The Atlantic Highlands start at Ardara, 40km (25 miles) NW of Donegal Town, 16km (10 miles) N of Killybegs

This is the most isolated part of Donegal, which is the most isolated county in Ireland, so it doesn't get much more rugged, exhilarating, and, well, isolated than this. There is a point when you're driving through the highlands, where the signs drop all pretense at bilingualism and switch to Gaelic. This is disconcerting, because most maps are in English, and the Gaelic names and the English names of places frequently are not even distant relatives. It's disorienting -- one minute you know exactly where you are and the next you haven't a clue. It's as if somebody has stolen your compass. At that moment, which often occurs on a mountainside by a rushing stream amid rocky terrain where there's no space to pull the car over and stare more closely at the useless map, you're in the true Donegal. With its breathtaking coastal scenery, mountain ranges, and the lunar landscape of its rocky beaches, you could fill your camera's memory card here.

The best place to start a tour of Donegal's Atlantic Highlands is at Ardara (Árd an Rátha), an adorable village about 40km (25 miles) northwest of Donegal Town. From there, weave your way up the coast, turning inland when a place lures you to do so. This drive can take 4 hours or 4 days, depending on your schedule and interests. Our advice: Take your time. You may never come this way again, and you will want to remember every moment.