We hit the road from Dublin on Thursday afternoon making it to Donegal in decent time. We check in to the stunning Lough Eske Castle where they welcome your dog to join you in your stay. Stanley and I were driven by golf buggy to our beautiful room in the converted stables while Sean finalised check in. We then we took a walk around the grounds before heading out for dinner in nearby Donegal town.
Stanley is very used to travelling with us so we know from experience that he doesn’t get distressed when we leave him in different places we’re staying. We feed him just before we leave and are always back within 4 hours to find him fast asleep in the room. A good few people were asking me about how we manage leaving him in these situations but, as he doesn’t get distressed by it its easy for us… however, it will of course be different for each individual dog.
We ate dinner in The House Gastro Pub in Donegal town, after researching different places this seemed like the best option for us and, while the meal was decent, we didn’t find it particularly mind-blowing however, there was a nice atmosphere and the staff were lovely. From there we went to McCafferty’s for live music and pints which was thoroughly enjoyable… we’d gotten the hotel to call us a taxi coming into town so just kept his card and rang when we were ready to head back to the hotel making the whole trip very easy.
Day 2 Sean worked out in the hotel’s gym while I got ready then we headed in for their buffet breakfast… I was expecting big things and I was not disappointed. After relaxing over our coffees we hit the road for a jam-packed itinerary starting with the highly recommended Creevy walk which goes from the Creevy Pier Hotel through the fields of Ballyshannon.
We went to the left of the hotel to start only to find signs saying dogs weren’t welcome on the walk… we decided to ignore it for a while as we’d come so far to do the walk, just keeping Stanley on a tight lead but, cut the walk short due to this so good to note if you’re planning to do this trip with your own dog.
After the walk we were ready for lunch so, headed to the highly recommended Smuggler’s Creek where we ordered an array of seafood dishes (their specialty) sitting outside to enjoy the fleeting moments of sunshine. This was a really enjoyable lunch; well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
H&M kindly dressed me for this trip, the pieces I chose included this stunning jumpsuit from their GP & J Barker collaboration which was so easy to wear for the day… I felt really comfortable in it while still creating a little impact with the look.
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Next on the itinerary was the coastal drive to Slieve League to which is a mountain which boasts some of the highest seacliffs in Ireland, the views were breathtaking, I’d highly recommend heading up there to take it all in.
After that we ‘d wanted to make it to the folk village in Glencolmcille and perhaps take a boat around the Telin Pier but alas, all that walking had left us tight for time so we headed back to the hotel for a dip in their pool ahead of a delicious evening meal in their restaurant and nightcap in the bar.
Day 3 started for me with a very glam solo buffet breakfast in Lough Eske Castle‘s restaurant before I ventured to their spa for an amazing hour-long massage (pretty much the perfect start to a day if you ask me!). I’d highly recommend visiting their spa even just to avail of the thermal suit… such a beautiful vibe in there.
Afterwards we packed up, checked out and hit the road for our next destination. En route we stopped in Letterkenny for a wander and popped in to the Off The Street Food Festival for some nibbles and live music which took us to the late afternoon. We then headed to our next accommodation which was a cottage on the outskirts of Carrigart.
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We got our bearings, chatted to our hosts then hopped a taxi in to Carrigart where we enjoyed pizza in The Goose and Gander pizzeria inside Logue’s bar… this spot came highly recommended so it was no surprise to find the place to be super-busy. We nabbed a table in good time and enjoyed our meal; the toppings were divine but the pizza dough itself was a touch under-cooked. Still a very enjoyable meal all the same.
We caught a local taxi bus to The Harbour bar (dog friendly fyi) to catch the sunset before finishing the night in another bar in the town.
day 4 started with a homemade breakfast before driving to Glenveigh National park to take in the sights. We drove the Lough Salt road to get there for a little back road fun, arriving in Glenveigh where we took the nature walk as it was less popular and enjoyed the whole trail without meeting another soul. It’s absolutely stunning there, we were lucky to catch it on a sunny day but it’s well worth visiting regardless.
