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Grianan of Aileach Donegal: Ireland’s Mysterious Hill Fort

Grianan of Aileach Donegal: Ireland’s Mysterious Hill Fort

Grianan of Aileach Donegal: Ireland’s Mysterious Hill Fort

This post may contain compensated links. Find more info in our disclosure policy.

Grianan of Aileach is a picturesque stone fort located atop Greenan Mountain in Donegal. Dating back to 1700 BC, those who visit the ancient site are offered both a fascinating glimpse into Irish history and the opportunity to enjoy some magnificent views from atop the restored fort.

We’ve stopped by Grianan of Aileach many times during our Ireland travels and wanted to share our love for one of Donegal’s hidden gems!

Grianan of Aileach Donegal

Grianan of Aileach

 

Grianán of Aileach

Grianan of Aileach is a restored stone fort which sits atop Greenan Mountain in Innishowen in County Donegal. The site itself dates back to 1700 BC and is believed to predate the construction of the stone fort which followed sometime around the 8th or 9th Century.

The original stone fort was destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries and the fort, as it stands today, was reconstructed in the 1870s by local resident Dr Walter Bernard. During his restoration work Dr Bernard unearthed artifacts including animal bones and stone items which supported the belief that the ring fort dates back to Early Christianity.

 

Visiting Grianan of Aileach

After parking in the adjacent car park, the entrance to the fort is a short walk up to the hilltop. Both parking and entry to the fort are free.

The interior of the fort is accessed via a single doorway at the front of the fort. Walking into the center of the stone fort, we tried to imagine what once took place in the historical site.

The walls of the fort are 5 metres tall and the easy climb along the three tiers of the internal walls leads to spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. We were lucky enough to visit on a clear day and we spent at least half an hour enjoying the beautiful views.

Grianan of Aileach

Grianan of Aileach

 

The views from Grianán of Aileach

Although only 250 metres above sea level the views from Grianan of Aileach are remarkable. A climb to the top of the fort is rewarded with panoramic views across three counties, namely Donegal, Derry and Tyrone. The rugged Innishowen Peninsula and the waters of Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle are also among the highlights.

Grianan of Aileach Donegal

The views are spectacular

 

The History of Grianán of Aileach

Historically, Grianan of Aileach is a very important site and much legend and fact surrounds its past. The translation of its name is believed to have referred to a ‘Stone Temple in the Sun’ or the ‘Stone Palace with the Sunny View’.

Once a royal fortress of the northern Ui Néill dynasty, the current fort was restored in 1870 having been destroyed multiple times since its construction. In the 900s it was plundered by Vikings who had settled at Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle. Later, in 1101, the reigning King of Munster instructed his army to ravage the site.

Irish folklore attributes the fort to Dagda, the God and King of the Tuatha De Danann, a supernatural race. Dagda built the fort to surround the grave of his son who was killed by a jealous chieftain. The fort was mapped in its current location by a second century Greek geographer Ptolemy of Alexandria who described it as a Royal Residence.

It is believed that Ireland’s patron saint, St Patrick, visited Grianan of Aileach in the 5th century and performed a baptism there. A well dedicated to St Patrick stands on the outer banks of the site today and some consider it to have healing powers.

Grianan of Aileach Donegal

The Grianan of Aileach ancient site

 

How to get to Grianan of Aileach

Grianan of Aileach is an easy 20-minute drive west from Derry.

The easiest route to the hilltop fort car park is by taking the N13 road, the main Derry to Letterkenny road, heading west from Derry town. The fort is around 2.5 km off this road at the town of Burt. The turn-offs are well signposted along the way.

Visitors can drive up the narrow road to the small car park which is located very close to the fort at the top of the hill. From the car park, there is a short walkway that leads up to the fort. A ramp follows the path of the walkway allowing wheelchair and stroller access to the site.

If the site is closed when you visit it’s also possible to park at the entrance by the main road as there are spaces to pull in. From here you can hike the 1km up to the fort.

 

 

 

Grianan of Aileach Opening Hours and Tickets

Grianan of Aileach is managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) who protect and maintain heritage sites across Ireland.

The Grianan of Aileach site is typically open from 10am to 6:30pm from March/April through to summer. The site closes at 3:30pm during off peak months.

The opening hours are not published online so they may vary

Entrance to Grianan of Aileach and parking at the site are both free.

 

About Us

 

Your Irish Vacation aims to give you the best itineraries and guides to make the most of your trip to Ireland

 

Your Ireland Vacation

 

Helping you make the most of your trip to Ireland

 

Visiting Arranmore Island, Donegal: Ultimate Guide (2020)

Visiting Arranmore Island, Donegal: Ultimate Guide (2020)

Visiting Arranmore Island, Donegal: Ultimate Guide (2020)

This post may contain compensated links. Find more info in our disclosure policy.

Arranmore Island, or Árainn Mhór, is a tiny island located 5km off the coast of Donegal in Ireland. Still very much a hidden gem for visitors to Donegal, Arranmore is beautiful, wild and rugged. Having visited Arranmore many times, we’ve put together this guide for anyone planning a trip to this unique part of Ireland. We’ve included how to get there, where to eat and our favorite things to do in Arranmore Island.

