How To Have An Amazing Weekend Getaway in Donegal, Ireland
It is time for a short weekend getaway in Ireland! Nonetheless, it was for a weekend only; it was not less remarkable! Especially, as it was my present for myself for my exceptional day – my birthday! So instead of trying to figure out what to do on my special day and with whom I want to spend it, I chose to take the responsibility to make myself happy.
Ireland is one of my favorite countries. I fell in love with it for the very first time about seven years ago when I visited a friend of mine in Dublin. After a few more visits and a two-week road trip in June 2017, I went back one more time for my birthday weekend.
This time, I also made a better job of planning this trip. Different from my June trip, I checked the dates of the return flight first before I booked it making sure that I did not choose the wrong day for the return flight.
A Getaway in Ireland – A Weekend Itinerary
Because I had a weekend this time, I could do a few things only. I drove from Rush to the North-West which is the other side of the island. Not a lot of time for a getaway in Ireland as there is so much more to see and visit. Anyways, I made the most out of it, and I had a blast during these three days.
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I flew into Dublin, got my car, and headed directly to my AirBnB in Rush on Thursday evening. The master plan for Friday was to arrive in Dungloe, County Donegal in the afternoon. So there was no significant hurry to start the day too early. This first route took me to the North of County Dublin, further through Northern Ireland, and back again over Sligo.
Rush is a little town, which is located about half an hour north of Dublin Airport on the eastern coast. Easy to find (Google maps or your GPS will help you) and already on the route which I wanted to take the next day. The best about this location was that the house* is so close to the sea that I could have a nice little walk to the beach the next morning.
According to my hosts´ recommendation, I followed the main street to Skerries*. This street follows the coastline all the way from Rush to Balbriggan. I stopped by in Skerries at the little harbor with fisher boats and a viewing tower. You could also view a couple of smaller islands. One of them landed St. Patrick when he came back to Ireland as a missionary. And if you like, follow the St. Patrick´s Path and pass some essential stops on his journey.
The next stop should have been Balbriggan. I did stop here. But not in the city center, instead, I went to Ardgillan Castle. A hidden gem is overlooking the Irish Sea according to their website. And there are right. I looked it up in my travel guide but no word about Balbriggan or the castle. And it so such a lovely and beautiful area. A big park, a playground, a rose garden and the castle itself are well preserved. Castle tours are available for 6.50€ per adult which is not too expensive from my point of view, and afterward, you can have some tea, a hot chocolate, and more in their tea room. I would have loved to take the haunted castle tour, which is currently available as a Halloween special.
After I had my hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows, I continued my journey on the M1 and stopped in Monasterboice, County Louth. The historic ruins are of an early Christian settlement north of Drogheda. Famous for its spectacular high crosses you can also visit a round tower, a graveyard, and an ancient sundial. Some people even say that the most beautiful and elegant high crosses in entire Ireland can be found here. Make your own opinion if this is true. However, the high crosses and also the round tower is impressive. I am always wondering how skilled and smart people in the past were.
However, the high crosses and also the round tower is impressive. I am always wondering how skilled and smart people in the past were. Especially, without all the modern machines or devices.
For the second day of my getaway in Ireland, I just wanted to explore the area between Dungloe and Donegal, which is completely enough for a weekend getaway in Ireland. And even in this area are so many different places to visit in only this one short getaway in Ireland.
Dungloe is located approx 50 kilometers north of Donegal and is the main administrative and retail center in Western County Donegal. There are a few pubs, banks, and restaurants around the main street, a nice short river walk, and some hotels and hostels. That is pretty much it. Not too big but perfect as a starting point to explore this region. Both directions are possible, going to the North or going to the South to discover all the amazing things Ireland has to offer.
I stayed in the River House hostel*, which I can highly recommend. All of the staff is super friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable when it comes to suggestions of things to visit and do. The most recommended pubs where the Stepping Stone and the Bayview Bar and especially, on Fridays is live music almost everywhere, which is pretty cool if your room is right around the corner.
Statue of Liberty
Finally, I can tick off this point from my bucket list. I already wanted to visit the Irish version of the Statue of Liberty during my stay in Summer. Unfortunately, two weeks were not enough to explore the West/ South and the North.
Besides my obsession with lighthouses, the second one is to find all the replicas of the Statue of Liberty. I already spotted a few of them in France and the USA, and when I learned that Ireland also has one of them, the plan was made to get to know where to find it. Of course, to visit it as well. So thought, so done. I found it!
