Cool Things To Do In Donegal Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way

My favorite cool things to do in Donegal Ireland span the rugged Wild Atlantic Way and explore unique hidden gems of the “Coolest Place on Earth.” Enjoy a variety of cool things in Donegal, including opportunities to surf and ride horses at beautiful beaches, hike dramatic cliffs, sip tea in a castle, and travel a less-visited side of Ireland.

Thank you to Donegal Tourism for hosting McCool Travel.

1. Sliabh Liag (Slieve League)

Perhaps the natural highlight of Donegal Ireland is the sea cliffs at Sliabh Liag (Slieve League). These cliffs are three times taller than the uber-popular Cliffs of Moher, further south along the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal.

McCool Travel tip: Go Visit Donegal!


2. Glencolmcille Folk Village

Glencolmcille Folk Village has reconstructed typical Irish buildings from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Very cool, especially since I have traced some McCool family history to the 1660s. Nice to see how my ancestors (and all people, of course) would have lived during those time periods.


3. Nancy’s Barn

This cute place with the very non-Irish name, Nancy’s Barn in Ballyliffin, is not a barn (well, it may have been) and has no one there answering to the name Nancy. Owner/chef Kieran Duey won the World Chowder Cookoff in 2017 in Newport, Rhode Island so you know that seafood chowder is amazing (it was!).


4. Glenveagh National Park

The Glenveagh Castle is one highlight of the remote wilderness of Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal Ireland. The property was formerly owned by a Harvard University professor. After strolling the trails, visit the tearoom for some of the yummiest sweet treats I had on our 25 day Ireland trip.

cool things to do in Donegal Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
Glenveagh Castle: things to do in Donegal Ireland


5. Surfing in Donegal Ireland

With a name of Fin McCool’s you know it must be amazing. The patient and enthusiastic surf instructor at Fin McCool’s Surf School in Rossnowlagh taught four of us how to navigate the powerful waves and pretend to surf for a minute. So much fun!

Surfing Donegal Ireland
Surfing in Ireland: things to do in Donegal

6. Horse Ride on an Ireland Beach

The small family operated Tullagh Bay Equestrian Centre provided an excellent horse riding experience on a Donegal beach.

cool things to do in Donegal Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
things to do in Donegal Ireland: horse riding on the beach

7. Gorgeous Views in Donegal Ireland

The rugged coastline of Donegal Ireland inspires countless photo opportunities.

cool things to do in Donegal Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
cottage along the Wild Atlantic Way: things to do in Donegal Ireland

My travel writer friends and I had some fun at Grianan of Aileach, a fort dating back to before the 7th century. Click on the below image to play the video. What do you think?

8. Creevy Pier Hotel

After surfing with Fin McCool’s Surf School, Creepy Pier Hotel was a great stop. They serve delicious and hot seafood chowder and yummy fish & chips. All with a splendid view.


9. Wild Atlantic Way

The entire Wild Atlantic Way trail traverses 2,500 km through 9 counties of Ireland. While I wish I had time to travel the entire Wild Atlantic Way itinerary, I was thrilled to see most of the Donegal portion. Experts say it is the coolest and most rugged.

cool things to do in Donegal Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
Wild Atlantic Way sign: Cool things to do in Donegal Ireland

10. Yeats Grave, Sligo

On the way into Donegal, stop and see the grave of W. B. Yeats just north of Sligo. I loved these swan door handles to enter the church where his grandfather was pastor.


11. Where to Stay in Donegal, Ireland

Harvey’s Point was named the #1 hotel in Ireland by TripAdvisor (5th year in a row). Wow. They definitely have one of the most luxurious bathrooms I have seen. View my video of a Harvey’s Point luxury room.

Two other amazing Wild Atlantic Way hotels are Waterfront Hotel in Dungloe and Inishgowen Gateway Hotel in Buncara. See also Ireland Luxury Lodging.

Let me know some of your favorite things to do in Donegal Ireland.


Ireland travel. Donegal Ireland and Wild Atlantic Way. Cool things to do in Donegal Ireland span the rugged Wild Atlantic Way and explore unique hidden gems of "the Coolest Place on Earth".

Cool Things To Do in Donegal Ireland published on 13 October 2017.

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40 thoughts on “Cool Things To Do In Donegal Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way”

  1. Amazing what you squeezed into just four days of travel, wow!! Ellie & I are planning on doing some hiking in Ireland some time soon. Initially we were thinking about the South West/lower West Coast of Ireland, but now thinking Donegal might be it. If so, then your post will be coming in very handy for the sightseeing bits inbetween workouts.