Arranmore Island Donegal

Epic views on Arranmore Island

 

History of Arranmore Island

Arranmore Island is the largest inhabited island of Donegal and is located 5km off its west coast. Arranmore is part of the stunning Wild Atlantic Way route, a 2,600km coastal driving route which stretches from Donegal to Cork. The picturesque island is one of the most remote places in the country and one of the most unique places to visit.

The island has been inhabited since pre-Celtic times although most of the population had to leave the island due to eviction and famine during the Great Famine of the mid-19th century. In the past, the island relied on fishing as its main industry but today tourism is one of the main pillars of the economy. During the summer months, the population more than doubles in size due to the number of holiday homes on the island.

Arranmore Island is part of the Donegal Gaeltacht and the majority of the island residents speak Irish.

Arranmore rose to internet fame in 2019 when a campaign to get people to relocate to the island, aptly called “The Island”, went viral around the world. With the population at an all time low of 469, an open letter was issued to the US and Australia to encourage relocation to Ireland’s first offshore digital hub!

 

 

How to get to Arranmore

The only way to access Arranmore is by ferry which leaves from the port town of Burtonport in Northwest Donegal. The ferry takes foot and car passengers the 5km across the Atlantic to the Arranfery ferry terminal.

Burtonport is around an hours drive from Letterkenny and only 25 minutes from the beautiful Carrickfinn Airport which operates flights from Dublin daily..

Arranmore Island Donegal

Burtonport Harbour

 

Arranmore Island Donegal

The Arranmore Ferry

 

Ferry to Arranmore

The ferry journey from Burtonport to Arranmore Island takes around 15 minutes and there are 6 crossings from Burtonport per day. The ferry can take any type of car and holds up to 96-foot passengers. There is a 10% discount for booking in advance online but we usually just turn up on the day.

If you have a ticket for a crossing or plan to take the ferry it’s always worth checking the ferry is running on the day. The crossing is very well protected from the open sea so the ferry runs in all but the most severe seas.

When boarding the ferry, car passengers have to reverse their cars down the slipway at the port and onto the small ferry boat. There are ferry crew on hand to guide you onto the boat (they are absolute pros at helping people to park cars – trust us!) but once the crew have you in position it’s just a matter of turning off your engine and waiting to set sail!

Arranmore Island Donegal

The Arranmore Ferry at Burtonport

The crossing is usually very smooth as the ferry route is protected by the many small islands between the mainland and Arranmore. The ferry takes a route between the larger islands of Inishcoo to the north and Rutland Island in the south. The crossing is incredibly scenic and the day we visited Arranmore the sea was so still it was like a sheet of glass.

Arranmore Island Donegal

The crossing from Burtonport to Arranmore

 

Arranmore Island Donegal

It’s a beautiful crossing to Arranmore Island

 

Driving on Arranmore Island

As most people visiting Arranmore will be driving a car it’s probably worth mentioning what it’s like to drive on the island. As one would expect, most of the roads on the island are small single lane roads and some are through exposed bog areas.

As a result, care should be taken when driving on the road as you can come across unexpected dips and rises in the road.

Visiting Arranmore Island tip: As most of the roads are narrow and barely allow two-way traffic you will likely have to pull in at some stage, either to park or to allow traffic past. Be very careful pulling in on the edge of the roads. Many areas are peat/bogland so the roadside can be very soft. You could easily get stuck in the soft ground or on the sudden drop-offs. We had no issues as we are used to driving on Irish roads, however, it’s worth noting if you’re just visiting Ireland!

 

Things to do on Arranmore Island

Despite its relatively small size, there are lots of things to do on Arranmore Island that make it worth the trip on the ferry!

Map of Things to do on Arranmore

We’ve put together this map of everything to do in Arranmore Island

How to Use This Google Map: Click on the grey star at the top of the map and this map will be added to your Google Maps account. You can then view it on your phone or computer in Google Maps by clicking on the menu button, going to “Your Places” and selecting this map. We use these maps all the time as you can set out your itinerary in advance and quickly reference the saved maps

 

 

1 | Arranmore Lighthouse

One of the first stops when you get off the ferry should be the Arranmore Lighthouse located on the north-west of the island. It’s a scenic 15-minute drive from the Arranmore ferry terminal. While the grounds of the lighthouse are off-limits to the general public, the views are amazing from the surrounding area.

There is a nice hike along the headland if you follow the wall north of the lighthouse. The hike is unmarked so you’ll need to be careful as there are sheer drops off the edge of the high cliffs.

Due to its strategic location the lighthouse was used as a World War II outpost and as a lookout point for U-boats. For anyone who wants to spend some time on Arranmore visitors can book at a stay at the lighthouse on AirBnB here. With 3 bedrooms the lighthouse can accommodate up to 6 guests and it’s one of the most unique places to stay in Ireland.

Book your stay now!

Arranmore Island Donegal

Arranmore Lighthouse

 

2 | Old Lighthouse Steps

The unique Old Lighthouse steps are an Arranmore icon. The steps led from the headland beside the lighthouse down to the water. These amazing steps are carved into the rock and allowed the lighthouse crew to access rescue boats in the waters below.

