Beaches -- Donegal Bay’s beaches are wide, sandy, clean, and flat—ideal for walking. Ballyshannon has a good beach, but it gets crowded; Rossnowlagh and Bundoran are both better options. On the North Donegal Bay drive, Glencolumbkille has two fine beaches: One a flat, sandy beach at the end of Glencolumbkille village, where the R263 swings left; the other a tiny gem of a beach surrounded by a horseshoe of cliffs, accessible from the small road signposted to Malin More (off the R263) about 1.6km (1 mile) southwest of town.
Cycling -- If you’re very fit, the north side of Donegal Bay has great cycling roads—tremendously scenic but with some demanding climbs. One good but arduous route from Donegal Town follows the coast roads west to Glencolumbkille (day 1), continues north to Ardara and Dawros Head via Glengesh Pass (day 2), and then returns to Donegal (day 3). It takes in some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in Ireland along the way, but follows small winding roads that must be shared with cars. Rental bikes are available in Donegal Town from Ted’s Bike Shop (074/974-0774) on Killybegs Road, for around €15 per day.
Fishing -- Surrounded by waters that hold shark, skate, pollock, conger, cod, and mackerel, Killybegs is one of the most active centers on the northwest coast for commercial and sport sea fishing. Brian McGilloway (www.killybegsangling.com; 087/220-0982 or 074/973-1181) operates full-day fishing expeditions on the 12m (39-foot) MV Meridian, from Blackrock Pier in Killybegs. Prices are €450 per day, or €300 per half day for up to 12 people, plus €10 per person for rod, reel, and tackle. He also runs evening mackerel fishing trips (€40 per person, groups of 5 or more). Daily departure times vary according to demand; reservations are required.
Golf -- The Donegal Bay coast is home to two outstanding 18-hole championship seaside golf courses. Donegal Golf Club, Murvagh, Ballintra (www.donegalgolfclub.ie; 074/973-4054), is 5km (3 miles) north of Rossnowlagh and 11km (6 3/4 miles) south of Donegal Town. It’s a par-73 course with greens fees of €70 weekdays, €80 weekends. The Bundoran Golf Club, off the Sligo-Ballyshannon road (N15) in Bundoran (www.bundorangolfclub.com; 071/984-1302), is a par-69 course designed by Harry Vardon. Greens fees are around €55 weekdays, €65 weekends.
Surfing -- Bundoran is popular with surfers for its steady waves, and has hosted the European Surfing Championships. Rossnowlagh also has excellent surf and attracts lots of surfers. When the surf is up, you can rent boards and wet suits locally from around €5 to €10 per hour per item.
Walking -- The peninsula to the west of Killybegs boasts some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in Ireland, and much of it is accessible only from the sea or on foot.For the popular Slieve League cliffs, there are two ways to see their grandeur—and rarely has the phrase “the easy way or the hard way” been more appropriate.
The walking path is a truly spectacular hike across stunning countryside, about 10km (6 1/4 miles) in length, which takes between 4 and 5 hours. The summits of Slieve League, rising almost 600m (1,968 ft.) above the sea, are often capped in clouds, and you shouldn’t undertake the walk if there are high winds, or any danger at all of losing visibility along the way. In any case, this is only for the fearless and fit. And we really mean fearless; the high point (literally) is the frankly terrifying One Man’s Pass, a footpath so narrow that it can only take one person at a time—and it’s on top of the cliff, with a 450m (1500-ft.) drop on one side and a perilously steep incline on the other. Your starting point will be the Bunglass lookout point; you’ll end up at Trabane Strand in Malin Beg, a few miles southwest of Glencolumbkille. Be sure to arrange a pickup at the end.
So where does “the easy way” come into all this? The less intrepid (or possibly just “sane”) can take a shuttle bus from the visitor center up to the best viewing point. You won’t be able to see the vista from the cliffs, but you’ll get a great view of them.
Sliabh Liag Tours (www.sliabhliagtours.ie; 087/671-1944) run a tour from Carrick, and can arrange to drop you off at the best (and more manageable) walking points on the way back. Tours are all customized; call for more information.
Another lesser known walk the spectacular coastal walk between Glencolumbkille and the town of Maghera (not so much a town as a small cluster of houses). Begin by hiking up to the Martello tower on Glen Head, which overlooks Glencolumbkille to the north, then continue along the cliff face for 24km (15 miles), passing only one remote outpost of human habitation along the way, the tiny town of Port. For isolated sea splendor, this is one of the finest walks in Ireland, but only experienced walkers with adequate provisions should undertake it, and only in fine weather.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.