Ireland Scenic Drives – The Inishowen 100
Ireland is blessed with a huge selection of gorgeous scenic drives for motorists to enjoy, none more stunning than Donegal’s Inishowen 100. One of the best drives in Ireland, the Inishowen 100 is a 100 mile (160 km) signposted scenic driving route around Donegal’s breathtaking Inishowen Peninsula. Part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the route covers the majority of the area’s many beauty spots, tourist attractions and points of historical interest. The 100 mile trip can be completed over the course of a day but is best enjoyed spread over a few leisurely days with plenty of pit stops along the way. Over the course of our route, we’ll highlight just a few of the great destinations that the peninsula and the Inishowen 100 have to offer.
The stated starting point of the Inishowen 100 is found in Bridgend but it’s really up to you where you want to begin your journey. The whole Peninsula is a tourist’s playground and is suitably populated by a wonderful array of charming accommodation options. Consider where you think you might want to stay overnight and join the looping route there.
If you were to set off from the Inishowen 100’s starting point at Bridgend, the route would then lead you to various Donegal attractions along the coast of Lough Swilly passing Inch Island, the blue flag beach of Fahan, Buncrana Town, Dunree beach and historically significant Dunree Fort before moving inland through Mamore Gap and past Leenan Bay, Dunaff Head, the blue flag beach of Tullagh Bay and on to the charming villages of Clonmany and Ballyliffin.
Moving on from Ballyliffin the route continues to the larger towns of Carndonagh and Malin before heading north past Five Finger Strand and Knockamany Bens before finally heading on to Banba’s Crown peninsula and Ireland’s northmost point Malin Head.
Moving south from here, the Inishowen Peninsula loop will lead you toward Culdaff village and another blue flag beach at Culdaff Bay. From there you’ll move on to Tramone Bay, Kinnagoe Bay, Lough Foyle and Shroove, Greencastle, beautiful Quigley’s Point and finally the village of Muff where the route finally turns right leading you back to Bridgend where the trip began.
As you can see, the beauty of this looped route is that there is so much to enjoy over it’s 100 gorgeous miles of pristine scenery. With so much to enjoy, we’ve decided to highlight a few of the route’s many gems below.
Our first must see destination is Lisfannon Beach conveniently located near Buncrana – a thriving town that would be the perfect base from which to explore Inishowen.
Lisfannon Beach’s beautiful boomerang shape makes for stunning panoramas of the breadth of the coastline. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see all the way from the relatively nearby Inch Island to the distant village of Rathmullan. The area is a thriving wetlands site for local birds. Bird watchers should keep an eye out for Lapwings, Reed Buntings, Smiles, Robins, Yellowhammers and Chaffinches.
The Largest and perhaps best known town in the peninsula, Buncrana is situated on the shore of Lough Swilly and is full of wonderful restaurants, rustic pubs and shops for you and your travelling companions to enjoy along with a children’s play area. History enthusiasts should be sure to check out Ó’Dochartaigh’s Keep and Buncrana Castle, accessible via the Crana Bridge. Buncrana is a perfect place to serve as homebase for your time on the Inishowen 100 due to the variety of accommodation with a selection of B&Bs in and around town or, if you’re looking for something more luxurious, why not try the Inishowen gateway hotel.
About 20 minutes stroll outside of town you’ll find the sandy expanse of Buncrana Beach. A lively and popular spot, during the Summer months you can expect to encounter a few ice cream and coffee vans close by. Buncrana Beach is also fitted out with showering facilities, changing rooms and toilets. Locals say coming by the beach around sunset for stunning views as the sun gradually disappears behind the mountains on the other side of Lough Swilly is one of the best things to do in Donegal.
On the west side of the peninsula, along the Inishowen 100 you’ll find Dunree Head and Fort Dunree – which translates as ‘Fort of the Heather’ – perched majestically on a rocky outcrop overlooking Lough Swilly. Now a military museum, and home to a wondrous array of militaria, the fort also lays claim to the title of ‘The most scenic coffee shop in Ireland.’ Recent years has seen further development of the Wild Atlantic Way Route and new Newly hillside walks have been laid out in the vicinity of the museum, treating visitors to frankly staggering views of the Atlantic and nearby Fanad Head.
Considered by many to be one of the best places to go in Ireland, traversing the steep, tight trails of the Mamore Gap on foot or bicycle is no easy feat. But that is the very reason it is so beloved by hillwalkers and cyclists alike. Long a site of pilgrimage, the Mamore Gap is a hilly pass that leads you through the Urris Hills all the way from Dunree in the south up to Urris in the north.