Arranmore Island Donegal

The Old Lighthouse Steps are stunning

Although they are not used today, visitors to Aranmore can still check out the steps. If you are brave enough you can even walk down them!

Arranmore Island Donegal

The steps from the sky!

Visiting Arranmore Island tip: walking down the old Lighthouse Steps is quite dangerous so please take care when visiting. Don’t attempt the walk down them if you have a fear of heights as there are sudden drops and open cliff edges. Parts of the steps are steep and the old hand railings are now gone so you’ll need to take care.

Arranmore Island Donegal

The steps are incredible from above

 

How to get to the Old Lighthouse Steps in Arranmore

To find the top of the steps, follow the wall adjacent to the lighthouse that leads down the hill towards the sea cliffs. Once you get to the end of the wall you’ll see the narrow concrete walkway across the top of the cliff rocks. Make sure to walk on this as it’s the path that leads down to the steps to the water. It can be tricky and dangerous to find the steps if you don’t follow the path from the top.

While it’s an adventure climbing down the steps the best view of them is actually from the cliffs just to the south of the steps.

 

2 | Arranmore Cliffs

The Arranmore Cliffs are visible from the narrow road that leads to the Arranmore Lighthouse. There are lots of opportunities to pull in off the road to look at the cliffs and there’s also a few benches to sit and relax and drink in the epic views.

Visiting Arranmore Island tips: the area along the road here is open to the sea and the fields have no protection to the cliffs that overhang the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors should be careful and not get too close to the cliff edge especially if you have younger kids. You don’t need to get close to the edge to experience the views anyway!

Arranmore Island Donegal

Taking in the views of the Arranmore Cliffs

 

3 | Beaver Island Monument / Marian Shrine

The people who lived on Arranmore Island were very badly affected by the Irish Potato Famine in the mid-1800s and the population of the island was decimated as a result. Many fled during the famine and a large number of those who moved across the Atlantic settled on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. The Beaver Island monument commemorates those who were forced to flee the island and the ties between the two islands which continue to this day.

You can’t miss the Beaver Island monument in the small lake on the side of the narrow road to the Arranomre Lighthouse.

Arranmore Island Donegal

The Beaver Island memorial

Arranmore Island Donegal

It’s a long way to Beaver Island

 

 

4  | Enjoy Old Ireland

There are very few places that are as untouched as Arranmore Island. Simply driving around the island and taking in the incredible views is worth the trip. While life on Arranmore has moved with the times, there are many parts of the island where it feels like a step back in time. Take your time, explore the random stops and beautiful views the island has to offer.

Arranmore Island Donegal

Arranmore Island is stunning

Arranmore Island Donegal

Cutting the turf in Arranmore

 

 

5 | Take a Hike

If you have the time, the best way to explore Arranmore is by hiking  around the island. The Arranmore Island Loop is a national way marked trail. At around 14 km it would take most visitors around a full day to hike.

Arranmore Island Donegal

Arranmore

Arranmore Island Donegal

Arranmore

 

 

6 | Enjoy food and a pint in Early’s Bar

A trip to Arranmore is not complete without a stop for some food and a drink in Early’s Bar. After a busy day exploring everything the island has to offer its hard to beat an very Irish snack involving a pint Guinness and a cheese toasty! There’s also great traditional music here most weekend evenings. If it’s a nice day when you visit you can enjoy your meal on the outdoor terrace.

Early’s is situated right beside the Arranmore ferry so you won’t have far to go to catch the boat back to the mainland.

 

8| Check out some of the best dive spots in Ireland

Arranmore is home to some of the best diving spots in Ireland and there are sea safaris around the island. Trips leave from Burtonport

 

9 | Consider moving to Arranmore Island

Arranmore Island went viral in the USA in 2019 when the island put out a public appeal seeking people to move to the island. This followed the installation of a new broadband line directly to the island. The campaign brought in enquiries from all over the world with people looking to move to the Island.

The island is seeking residents from the USA and Australia who is willing to work remotely from this incredible location!

Arranmore Island Donegal

The new office!

About Us

 

Your Irish Vacation aims to give you the best itineraries and guides to make the most of your trip to Ireland

 

Your Ireland Vacation

 

Helping you make the most of your trip to Ireland

 

Murder Hole Beach, Donegal

Murder Hole Beach, Donegal

Murder Hole Beach, Donegal

This post may contain compensated links. Find more info in our disclosure policy.

Murder Hole Beach is a small, isolated beach on the north coast of Donegal, Ireland. It is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and unique beaches in both Donegal and Ireland. Murder Hole Beach is a true hidden gem along the Wild Atlantic Way. Having visited Murder Hole Beach many times on our Donegal travels we’ve put together a guide with everything you need to know about visiting Murder Hole Beach.

 

Murder Hole Beach

The secluded Murder Hole Beach is dotted with small caves and surrounded by stunning cliffs.While most people know the beach as Murder Hole Beach its actual name is Boyeeghter Bay. No one seems to know exactly how it got its eerie title although many agree it’s likely derived from the aggressive tidal currents that make swimming at the beach very dangerous.