You will find this one in Mulnami More, County Donegal. If you leave Dungloe and follow the N56 to Donegal, you will pass it automatically after approx 15 kilometers. The little Lady Liberty stays in the front of a home directly on the street. By the way, you can rent the house for your vacation and travels. Would that be cool? To stay in a house with an ocean view and the statue of liberty in your garden? I thought about it. But a minimum four-person home for the single me would have been a bit awkward and expensive, unfortunately.
The story behind that one is easy, short, and funny at the same time. Well, the owner found that one in Limerick in a Pub to be more specific. And somehow he was so fascinated that he bought it from the Pub owner. Ever since it stays in his front garden overlooking Gweebarra Bay.
Following the road, you will come to Ardara, where a couple of possibilities to visit can be found. The Assaranca Waterfall, the Maghera Beach, and Caves or the Deserted Village in Port. As far as I heard, all of them are an excellent opportunity to find natural wonders, ancient cultures, and history or just beautiful and picturesque beaches.
I choose to head into the mountains. The Glengesh Pass is also known as the Donegal Pass and is part of a road that connects Glencolmcille to Ardara. This route is just stunning with its panoramic views. Approximately 24 kilometers of a narrow and windy road with hairpin bends, old cottages, farms, and Sheep alongside the route. Glengesh is one of two glaciated valleys that carve this area.
“This breathtaking route is not the main route to Ardara, but it is a route you will remember for a long time.” (www.irishtourism.com/scenic-attractions-in-ireland/glengesh-pass/)
I could not say it better. I stopped a few times alongside the road to wonder and of course, to take photos, too.
Slieve League Cliffs
The next stop for me after leaving the Glengesh Pass was the Slieve League Cliffs. With 609 meters these cliffs are one of the highest in Europe and almost three times higher than the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. There are a couple of stops like the Slieve League Cliffs Centre with a craft shop, local history, and culture. From here it is possible to book a guided hike to the cliffs and back.
Another stop is the car park before you go to the viewing point areas. You can walk up the rest of this path. Or, if you do not want to walk the whole way, especially, when it is raining you can drive up the rest straight to the edge of the cliffs.
Some small stone steps follow the cliffs all the way. Unfortunately, it was too foggy this day to see its whole beauty and wideness. It says that one can see all the way to County Mayo on a bright day.
Last but not least, I arrived in Donegal. My favorite part of this small town was the Donegal Castle. A small but well-preserved castle which you can visit for five Euro per adult only. It was built in the 15th century and sits on a bend of the River Eske. Leaflets with detailed information are available in several languages, and guided tours take place once an hour.
After touring the Castle, I had a hot chocolate and a delicious Blueberry Pie at the Blueberry Tearoom. Then I called it a day and left this lovely little town and headed back to my hostel in Dungloe.
One more day left to discover some new places. As my return flight is scheduled for Monday morning, I thought it would be a good idea to be back in the Dublin* area by Sunday afternoon or evening. So I chose a different route to go back to Dublin than the one I took to go to Dungloe. My route choice brought me to Sligo and the most massive megalithic cemetery in Ireland.
Carrowmore is situated four kilometers southwest of Sligo and is not the largest one only but also among the oldest cemeteries of this kind in the whole of Ireland. The most past exemplars are approx 5000 years old. Till today, 27 monuments survived in various stages of preservation. Researchers think that there may have been up to 100 monuments in this area. Unfortunately, most of them were damaged by land clearance and quarrying in the nineteenth century. The tombs are out of boulder circles, many of them with a central dolmen. Definitely, worth a visit, especially, with the five Euro admission fee per adult only.
After dipping into the ancient past of Ireland, I headed back to Drogheda where I stayed the last night. Three more hours of driving. I considered having one or two more stops on this route in Carrick-on Shannon to have lunch and a visit to Belvedere House & Garden in Mullingar. But I felt good enough to go for these three hours in one drive and be as early as possible in Drogheda to have some relaxing time on my last evening.
This time it is a beautiful and comfortable Bed & Breakfast*. Too bad, that I had to skip breakfast. But it would have been too early before I left to catch my flight. Even if Drogheda is only 40 minutes away from the airport to be on time, I started this morning at four a.m.
Well, my little getaway in Ireland is over now. I loved it, and I miss it already!