Even driving from the south, you’ll find it a steep climb all the way to the summit. Once you’re at the top though, you are in for a treat. Enjoy the winding descent towards Dunaff Head and the vast expanses of the Atlantic Ocean. These are the views that have made Mamore a favourite amongst tourists and locals alike.
The Village of Clonmany is flanked by four imposing mountains; Bulbin, Raghtin Mor Binion and Inishowen’s highest peak Sliabh Sneacht. Aside from the scenery, the charming village of Clonmany is also home to the famous Clonmany Festival, Ireland’s longest running family festival.
South of the village the impressive Glenevin waterfall is a relatively short walk away. Glenevin Waterfall is one of the finest waterfalls you’ll find in county Donegal and a wonderful stop for any journey around the Inishowen 100. Standing at almost 40-ft tall, this elegant cascade of freshwater winds through the forest into an idyllic stream.
Another in a long list of amazing beaches that line the Inishowen 100, Ballyliffin Beach is a particularly long one. Stretching over 2.5km with plenty of room for adults to roam and kids to play. As it is totally exposed and open to the Atlantic, this beach is particularly popular for watersports, particularly wind surfing. The views here are great too, on a clear day you’ll be able to enjoy vistas of Malin Head and the nearby Isle of Doagh. Golfers might also be eager to note that the world famous Ballyliffin Golf Course is just behind the strand.
Doagh Famine Village
One of the more unique, even quirky tourist attractions along the Inishowen 100, the Doagh Famine Village tells the story of life in Ireland from the Great Famine of the 1840s all the way up to the present day.
Covering everything from The Emergency to the Troubles and Celtic Tiger and eventual economic collapse, Doagh Famine Village is unlike anything else you will find on the Inishowen peninsula.
Five Finger Strand
The beach of Five Finger Strand is a glorious spot for a stroll. This beautiful beach boasts 5,000-year-old sand dunes that reach as high as nearly 100ft at their peak and rank among the highest in Europe.
Just behind the beach you’ll find St. Mary’s Church which was built in 1784, which makes it one of the oldest Catholic churches still in use in Ireland.
Those in the know say the vistas from nearby Knockamany viewpoint are worthy of particular attention.
The northernmost point of Ireland, Malin Head is located at the very tip of the Inishowen Peninsula and is understandably one of the most essential stops on your trip around the Inishowen 100.
This singular locale is home to a variety of unique flora and fauna, including sea life and birds. The area is well equipped for it’s tourist attraction status with plenty of opportunities to go fishing, swimming and walking around the point. Hiking trails zig zag the point with notable locations signposted along the way.
The cove of Kinnagoe Bay is renowned for its beautiful scenery, sheer cliffs and pristine sands. Glenagivney, known by some as the “Queen of the Inishowen Glens,” tracks inland from the bay towards Lecamy. In Lecamy you’ll find a fine example of an ancient sweat-house supposedly loved by the Celts. In the distant past, the enclosed chamber was heated like an oven and people crept in and then, having been sweated, rushed out of the sweat-house into the cold water of the Atlantic.
One of the main tourist draws to Kinnagoe Bay is undoubtedly the wreckage of La Trinidad Valencera. First discovered by members of the Derry Sub-Aqua Club in 1971, the shipwrecked Spanish galleon is more than 400 years old.
La Trinidad Valencera ran aground after striking a reef in Kinnagoe Bay, and remained undiscovered for hundreds of years. Since being found, an entire battery of cannons has been recovered from the ship’s remains, along with a multitude of other treasures.
Stroove Beach and Inishowen Lighthouse
Known locally as Big White Bay, Stroove Beach, is a small sheltered beach overlooked by the Inishowen Head lighthouse. The lighthouse itself dates back to 1837 and was originally used as harbour lights to guide vessels into Lough Foyle. Though now automated, the Light House keeper lives in the house nearest to the lighthouse. The other two homes attached to the lighthouse have also been converted into holiday houses, if you happen to be looking for a particularly memorable base for your trip around the Inishowen 100!
If you feel like a brisk walk the Inishowen Head Loop starts near to the lighthouse. Clocking in at about 8km, the walk can take something between 2-3 hours to complete but the views are well worth it.
There you have it, and that’s just a handful of the remarkable stops you’ll find along the glorious 100 miles of the Inishowen 100. As you’ll surely see, the majesty of this uniquely gorgeous part of the country must be experienced to be believed.
Enjoy your travels and be sure to check back with the Allglass® / Autoglass® blog again soon for more road trip guides like this one.