Despite it’s ominous name, Murder Hole beach is one of the most stunning beaches we’ve ever visited!

Murder Hole Beach Donegal

Murder Hole Beach from the air

 

Map of Murder Hole Beach

We’ve put this map together to help anyone visiting Murder Hole beach. We’ve marked where to access the hike and the various spots that you should visited while exploring the beach

 

How to Use This Google Map: Click on the grey star at the top of the map and this map will be added to your Google Maps account. You can then view it on your phone or computer in Google Maps by clicking on the menu button, going to ‘Your Places’and selecting this map. We use these saved maps all the time to plan our itineraries in advance and quickly reference the saved maps.

 

How to get to Murder Hole Beach 

To get to Murder Hole beach you’ll need to drive to Melmore Head on the Rosguill Peninsula in northern Donegal. This is a remote and beautiful part of Ireland so the drive is both winding and stunning at the same time – try not to get too distracted with the views! Most recently, we visited Murder Hole Beach for sunrise and the blue hour drive to Melmore head was unforgettable.

Murder Hole Beach Donegal

The drive to Murder Hole beach is breathtaking

 

Once you reach Melmore you’ll need to park your car and head to the entrance of the field where the hike to Murder Hole beach starts. There is no assigned car park here and most visitors park along the side of the narrow road. As we were there early we had no trouble finding parking however during busy summer days finding a space might be tricky.

Murder Hole Beach is accessed via a short hike from the main road at Melmore through a local farmers field. The farmer kindly allows people to cross his land, however as it’s an active farm please be aware of your surroundings as there are sheep and cows in the fields – for this reason dogs are not allowed to cross the field. We have also seen notices on the gate stating that the gate will remained locked during mating season – a bull is brought to the field for mating and access is not permitted for safety reasons.

Murder Hole Beach tip: Please be considerate when crossing the farmers land to Murder Hole beach. Make sure to close the gate behind you after you enter the field and don’t interfere with the animals or litter!

Murder Hole Beach Donegal

Entrance to the field

 

Hike to Murder Hole Beach

The hike itself is relatively straight forward and it is less than 1km from the road to the sea. There is a small lake, Lough Melmore, on your left as you walk through the field from the main road. Follow the lake and then the stone wall at the end of it. This route will take you to the cliffs between the two stone walls which directly overlooks Murder Hole Beach. There is a fantastic view of the beach and the raging Atlantic waves from here.

Murder Hole Beach Donegal

Views on the short hike to Murder Hole


Murder Hole Beach Donegal

On route to the beach

Murder Hole Beach Donegal

The view from the cliffs

 

Accessing Murder Hole Beach

The easiest way to access the beach from the top of the cliffs is to follow the hill down to the right as you face the beach. There is easy access to the north end of the beach from this side.

Murder Hole Beach Donegal

the access to the beach is down here

The amount of beach you’ll be able to access depends on the tide level when you visit. At low tide you can walk along the full length of the beach however at higher tides the beach gets split in two by the tide waters.

Murder Hole Beach tip: The tide and waves at Murder Hole Beach can be very dangerous and visitors should exercise caution when walking on the beach. This is especially important as the tide is rising as waves can come from both the left and right of the beach due to the turbulent waters in the bay.

We just missed low tide when we last visited and the tide had started to come in when we reached the beach. As the photo shows, it was not possible to walk along the entire beach as it had split in two with the tide.

 

 Exploring Murder Hole  Beach

Despite its small size, there are lots to explore at Murder Hole Beach. The beach itself it wild and exciting albeit relatively dangerous due to the riptides.

Murder Hole Beach Donegal

Murder Hole Beach

Murder Hole Beach tip: Swimming is not recommended at Murder Hole Beach. The waters in the bay are notoriously dangerous and the riptides are extremely unpredictable. There have reported near drownings at the beach due to the dangerous riptides.

The cliff section to the north has great views of the beach and the headlands to the south.

Murder Hole Beach Donegal

The view from the cliffs on the north end of Murder Hole beach

There is also a beautiful sea cave on the south section of the beach. Getting to the sea cave outside of low tide can be tricky so we’ve got some directions below.

 

Murder Hole Sea Cave

Lots of people visit Murder Hole beach for the stunning views but many don’t realise that there is a fantastic sea cave located right on the beach itself. You can find the cliff face on the southerly stretch of sand which is accessible at low tide. 

If the tide is higher you won’t be able to walk along the entire beach. This means that if you want to access the sea cave when the beach is cut off you’ll to hike back up to the clifftop at the centre of Murder Hole Beach and scramble down the steep grassy slope on the southern side of the beach.

From here it’s a short walk across the dunes.

Murder Hole Beach Donegal

The epic sea cave at Murder Hole beach

 

Murder Hole Beach tip: be very careful exploring the sea cave at Murder Hole beach, especially if the tide is coming in. While we were there the sea rose very quickly to the mouth of the cave.