  2. I’ve been to Ireland twice. The first time on a 14 day tour with Globus Tours. The second time with a friend and we drove all over Ireland. Plus I met my relatives who live in Sligo. We were there for about 18 days. We also stayed in London for about 12 days and too side trips. I didn’t like driving there. Who or what company would you suggest to get a driver to do the driving. I so much enjoyed my ancestral home of Ireland.

    • Hiring a driver is something I have heard of groups doing but I do not have direct experience. Sorry. I have done my own driving. Jody Halsted at Ireland Family Vacations is a great source for everything Ireland, esp. for USA travelers to Ireland.

  3. Donegal was, without a doubt, our favorite place in Ireland. We’d recommend a tour of the Donegal Carpets factory in Killybegs… fascinating! Then spend the night enjoying live music at the Reel Inn in downtown Donegal. And yes, Slieve League is amazing!

  4. The best part of Ireland is the people. If you just hang out and let Ireland come to you, you will not be disappointed. Everyone will have very different experiences and they will all be fantastic. Spending three hours with Eddie Doherty in his tweed shop in Ardara, seeing the reflections of the buildings in the early morning still of the harbor in Bunbeg or negotiating the bogs while climbing Donegal,s highest peak, Errigal are all days I will never forget. The people we encountered along the way are the true gems.

    • Ardara — must be something in the place, for conversational craic. Eddie Doherty was businesslike at his shop, but still did a marvelously proud presentation of his handwoven “rugs” (enabling me to select the perfect one for my castle back home). But a diminutive old fellow whom I encountered on the streets throughout one day was my conduit into the heartbeat of Donegal. Crossed paths with him late afternoon in a pub, where I sought info about lodging. He was sole customer. Had to have one with him; had to be done. After talking awhile, he said he’d buy the next round. “No, you don’t have to do that.” He straightened up and looked perplexed, maybe even offended. “Wouldn’t be right'” he sputtered. So, of course…

  5. Loved staying at Lough Eske Castle, Studio Donegal in Kilcar for a spinning/weaving/sewing demo and great shopping, and a quick side trip to the Belleek factory and showroom!

  6. I didn’t make it to Donegal while in Ireland for TBEX, but I think you’ve convinced me to make it happen on my next visit to the Emerald Isle. I don’t think you’d catch me surfing when it’s only in the mid-50s, but I’ll take the fish and chips!

  7. I’ve not been to Ireland but a road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way has been on my bucket list. Now I have a few more things to add to it.

  8. I love Donegal. I left Ireland a week ago and started missing it before my plane took off. I want to go back and do some more small town exploring and check out some of the places you stopped at as they were not there when I toured Ireland 15 years ago.

  9. Looks like some amazing experience to be had here. The rugged coastline looks beautiful and i can imagine riding horse’s on the beach would be a lasting memory.

  10. Very much considering my next trip being to Ireland… thanks for sharing! Some good ideas here that definitely make me want to settle on Ireland!

  11. Thanks for the introduction and you have good list of things to do from quiet to active! For me, I would love to visit the Glenveigh Castle and definitely I would go surfing there (which I won’t think of surfing there hadn’t you mentioned about it!) @ knycx.journeying

  12. Quite an interesting and exciting time in Donegal. I loved the cliffs and was really fascinated by the Glencolmcille Folk Village, it looks so intriguing and fascinating to think how the village was in the ancient times. And it is really cool to see that you have traced your family history back in time and can relate to the place.

  13. By the time we visited Ireland we only had a week for the whole country and unfortunately had to miss Donegal, but I’d love to return one day and see the rest. Those horses you got to ride along the beach look so fluffy.

  14. Aww just recently visited Ireland but have not had a chance to visit Donegal, just in Killarney-Dublin-Belfast. Ireland has got stunnings views and great road trips. Done the Ring of Kerry drive but didnt really complete the coastal way. Its a good excuse to visit Donegal I would say!

  15. Certainly seems to be some amazing sights in this section of Ireland. Always wondered about how cold the water temp is in Ireland. Is Ireland known for its surfing?

  16. Well I never made it to Donegal but I did see Killarney and Ring of Kerry and Dingle and Dublin and it’s a tossup for me which place is the coolest. They were all amazing and impressive. I felt like Trinity College at night was one of the coolest buildings I have ever seen

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