The Wild Atlantic Way – Donegal & Sligo
This is the first of our series of 5 blogs on holidaying on the Wild Atlantic Way. The Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip with a Caravan (WAW), the longest defined coastal touring route in the world, where the powerful Atlantic waves meet Ireland’s jagged western coast. These suggested itineraries bring you along the 2,500km length of the Wild Atlantic Way, showing you highlights of what to do, see and stay throughout your journey.
The WAW starts at the tip of Donegal and weaves its way along the western coastline finishing in the very southern tip of the country in Cork. Unless you have a few months to travel the full 2,500km it is advisable to break it up into areas and come back and do another route at a later stage. This is not a trip to be rushed. You need to take your time and enjoy the spectacular scenery.
In this blog, we explore the Donegal and Sligo area of the Wild Atlantic Way.
With several top quality caravan & camping sites in Donegal and Sligo, you will be spoilt for choice as to where you stay. Choose one of the great coastal locations or move inland and experience the countryside. Where ever you decide to stay to pitch up for the night you will be assured of a great welcome.
However, you don’t have to follow these routes and can cross over into other areas. The best thing is to be flexible and take your time to explore this great country. There’s adventure and excitement around every corner of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Donegal – first up on our visit to the North West is the Donegal. Donegal is rich in culture and heritage with spectacular landscapes and stunning views.
A visit to the seaside is high on the list of every childhood holiday in Ireland. When it comes to sandy beaches and quiet coves, a family break in Donegal and Sligo stands out. Little ones search rock pools and look for fairy bridges, while older kids love horse riding on the beach and exploring hidden caves. Donegal has 1,134km of sandy beaches, cliffs and craggy inlets to explore
Malin Head – Ireland’s most northerly point and is renowned for its dramatic landscape and beautiful beaches. See some of the largest sand dunes in Europe when you approach Malin Head from the coastal road, along the north of Trawbreaga Bay at Lagg. Enjoy a walk, go fishing, swim in the shimmering water, take some incredible photos or study the unique rock formations. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot basking sharks and dolphins in the sea
A circuit of Malin Head brings you around the coast to Banba’s Crown where a derelict building known as The Tower, was once used as a signal station connecting America and Europe. From Banba’s Crown, view Inishtrahull Island and its majestic lighthouse to the northeast. Further east on a clear day, see if you can spot the Scottish Hills. Hike along the cliffs to Hell’s Hole, a remarkable subterranean cavern into which the tide rushes with great force and nearby, find Devil’s Bridge, a picturesque natural arch.
If the Northern Lights are forecast, there’s a good chance you’ll see the spectacular aurora borealis from Malin Head.
Fanad Lighthouse – voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world this is a spectacular attraction to visit. You can take a tour of the lighthouse and learn about the light and aids to navigation past and present. Step back in time, hear stories about light-keepers in days gone by and climb to the top of the tower for spectacular views of land and sea.
Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) – Blow away the cobwebs with a visit to some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe at Slieve League (Sliabh Liag). Here you can take a boat trip, a guided tour or a walking tour of the area. This holy mountain was a Christian pilgrimage site for over 1,000 years and it’s easy to see why it was regarded as a sacred place. Rising 600m above the waves, enjoy unrivalled views of the Donegal and Sligo coastlines. Or take a trip with Sliabh Boat Tours from Teelin Pier and experience the cliffs from the sea on a bracing voyage.
Glenveagh National Park – The 16,000 hectares of Glenveagh includes most of the Derryveagh Mountains, the Poisoned Glen and part of Errigal Mountain and is a beautiful place to walk the hills and follow trails. The park extends over a large area of north Donegal and you have free access to roam from all points. Hillwalking in Glenveagh National Park can be challenging for the novice, but there are also relatively easy trails described below for all levels within the park.
Arranmore Island – The Gaeltacht island of Arranmore near BurtonportHarbour is the largest inhabited island in Donegal. A trip to Arranmore is a chance to immerse yourself in local culture and relax at a different pace in nature. From diving and dolphin watching to angling or simply enjoying an impromptu trad session in one of its local pubs, there are so many reasons to visit Arranmore.
Tory Island – Lying 12km off north Donegal, Tory Island or Toraigh, the most remote of Ireland’s inhabited islands, is a timeless place ruled by its own elected king where people still talk of ‘travelling to Ireland’! Interesting historical sites include a round tower that once protected monks from Viking raids, the ruins of St Colmcille’s 6th-century monastery and the intriguing Tau Cross that suggests early seafaring links to the Coptic Christians of Egypt. The island also boasts an abundance of rare birdlife and wildflower species as well as a rich submarine landscape that can be explored through the local dive centre. Access to Tory is by Tory Ferry from Magheraroarty Pier which is situated off the N56 and can be driven to through the towns of Letterkenny and Dunfanaghy
Glencolmcille Folk Village – a thatched-roof replica of a rural village in Ireland’s most north-westerly county. It offers a glimpse of daily life in times gone by. The village museum is a cluster of several small cottages, called a ‘clachan’ located on a hillside overlooking the sandy curve of Glen Bay Beach in the Gaeltacht of South West Donegal. The village was designed, built and maintained by the local people. Visitors can wander around the village themselves or take one of the guided tours. There is also a fabulous craft shop on site.
Ards Forest Park – covers approximately 480 hectares (1200 acres). It is home to sand dunes, beaches, salt marshes, saltwater lakes, rock face and coniferous and deciduous woodlands. You can spend hours exploring the park. There are several trails – the Binngorm Trail, the Salt Marsh Trail and the Sand Dune Trail.
Beaches – You are never too far from a beach in Donegal. In 2021 14 beaches were awarded Blue Flag Status Downings, Rossnowlogh, Greencastle, Rathmullin, Bundoran, Carrickfin, Culdaff, Fintra, Killahoey, Portasalon, Marble Hill, Stroove, Murvagh and Nairn.
Donegal is also home to several top quality registered/approved caravan & camping parks.
In Downings you will find Rosguill Holiday Park and Casey’s Caravan Site and nearby you have Knockalla Caravan Park in Portsalon and Bortree Touring in Rossnowlagh or the south of the county Killybegs Holiday Park.
Sligo – next on our tour is a visit to the Yeat’s County of Sligo. Here you will find remote islands, tranquil beaches and magnificent scenery as well as a host of great activities and things to do for everyone to enjoy.
Lissadell House – situated on the shores of Sligo Bay, north of Sligo.
Follow in the footsteps of W.B. Yeats in wandering through this beautifully restored estate on the shores of the Atlantic. Childhood home of Constance and Eva Gore-Booth, built by Sir Robert Gore-Booth in 1830 and designed by Francis Goodwin the house is now fully restored and open daily for guided tours. Lissadell House is perfect for a family visit and adventure where children will learn about important events of the past, what it was like to be a servant downstairs in a big house and explore the grounds seeing wild deer and sometimes even seas eagle.
Strandhill – No visit to Sligo is complete without a visit to the surfing mecca of Strandhill, just a short 10-minute drive from town. The beach is the star attraction here, with people travelling from all over the world to experience it. Enjoy a stroll along the strand to work up an appetite for dinner or settle into the dunes to watch the sunset. If you fancy trying your hand at surfing, book in with Strandhill Surf Experience. Summer is the perfect time for beginners to learn, while experienced surfers often wait for the big winter waves to roll in. Why not book in for a few nights at Strandhill Caravan & Camping Park overlooking the award-winning beach.
Rosses Point – A few minutes from Sligo town is the peaceful resort of Rosses Point with its fabulous beach. Take a walk along the beach with spectacular views of Sligo Bay and the Dartry Mountains. Time your visit to Rosses Point well and you can drive the 5km across the causeway at low tide to Coney Island. The island gets its name from the Latin word for rabbit, thanks to the abundance of furry inhabitants there. Rosses Point Caravan Park is located in the village overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with magnificent views of Coney Island
Voya Seaweed Baths – located 7 miles from Sligo town in Strandhill discover the centuries-old practice of revitalizing seaweed baths at Voya Seaweed Baths. Here you will enjoy your own private room with a Victorian cast iron bath and steam unit.
The heat from the hot water in the bath releases all the seaweed’s rich, silky, essential oils so the body feels smooth, buoyant and luxurious.
Queen Maeve’s Trail – Take the short drive from Strandhill to Knocknarea Mountain and hike Queen Maeve’s Trail for epic panoramas of the area. The achievable, 40-minute hike on a paved trail brings you to the hilltop cairn of Queen Maeve of Connaught. Hiking shoes are recommended, as the trail can get slippery in wet conditions. Once you reach the top you’ll be surrounded by views on all sides of the Atlantic Ocean, County Sligo and beyond
Enniscrone – A visit to the picturesque village of Enniscrone is a must. Here you can visit the playground, play a round of crazy golf and take in all the water sport activities along the magnificent beach. You will also find Waterpoint Aqua Park here which features a waterslide that’s 65m long. The park hopes to open in mid-July 2021, restrictions and guidelines dependent.
Benbulben – Standing tall above Drumcliffe village in Sligo is majestic Benbulben and is considered Ireland’s most distinctive mountain. It is known in some parts as Ireland’s version of Table Mountain. Make your way to the flat stretch of the summit and enjoy magical views of the Wild Atlantic Way. The Benbulben Loop Trail, on the forest road, brings you to a striking waterfall where you can enjoy panoramic views of Sligo Bay and on a clear day, Donegal in the distance.
Carrowkeel – Step back into Neolithic times on your trip to Sligo with a visit to Carrowkeel. This collection of tombs is one of the largest and most important ancient sites in Ireland, with stone structures standing here for over 5,000 years. Visitors are welcome to explore.
Sligo is also home to some great caravan & camping sites including Ireland’s only adult-only site – Lough Arrow Touring Park. For more information on these parks and others along the Wild Atlantic Way click here
Click below for other blogs on the Wild Atlantic Way:
Part 4b Wild Atlantic Way – Cork
Caravan & Camping in Ireland
I hope these help you to really enjoy your holiday in Ireland. There is no better way to see the country with all your own home comforts. Click Camping Ireland to find information on all the great caravan & camping sites throughout Ireland before you travel. It is always wise to book ahead so you won’t be disappointed or have a wasted journey. Download the Camping Ireland App which you can use to browse and search for approved sites with ease while you are travelling around. For more information on the app click here
There are over 100 quality approved caravan & camping parks throughout Ireland. Sites offer top-class facilities with many onsite amenities.
There is a variety of sites around Ireland. Maybe you are looking for a quiet site where you can pitch up and use the site as a base for travelling around. Maybe you want a site where there is a playground for your kids or even sites where there are a host of onsite activities for all the family to enjoy. Whatever you want Camping Ireland has something for everyone.
Don’t forget to order your Camping Key Europe Card which offers great discounts and savings at campsites, visitor attractions and many more outlets. The card is accepted in over 2,800 sites in Ireland and Europe. It also includes free third-party insurance. You can order the card here
For information on these sites, the facilities they offer and other information log onto our website Camping Ireland Enjoy the independence and flexibility that camping in Ireland can offer in quality approved sites. We look forward to welcoming you to outdoor living.
(All information correct at time of publishing)