Murder Hole Beach Donegal

The tide rises quickly at Murder Hole beach

 

Tips for Visiting Murder Hole Beach

 

  • Check the tide time: For the best experience try to visit Murder Hole Beach either at low tide or as the tide is going out. The beach and sea cave are really only accessible at low tide. We took these photos on a visit to Murder Hole Beach during low tide just after sunrise and had the place to ourselves.
  • Be respectful of locals: access to the beach is really only possible as the farmer who owns the land between the main road and the sea generously allows visitors to cross his land to the beach. As the farmer keeps sheep and cows on the land it’s requested that visitors do not take dogs across the land. There also may be a bull present in the field so pay attention to any warning signs upon entry! Also, when parking make sure not to block any entrances or the narrow road.
  • No swimming: due to the dangerous currents and rip-tides at Murder Hole beach it’s highly recommended not to swim
Murder Hole Beach Donegal

The waves at Murder Hole beach are very unpredictable

  • Be careful! – take care when navigating the cliffs close to the sea and when walking on the beach. Conditions at Murder Hole Beach can get pretty wild so be aware of your surroundings. It was a relatively calm day when we visited, yet the waves were very unpredictable and caught us off guard a number of times when walking on the beach. Definitely take care and avoid going near the water when the weather is more windy.

 

  • Leave no trace – one of the best things about the remote beaches in Ireland is that they look untouched by humans. So to keep it that way please don’t litter or leave any trace. As they say, leave only footprints, take only memories

About Us

 

Your Irish Vacation aims to give you the best itineraries and guides to make the most of your trip to Ireland

 

Your Ireland Vacation

 

Helping you make the most of your trip to Ireland

 

Downpatrick Head and Dún Briste Sea Stack

Downpatrick Head and Dún Briste Sea Stack

Downpatrick Head and Dún Briste Sea Stack

This post may contain compensated links. Find more info in our disclosure policy.

The rugged and untamed Downpatrick Head is the setting for the spectacular Dún Briste sea stack located just off the coast of County Mayo along the Wild Atlantic Way.  Downpatrick Head and Dún Briste sea stack are among the most stunning sights on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Downpatrick Head Ireland

The epic view of Dun Briste from Downpatrick Head

 

 

Dún Briste and Downpatrick Head

Dún Briste literally means “broken fort” and refers to the fact that at one time the stack was connected to the mainland. It was severed from the mainland during a massive storm in 1393.

The stack currently rises around 50 metres out of the water and is topped with a grassy crown. It is home to many nesting birds

Downpatrick Head Ireland

The Wild Atlantic Way Viewpoint sign

 

Visiting Downpatrick Head

 

Downpatrick Head is located around 30 minutes-drive from Ballina along the scenic Mayo coastline. It is most easily reached by car. There is a visitors car park at Downpatrick Head and it’s short walk to the edge of the cliff side overlooking Dún Briste.

Downpatrick Head Ireland

The stunning Dun Briste at sunrise

 

Your experience visiting Dun Briste will largely depend on the weather. On a calm day the stack and cliffs are simply stunning while on a stormy day the rough seas turn the stack and cliffs into a truly dramatic sight.

Downpatrick Head Ireland

Wild Atlantic Way views of Dun Briste

Downpatrick Head Ireland

Dun Briste is massive!

 

Visiting Downpatrick Head tip: A word of caution for your visit to Downpatrick Head: the coastal viewing point area where visitors can view the stack is not fenced and it’s a sheer drop to the water below, so be very careful. This applies especially on windy days as the area is quite exposed. The grassy area around the cliffs is quite unique as it has developed into a very uneven/bubbled grassy area. Due to this it’s very easy to trip and fall near the cliff edge to take your time while exploring the area!

 

The Blowhole

There is a massive blowhole known as “Pul Na Sean Tinne“ or “Hole of the Old Fire” located just inland from the stack itself . There is an elevated viewing platform that allows you to peer into the massive crashing waves below. From here you can feel the true force of the Atlantic Ocean as it crashes into the darkness below. On stormy days when the waves are large, sea spray can be seen shooting up from the hole!

Downpatrick Head Ireland

The view from the viewing deck of the Downpatrick Blowhole

 

Downpatrick Head Ireland

The blowhole from above

 

Dún Briste Sea Stack Viewpoints

There are two main viewing areas to see Dun Briste from.

The first is the area around the small stone building close to the blowhole. From here you can get a close-up view of the sea stack as the Atlantic ocean relentlessly pounds it’s base.

Downpatrick Head Ireland

The first view of Dun Briste once you get to the cliffs

 

The second main viewing area is from the tip of Downpatrick Head. This is a short walk along the cliffside to the east of the small stone building.

This was our favourite view of Dún-Briste as you can see the sheer side of the sea stack against the backdrop of the cliffs and the Mayo coastline in the background.

Downpatrick Head Ireland

Our favourite view of Dun Briste from Downpatrick Head

 

 

EIRE 64 Lookout Post

One of the most unique aspects of Downpatrick head is the massive stone “Eire” sign on the grassy top of Downpatrick head. The sign is one of 83 similar lookout posts which were placed at various points around the Irish coastline during World War 2.

Their purpose was simple – to tell pilots that the country below them was Ireland and hence neutral. The small stone building located beside Dún Briste was a lookout post that was manned 24/7 during World War 2. In time these lookout posts became extremely important for relaying marine and aircraft activity to the Irish Defense Forces.

Downpatrick Head Ireland

EIRE 64 Lookout Post at Downpatrick Head

 

St. Patrick’s Church

Close to the blowhole are the remains of a church founded by Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick. Today a stone statue stands in the ruins of the church to commemorate him.

Downpatrick Head Ireland

The statue of Saint Patrick at the old church ruins

 

 

Other Co Mayo sights nearby

Take the opportunity to visit these other Co Mayo sights nearby.

 

Céide Fields

The north Mayo coast is some of the most rugged along the Wild Atlantic Way. If you’re planning a visit to Downpatrick Head make sure to also stop by the Céide Fields, one of the oldest fields systems in the world. This site is over 5,500 years old. Tickets cost only €4 per person and its definitely worth a stop.

DownPatrick Head

The Ceide Fields from above

 

Achill Island

This small but beautiful island is connected to mainland Ireland by a short bridge and is home to some of the most pristine beaches and stunning coastline in Ireland. No trip to County Mayo is complete without spending a few days exploring Achill Island.

From the epic coastal drive around the island to it’s gorgeous beaches Achill Island is not to be missed. One of it’s beaches, Keem Bay,  was voted one of the best beaches in the world in 2019.

The beautiful Achill coastline

 

About Us

 

Your Irish Vacation aims to give you the best itineraries and guides to make the most of your trip to Ireland

 

Your Ireland Vacation

 

Helping you make the most of your trip to Ireland

 

Dunquin Pier, Kerry. Ireland’s Sheep Highway!

Dunquin Pier, Kerry. Ireland’s Sheep Highway!

Dunquin Pier, Kerry. Ireland’s Sheep Highway!

This post may contain compensated links. Find more info in our disclosure policy.

The narrow winding pathway of Dunquin Pier, or Dun Chaoin in Irish, is an essential stop on Dingle’s spectacular Slea Head Drive and Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. The pier is picture perfect and an iconic Irish location, in part due to the sheep which file up the narrow pathway as they make their way from the pier to the mainland! Dunquin Pier is popular with locals, visitors and photographers – here’s everything you need to know about visiting Dunquin Pier!

 

Dunquin Pier

Dunquin Pier, famous for its narrow winding pathway which snakes down to the sea, is located in the village of Dunquin, or Dún Chaoin as you might spot on the Irish road signs! Dunquin is the most westerly settlement in Ireland and is surrounded by dramatic coastline and jutting rocks. The stunning setting results in Dunquin Pier being one of the most photogenic spots in Ireland.

Ireland Dunquin Pier Dingle

The captivating Dunquin Pier

 

The narrow pathway of Dunquin Pier is meant for pedestrians only – the pier became an overnight sensation a few years ago when a visitor attempted to drive their car down the winding path to wait for the first ferry and ended up firmly stuck until he was rescued the next morning! We wouldn’t recommend.

Ireland Dunquin Pier Dingle

Drone shot: the narrow path of Dunquin Harbour from the sky

 

Dunquin Pier is a stop on Dingle’s Slea Head Drive and is part of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, a spectacular road trip which stretches from West Cork to Donegal. The Wild Atlantic Way encompasses 2,500 kilometers of dramatic coastline, beautiful beaches, jutting mountains and lush scenery. Other highlights include Achill Island, Skellig Michael (of Star Wars fame) and the postcard perfect Cliffs of Moher.

Ireland Dunquin Pier Dingle

The dramatic coastline surrounding Drumquin Pier

 

 

Ireland’s Sheep Highway!

Dunquin Pier is often referred to as Ireland’s Sheep Highway, likely due to an iconic Irish postcard image depicting the pier filled with sheep as they were transported from the Blasket Islands to the mainland. It’s rare these days but, if you get really lucky, you might see some sheep arrive and file slowly up the pier as they reach the mainland!

 

The Blasket Islands

The pier is the departure point for the ferry to the Blasket Islands, a now uninhabited group of islands belonging to Co. Kerry. The Irish speaking Islands are famous for its residents who produced some renowned literature including Peig by Peig Sayers and The Islandman by Tomás Ó Criomhthain.

Ireland Dunquin Pier Dingle

The Blasket Islands are visible from Dunquin

 

Visiting Dunquin Pier

Dunquin Pier is easily accessed from the Slea Head drive and is close to Slea Head and the stone crucifix sculpture on the route.

Sunset is our favourite time of the day to visit as the evening light makes for great photographs – on a nice evening you might come across a few photographers gathered at the viewpoint to capture Dunquin Pier at its finest!

Ireland Dunquin Pier Dingle

Sunset is one of the best times to visit Dunquin

 

If you are a movie buff, the 1970 romantic drama Ryan’s Daughter was filmed in the area and the ruins of the schoolhouse are located near to Dunquin Pier.

 

How to get to Dunquin Pier

Dunquin Pier by Car

Dunquin Pier is on the Dingle Peninsula and is most easily reached by car or on a guided tour which stops at Dunquin. Driving the route clockwise, as you drive along Slea Head from the stone crucifix sculpture there is a turnoff which is marked by signs for ferries to the Blasket Islands. Signs in Irish will display ‘Dun Chaoin’.