After this we drove to Dunfanaghy which was my favourite are of the trip, such a cute little town, great vibe and lots to do… if you can stay in this area I’d highly recommend that you do. We grabbed a coffee and sat on the main street soaking up the atmosphere before hitting Jaws Watersports where we rented wetsuits and surf boards and headed to the nearby beach (absolutly breathtaking!). The young lady working in Jaws kindly offered to mind Stanley which meant that we could fully enjoy the surfing experience… the waves on the nearby beach are pretty small so perfect for those who just want to experience of surfing but aren’t perhaps the most savvy surfers.
Sea soaked and happy, we returned to Dunfanaghy, enjoyed a drink outside Patsy Dan’s (dog-friendly pub) listening to people sing a few songs in the sunshine and chatting to the locals before we popped in to The Rusty Oven to try one of their infamous pizzas.. it was delicious!! Definitely one not to be missed on your Donegal trip. It gets crazy-busy in there and you can expect lots of noise but it’s worth it for a taste of their delicious pizzas.
Afterwards we headed back to our place where we chilled before deciding we simply couldn’t leave the area without visiting The Old Glen Bar and Restaurant which serves beautiful food in an area hidden in the back of an old bar. Really enjoyable meal, great atmosphere and lovely staff… I’d definitely recommend this spot.
On day 5 we packed up again to move on to our next place in Portsalon. We first drove to try and get a look at Murder Hole Beach but the access was closed off due to having a bull in the field so we didn’t want to risk it… we did however take in some spectacular sites through Downings on the way over and, stopped for a coffee in The Singing Pub so that in itself was worth the effort.
We then hit the road for Rathmullan where we caught the car ferry across Lough Swilly before heading for Mamore Gap which was simply breathtaking! It’s a stunning drive where you can see for miles; you can stop at plenty of points along the way to take it all in or just drive slowly and admire the absolute beauty of Donegal.
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After making it over the Mamore Gap we hit Nancy’s Barn for lunch. Nancy’s barn is famous for the seafood chowder so of course we went for that… it was absolutely delicious but we did find out afterwards that they use chorizo in the cooking process (the chowder’s ingredients aren’t described on the menu) so, something to be wary of if you’re not a meat eater. Our lunch here was thoroughly enjoyable and they were super-welcoming to Stanley in their covered outdoor area.
We drove some of the Inishowen 100 drive after lunch, stopping on stunning beaches along the way; Donegal has, without doubt, the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen anywhere in the world.
After lots of running around on beautiful beaches we took the car ferry back to Rathmulan where we proceeded to head north to check in to our little beach chalet in Portsalon. At this point we didnt want to do any more driving so we got a takeaway from the local chipper and enjoyed a hot bag of salty chips while sitting on picnic benches overlooking the sea… there’s something about those kind of moments that just scream Irish summer to me so, despite being the simplest of meals, I really enjoyed it.
We had a drink in the local bar but found there wasn’t much atmosphere so, called it a night in favour of being fresh for the morning.
Day 6 was forecast to be an absolute washout of epic proportions when in fact it offered us little more than a few scattered showers throughout the day. We had breakfast in our place before driving to the Fanad Lighthouse then driving through a few of the local towns, stopping for wanders then heading for lunch in The Narrow Quater where we had a lovely light lunch in a relaxed setting.
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We drove around to some more stunning beaches before chilling in our chalet watching game shows on the TV (again, something we never do but so enjoyable on an Irish holiday!) before heading back to Rathmullan for our last dinner of the holiday in Belle’s Kitchen, a homely sort of spot with classics on the menu. We had a drink in a local bar before hitting the road back to Portsalon for our last night.
I wouldn’t base myself in Portsalon again as I found we weren’t as close to lots of things as the rental would have suggested. There’s one bar with a restaurant in it and then you’re miles from anything else… we thought we were going to be staying in a more built up town when we booked it.
Lots of bars were dog friendly so well worth asking anywhere you go.
Download some albums before you go as internet can be patchy on the back roads which can be a Spotify buzz kill.
If you’re going to Fanad lighthouse take the tour… we just paid in to wander ourselves but ended up just sort of looking at it and leaving as we didn’t know anything about the lighthouse itself.
Leave room for spontaneity; I made sure to do this which meant we ended up doing lots of impromptu walks on breathtaking beaches, some of my favorite memories from the trip.
Find the magic part of The Mamore Gap where your car will roll up! We only found out about this afterwards and would’ve loved to try it!