceful village lies on the main N56 road to Killybegs and overlooks McSwyne's Bay. The parish church, the Church of Saints Joseph and Conal, is noted for its round tower, which can be seen from most parts of the village, and there are numerous archaeological artifacts in the area, including early Christian cross slabs. Tridentine Mass is still held here at 12.30 every Sunday.

However the real gem here is a river that translation has done a great disservice to. After the church, the brown sign on your left indicates that you are passing over the Oily river, which by any stretch of the imagination can have nothing but negative connotations with pollution. What happened was the word for the river in Irish was 'áille' meaning 'beautiful or pleasing to the eye' which on translation became 'oily' in English. Friel's 'Translations springs to mind with the removal of a euphonic, meaningful language into a nonsensical patois.

Celebrate the river of beauty or 'an abhainn áille' with a bite to eat next to it in the village pub, Mary Murrins. This hostelry is a real find and offers highly regarded honest-to-God home cooking. There's a heritage trail and a holy well signposted beside the pub. Ask inside for more details and make an afternoon of it.

Mary Murrins
074 9737061

Killybegs Heritage Centre

Area: Killybegs. In Irish, Na Cealla Beaga - the little churches.

Besides being Ireland's premier fishing port, Killybegs is a great area beside the sea and is brilliant for water sports like surfing, canoeing, windsurfing, diving, kite-surfing and also water skiing. A new dive centre just opened last year and diving is available for over 16s but for 12 and over swimming pool diving is available. At the dive centre there is a professional dive shop and the centre is fully certified with SDI (Scuba Diving International).

The hidden gem in this town is not the local politician Thomas Pringle, who against the odds chucked out the deputy prime minister, Mary Coughlan, from the neighbouring parish in the recent election! No, the gem is the Martime and Heritage Centre in town. Three good reasons to visit it?

1. Stand in the actual Carpet Factory which once designed, dyed and thread wool by hand-knotters, and produced world-class Donegal Carpets that can still be seen in such places as Dublin Castle, The Oval Room at the White House, the Vatican, Buckingham Palace, stately homes, and foreign embassies throughout the globe.
2. See the largest hand-knotted loom in the world, view live demonstrations of how hand-knotting is done, and also have the opportunity to test your own skills at the loom.
3. View the largest fishing fleet in Ireland in its natural harbour, the home-place of the Atlantic Dawn, which was one of the largest fishing vessels in country; step into the boots of a fisherman via the Bridge Simulator replica of a boat wheelhouse, and experience the virtual reality of the ocean.

The Carpet Factory, Killybegs, Co. Donegal.
074 9741944

Fintra beach

Area: Fintra. In Irish, An Fine Tra - the tribe's beach.

Fintra beach is located on the outskirts of Killybegs town and is a certified Blue Flag beach. It is a very beautiful beach and receives large numbers of day-trippers during the summer months and is also used by the local community. Fintra is a sheltered beach and is lifeguarded throughout the bathing season - good news if you've got the kids in tow.

Ever see a great 2003 short film called 'Burning the Bed' starring Gina McKee and Aidan Gillen? it was filmed on this beautiful beach.

Muckross head

Area: Muckross. In Irish, Mucros - the pig grove.

A beautiful small beach that is both safe to swim in and is the perfect tucked away gem, far from the madding crowd - they're all down doing the tourist trail in Kerry! The headland itself is a great rugged walk with breathtaking views of the bay and nearby Slieve League whose hulking frame resembles that of a giant quarterback. One of the true hidden gems of the county and where Ferris Bueller has been known to have the odd day off, if ya know what we mean!


Area: Kilcar. In Irish, Cill Charthaigh - the church of St. Cartha.

You are now the Gaeltacht area of the county and in a cracking village with a history of superlative endeavour in Gaelic football. There are a number of great old world pubs here - John Joe's and O'Gara's are good, but Teach Prionsias is a place that is few and far between these days - where groceries can be bought out the front and great trad music can be heard in the pub out the back. A must see when in Kilcar.

Also worth noting is the busy community centre. It is the place to go if looking for information on heritage, genealogy or indeed learning some Irish when in these parts - a skip over the bridge from Teach Prionsias.
Community Centre, Kilcar, Co. Donegal

Fancy walking in Kilcar? Here are some details: -


Area: Carrick. In Irish, An Charraig - the rock.

Situated in Carrick is the secretary of FISSTA, Noel Carr, a champion for all things to do with angling, especially of the salmon and sea trout variety. He and FISSTA members work to achieve the abundant return of the wild Atlantic salmon to our waters and the mission starts here, where Noel can tell you each and every place to get some great fish in the area. Give him a call and go fishing instead a just a wishing.

Noel Carr, Teelin Road, Carrick.

Nuala Star boat ride

Want to see the mighty sea cliffs from the sea and do a spot of fishing or sight seeing? Nuala Star have a passenger boat service taking people to see Slieve League or now that you're in the Gaeltacht, it is also known as 'Sliabh Liag'. Their sailing times are 10, 12, 2, 4 & 6 daily unless otherwise stated, call them for details beforehand.

074 97 39365 or mobile 087 6284688

Nuala Star Teelin
Teelin Harbour,
Co Donegal.

Slieve League sea cliffs

Area: Slieve League. In Irish, Sliab Liag - the grey mountain.

Often called the highest sea cliffs in Europe, but a very respectable sixth instead dropping some 600 metres to the sea, they are located some 5km northwest of the village of Carrick via Teelin. Ensure you follow the sign marked Bunglass (not the Slieve League Pilgrim's Path one!) to view these cliffs from the excellent new viewing platform. You can do the walk from Bunglass or via the Pilgrim's Path. Good footwear and clothing essential. Watch out for the dreaded One Mans' Pass, a section of the walk over a narrow ledge of rock. Also watch out for The Rusty (formerly The Rusty Mackerel) afterwards for some well-deserved refreshment.

Our advice is to contact Marion McGinley, Secretary of the Slieve League hillwalkers club on 086 6063923. Have a great time and get back safe to Donegal Town!
Pictures in this guide taken by: navigatourist

Slieve League Coastal Drive Along Donegal Bay Map

POIs: numbers | icons View large Map

Have an iPhone or Android?

  • Map your route while you move
  • Add trip photos to your map instantly
  • Share trips right from your phone
  • Find and follow trips from other travelers

Available For:
iPhone | Android

About the Author

35 guides
view navigatourist's profile
navigatour® is an innovative GPS travel service for getting the most out of seeing Ireland. Already...

Slieve League Coastal Drive Along Donegal Bay 3 Day Forecast

Extended Forecast
How To Get There
Get directions from: