Exploring Donegal with Kesya
Donegal is known for its wild, rugged beauty, as well as its legendary Bundoran – the surfing capital of Ireland, where the Student Experience Team enjoyed many trips to over the years. Aside from this, there are also several sights of interest including the Slieve League Cliffs and the Wild Atlantic Way coastal route that can be explored by all. This blog was discovered through the eyes of our SU officer Kesya! Check her story out below.
Hi guys, Kesya here. I'm an officer in the SU and I;m going to give you my tips on an alternative trip around the beautiful Donegal. After being in lockdown for around 5 months during 2020 the COVID restrictions finally eased so I didn’t think twice before packing my backpack and doing some exploring. Although in mid-August the summer is basically already over, I still had the urge to go somewhere hoping I would still be able to enjoy a bit of what was left of the Irish sun. I thought a lot about travelling to sunny Spain and Italy…, but the idea of going somewhere that far during the pandemic didn’t seem practical. So I embraced the Irish staycation to its fullest! In the end, I decided to explore the Wild Atlantic Way and Donegal, which is located in the North-West of Ireland, was top of my list.
I’m great at planning a lot of things like college work and parties, however, trips are not one of them. I basically just hopped in the car with my boyfriend and off we drove. The scenic drive takes 3 to 4 hours depending on the route you take (or how many times you get lost). If you can’t drive in Ireland or are not able to rent a car you can always get the bus. Bus Eireann operates a bus from Busáras that leaves Dublin every 2 hours and the tickets are around €19-€27 and the journey takes 3h 35m.
Our first stop was Grianan of Aileach fort.
This fort is a restored Iron-age structure, situated on a hilltop, about 250m above the sea level. According to Archaeology Ireland it is believed that this fort was constructed during the 8th or 9th century as the seat of Cenél nEogain, rulers of the ancient kingdom of Aileach. Super interesting, right? Apart from the amazing history, the site has the spectacular views of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly. A must see for anyone who is taking a road trip like this.
The next stop was the iconic Malin Head, which is located one hour North of Grianan of Aileach fort. This point is the most northerly tip of the island of Ireland. The start (or the end) of the Wild Atlantic Way, has some beautiful coastal scenery, thriving birdlife and is also one of the locations where Star Wars: The last Jedi was filmed. Thankfully, the force was strong with us on our day trip, as we got fantastic weather to enjoy the scenes. This is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life and I would definitely recommend checking the weather before going here for safety reasons. Just so you can have a better view of what this amazing place has to offer.
Next up, Buncarana!
The third destination was the beautiful Murder Hole Beach. On the way we decided to stop in Buncrana, a small town in Donegal, and the reason for that was… FOOD! Before we set off on the trip I was scrolling through my Instagram and I saw a recommendation of a nice place for breakfast, and as a big porridge lover, I didn’t think twice before checking the location. To my surprise it was located 254km away from Dublin….. #fail - But by some “coincidence” I ended up there 2 weeks later. I didn’t get to see much of the town, but the breakfast was definitely worth the 254km! The café is called Tank and Skinny's Seaside, it’s very cozy and the staff are super friendly. The only thing better than the food is that the café is located right in front of the beach, so you can enjoy your meal with a view! You can enjoy brunch even on a Tuesday when you’re on vacation, right?
Boyeeghter Strand or Boyeeghter Bay, is also known as Murder Hole Beach. This is a beach situated on the Melmore head peninsula beside Downings in County Donegal. If you’re not an experienced driver I would recommend getting a tour guide as the roads are very narrow and it can be dangerous in parts, as I found out the hard way. When getting there you need to walk about 15 mins across farmland to reach the beach but it is definitely worth it.
I was very lucky to get such amazing weather that day. The temperature was just perfect and the place was unreal. As I am from Brazil, beaches are something that used to be part of my routine back home, so when I saw that place I felt connected right away and it might sound crazy but it was an amazing experience as it kinda felt just like home (minus the caipirinha). The beach has cliffs, hills, dunes, and small caves. When the tide is in there are two beaches, which merge into one when the tide is out. The name Murder Hole derives from how the dangerous currents make swimming perilous, so if you’re thinking about going there for a swim I would definitely find another location, but if you’re looking for a place with a nice view that’s the perfect spot.
The last stop on my trip was to Glenveagh Castle, which is located in the second largest national park in Ireland. Unfortunately the castle was closed due to COVID restrictions, but the park is amazing. It is the perfect for a walk and just like everywhere in Donegal it has spectacular views. This place was definitely a relaxing way of finishing the trip, as it is always great to reconnect with nature.
When the restrictions are lifted and traveling is allowed and easier to do, I would definitely recommend you guys check out this trip around Donegal. All the places mentioned are free of charge, but if you can’t drive a tour guide is necessary as most of the places aren’t serviced by public transport.
Click here to access Kesya's trip on Google maps. Remember, if you do manage to get out and explore the Wild Atlantic Way don’t forget to tag us in your photos with your friends* @dbstudentexperience
Always follow the Irish governments advice before setting out on any journeys across the country - view government advice here!