There are two stops: the first is the best for a direct view over Dunquin Pier and is perfect for photographs. It is marked by an information sign and a stone monument tribute to the Spanish Armada. Follow the path along the cliff and admire the views – it’s a short walk but do be careful and respect the cliff edge warning signs.

The Blasket Ferry and Blasket Centre parking is a short drive past this stop and, from here, one can walk down the pier. It is steep so don’t venture too far if you are worried about the climb back up!

As you rejoin the main Slea Head Drive road the schoolhouse from Ryan’s Daughter is located at the end of the next laneway on the left side of the road.

Ireland Dunquin Pier Dingle

It’s a steep climb back up from the pier, I can verify!

 

Dunquin Pier by Public Transport

Dunquin is difficult to reach by public transport. The nearby town of Tralee is the first point of entry and, from there, take the 275 Bus Eireann bus to Dingle.

From Dingle, Bus Eireann operate the 275A between Dingle and Dunquin on Monday and Thursday only. The first bus departs from Dingle at 8am and the latest return from Dunquin is 12:55pm.

Check the latest bus timetable before travelling.

 

We hope you have as much fun visiting Dunquin Pier as we had!

Ireland Dunquin Pier Dingle

 

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18 Best Things to do in Clare, Ireland

18 Best Things to do in Clare, Ireland

18 Best Things to do in Clare, Ireland

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Located on the West Coast of Ireland in the centre of the Wild Atlantic Way, there are lots of incredible things to do in Clare. It boasts some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in Ireland and is home to the world famous Cliffs of Moher. There is so much more to this stunning county and we've put this list together of the best things to do in Clare to inspire you for your next visit. 

Things to do in Clare

 

18 Best things to do in Clare

From the world famous Cliffs of Moher to the stunning Fanore beach and the quaint and colourful village of Doolin, here are our 18 best things to do in Clare

 

1 | The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are instantly recognisable given that the stunning backdrop often features as the postcard image of Irish tourism. They are one of Ireland's most visited tourist attractions and an absolute must see in both Clare and Ireland. The cliffs soar over 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean and stretch for over 5 miles with a sheer vertical drop to the sea below.

Nothing beats a walk along the cliffs as the wind gusts and the waves crash below. Wrap up well, check out the viewing platforms and prepare to be mesmerised by the stunning beauty of the Cliffs!

Things to do in Clare

Things to do in Clare tip: One of the most spectacular ways to see the Cliffs of Moher is to take the coastal hike from Doolin up to the cliffs. It's a tough uphill hike but the views are truely incredible.

Things to do in Clare

Views from the Doolin Cliff walk

 

The Cliffs of Moher are spectacular from all directions but the view from the sea is truly awe inspiring. We opted for a one hour cruise from Doolin pier which follows the cliffs as they climb along the sea. 

The boat is an awesome vantage point from which to check out Branaunmore sea stack. 

Things to do in Clare

The Cliffs of Moher Cruise from Doolin

Things to do in Clare

Crusing

Keep an eye out for Dusty, the much loved Doolin Pier dolphin who likes to hang around the boat. Seriously, who doesn't melt at the sight of a dolphin?

Things to do in Clare

Dusty the Dolphin

 

2 | The Burren

With its huge pavements of limestone and beautiful plant life the Burren is a truly strange and unique landscape. Given the abundance of limestone it's quite fitting that the meaning of its name is the stony place!

The Burren and Cliffs of Moher region was awarded UNESCO Global Geopark status in 2011 due to the international importance of its geological heritage.

Things to do in Clare

The Burren

 

3 | Poulnabrone Dolmen

Along with the Cliffs of Moher, the Poulnabrone Dolmen is one of the most iconic sites in Clare. The ancient stone tomb, with its beautiful Burren backdrop, dates back to somewhere between 4200 BC and 2900 BC. IIts name literally means 'the hole of sorrows' and the remains of 16 adults, 6 children and a newborn dating back to the Bronze Age were found buried under the monument during excavations in the 1980's.

Things to do in Clare

Poulnabrone Dolmen, 8km South of Ballyvaughan

 

4 | Loop Head

The scenic drive to the Loop Head Peninsula is part of the Wild Atlantic Way. It is famous for its plunging cliffs, improbable sea stacks and dramatic coastline. We'd have to agree that Kilkee and the Loop Head Peninsula are one of Ireland's best kept secrets!

Things to do in Clare

Loop Head Lighthouse

Things to do in Clare

Things to do in Clare

The sea cliffs at Loop Head

 

5 | Dromoland Castle

First and foremost, Dromoland is a stunning castle! It has incredible history, amazing grounds and, if you venture inside, glorious old world charm. It dates back to the 5th Century when it was an ancestral home and the neo-gothic castle is set in 410 acres of woodland and lakes which are open to the public.

Things to do in Clare tip: Keep an eye out for the resident hawk who is often on show with the Dromoland School of Falconry.

Venturing inside the castle feels like taking a step back in time with the plush furnishings and coats of armour in the halls. 

