A Campervan Trip to Donegal in the Republic of Ireland

Travelling to Donegal in Ireland this year was wonderful. It was abroad and we could pay for things in Euros and travel in kilometres but everyone spoke English and we drove on the same side of the road. We explored this north-western corner of Ireland and it turned out to be fascinating, beautiful and remote enough to put off lots of other visitors.

Inishowen is the peninsula in the north of County Donegal and the city of Donegal is to the south of the county. With so many inlets and peninsulas Donegal has a long coastline of over 1,100km. Donegal has so much to offer with over 100 beaches, many of them spectacular; Ireland’s largest fishing port; Malin Head, mainland Ireland’s most northerly point; Glenveagh National Park and the impressive Slieve League cliffs. I don’t know why we thought a week was long enough! This is the west coast and the weather varied from blue skies to cold torrential rain.

The area gave a warm welcome to all visitors, including campervans and here are some of my highlights:

Malin Head on a sunny day was heavenly. We walked to Hell’s Hole, stopping regularly to look at the colourful wild flowers by the path. We met two other tourists; he was clambering to the cliff edge to pose for a photograph. I stood next to his partner, holding my breath as I watched him edge nearer to a sheer drop.  While I was relieved when he was back on more secure ground, his partner took the danger in her stride!

Doagh Beach and Trawbrega Bay with views across to Five Finger Strand, rocks to clamber over and sand dunes is the perfect spot for a bit of idle beach combing.

Doagh Famine Village museum should not be missed. In a street of thatched cottages we listened to stories about the life of our guide’s family, who lived here from the 19th century to the 1980s. This museum is personal, unequaled and extraordinary and I have no words to do it justice. Visit and hear the people’s histories.

The aire in Buncrana on Lough Swilly is next to a garden dedicated to the writer of the hymn Amazing Grace, John Newton.  A sailor and slave trader, Newton’s ship found safe haven in Buncrana after a terrible storm and he gratefully stepped ashore a changed man, becoming a clergyman, an abolitionist and a writer of many hymns.  We walked in his footsteps through the lively town and around its bay and harbour.  

We parked in the large car park for Glenveagh National Park that is at the end of Lough Veagh. There are walks and shuttle buses but we decided to hire bikes for the easy cycle ride by the shores of Lough Veagh to Glenveagh Castle, a castellated mansion with colourful gardens. Even on a busy day, we had the track beyond the castle to the end of Lough Veagh to ourselves.

The rocky and barren landscape of The Rosses, peppered with lakes and rivers is a special landscape that is well worth exploring. Stay at Sleepy Hollows, spot the pyramid of Errigal looming across this undulating landscape, read the Irish place names and visit Leo’s Tavern, the home of Clannad and Enya.

The cliffs of Slieve League fall steeply into the Atlantic. We drove on the narrow roads to the last car park before the gated road and walked the short distance up the hill to the viewpoint across to the dramatic cliffs.

I found the industrial scale of the fishing industry and the rows of colourful fishing boats in Killybegs fascinating. Killybegs is a lively working town and has some great cafes and places to eat and an interesting local museum.

We spent a week touring Donegal in June but could have spent longer. We stayed on campsites, one aire and a privately owned camperstop.

Campsite NameComments
Buncrana Aire, Republic of IrelandThis is a small car park by a road & garden.  It is limited to 7 vans but 9 packed in on the Friday night we were there. Just 5 minutes walk into the town & a petrol station with a shop nearby.
Sleepy Hollows campsite, nr CrollyA lovely small site with some good sized hard-standing pitches.  The facilities are quite open to the elements and consist of 2 showers with hot water but low water pressure, 3 toilets & a kitchen.  In summer they light a campfire.  This is a peaceful spot, although there is a pub a short walk away and there is a riverside walk from the site.  There may be midges.
Killybegs Holiday ParkA terraced site in an old quarry with all gravel terraces and little greenery.  The views over the sea are unrivaled.  No facilities were open, we had EHU and water on the pitch.  It was quiet in June and we had a whole terrace to ourselves!  It is a short but hilly walk into Killybegs where there are cafes and pubs.  There is a small private cove below the campsite.
Spierstown Camper Parking near DonegalA small hard-standing site for a few vans.  We received a friendly welcome and the bathroom, toilet and kitchen are kept very clean and, as we were the only van, it felt like home.  There is a washing machine too.  There is traffic noise from the main road but this is a great stopover site for visiting Donegal.