Things to do in Clare

Dromoland Castle, Newmarket on Fergus

 

6 | Fanore Beach

The unspoiled sandy beach of Fanore is a hidden gem in Co Clare. With its clear waters and soft sands, Fanore is perfect for sunny days and long walks on the beach. 

Things to do in Clare

Fanore Beach

 

7 | Father Ted's House

Calling all Father Ted fans! It's only Father Ted's House smack in the middle of the Burren in Co Clare and it looks exactly as it did in the television series!

Father Ted's house is a private family home but the family offer an organic afternoon tea to allow visitors to take a closer look at the Craggy Island Parochial House. You’ll have some tea… are you sure you don’t want any? Aw go on, you’ll have some. Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, GO ON!! 

Things to do in Clare

Father Ted's House, The Burren

 

8 | Burren Birds of Prey Centre and Aillwee Caves

If you love owls, a stop at the Burren Birds of Prey Centre should be high on your list of things to do in Clare. The Centre is also home to eagles, falcons and hawks and it's wonderful to watch them flying and interacting. 

 

Things to do in Clare

Burren Birds of Prey Centre, Ballyvaughan

 

It's a short hop from the Birds of Prey to the Aillwee Caves next door. The caves are home to stalagmites, stalactites, a waterfall and extinct bear bones. The stunning terrace overlooking Galway Bay is perfect for a post sight seeing glass of wine.

Things to do in Clare

The Ailwee Caves

 

9 | Corkscrew Hill

If you're driving in Clare don't miss Corkscrew Hill. On the road from Ballyvaughan to Lisdoonvarna, Corkscrew Hill was built as part of the famine relief scheme in the 1840's. Successful navigation of the steep and winding hill is rewarded with stunning views over the Burren.

Things to do in Clare

Corkscrew Hill

 

10 | Ballyvaughan

Ballyvaughan is an incredibly charming and picturesque harbour village and a great base Clare. The people are lovely, the food, drinks and craic are fantastic and the location perfect for sightseeing.

Things to do in Clare

One of the beautiful cottage in Ballyvaughan

 

O'Loclainn's Whiskey Bar, a small bar stocking 50 different types of whiskey, is located in Ballyvaughan and is a whisky lovers haven. It was once described by Steven Spielberg as one of the best pubs he had been in.

Things to do in Clare

O'Loclainn's Whiskey Bar in Ballyvaughan

 

Pinnacle Well: Situated on the coast road close to Ballyvaugan, the small spring served the people of Ballyvaughan in terms of drought.

Things to do in Clare

 

11 | Black Head

The headland, which winds around the Burren from Ballyvaughen and down the coast to Fanore Beach. is known as Black Head. This rocky coastline is truly unique due to the dark rock that makes up the headland. The views here on a clear day are spectacular and there are lots of places to pull in and take in the views

Things to do in Clare tip: If you have time make sure to try the Black Head Loop walk. This hike takes around 6 hours and includes some of the most beautiful views of the Burren.

Things to do in Clare

Black Head Co. Clare

 

12 | Lisdoonvarna

Thousands of romantics make the annual trek to Lisdoonvarna to attend one of Europe's largest matchmaking festivals. 

Things to do in Clare

The Matchmaker Bar

Things to do in Clare

The Lisdoonvarna sculpture

 

13 | Doolin

Doolin is the quintessential Irish village in the stunning setting of the Burren with the beautiful backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. There's an abundance of Aran sweaters, Irish music and thatched cottages.The Cliffs of Moher cruises leave from Doolin pier and it's home to Doolin Caves which houses the largest free standing stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere.

Things to do in Clare

Doolin

 

14 | Great Hunger Memorial

: The Great Hunger Memorial, on the Lahinch Road, was erected in memory of the victims of the great potato crop failures of 1845 to 1851.

Things to do in Clare

Great Hunger Memorial

Things to do in Clare

Great Hunger Memorial

 

 

15 | Doonagore Castle 

Doonagore Castle sits on a hill 1km above the village overlooking Doolin Point. It is used as a navigational point by boats approaching the pier. The views are stunning but be aware that the castle is a private holiday home and therefore inaccessible.

Things to do in Clare

 

16 | Bunratty Castle

A medieval fortress built in 1425, Bunratty Castle contains 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries and works of art. The grounds include a folk park and a walled garden and the castle hosts medieval banquets and traditional Irish nights.

Things to do in Clare

Bunratty Castle, Bunratty

 

17 | Durty Nelly's, Bunratty

Next door to Bunratty Castle is Durty Nellys an Irish pub dating back to the 1620s and is the self styled oldest pub in Ireland. Legend has it that Nelly herself introduced poteen, the traditional Irish beverage, to Ireland.

Things to do in Clare

Durty Nelly's

 

18 | Keating's Pub

Enjoy a Guinness at the nearest bar to New York in Kibaha! I'm still not convinced on the geography behind this one but we trust they know what they're talking about!

Things to do in Clare

Keating's Pub

 

So there you have it, our guide to the best things to do in Clare a county with an abundance of sights and lots of craic! Let us know if we missed anything in the comments1

About Us

 

Your Irish Vacation aims to give you the best itineraries and guides to make the most of your trip to Ireland

 

Your Ireland Vacation

 

Helping you make the most of your trip to Ireland