Donegal Border to Narin/Portnoo Beach
This Wild Atlantic Way route from the Donegal Border to Narin/Portnoo beach heading North, takes you into Donegal, one of the most beautiful counties along the Wild Atlantic Way. The route starts off near Bundoran, close to Tullan Strand.
The route passes some of the best Donegal beaches with spectacular views as well as through the town of Donegal which gave its name to the County.
The route passes Tullan, Rossnowlagh, Murvagh, Fintra, Malin Beg and Narin/Portnoo beaches, all of which are quite beautiful.
There is also the Signature point of Slieve League along this route, some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. This is one of the must-do’s along the Wild Atlantic Way and the cliffs are almost 3 times the height of the Cliffs of Moher.
There are waterfalls to visit slightly off the route, all of which take some extra time to get to, so plan your trip accordingly.
Whether you want to wander along the nature trails of the Irish Hills, or take a dip in the sea at one of the gorgeous beaches, this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way is sure to captivate you with its charms.
So why not take a journey along this beautiful coastline and follow the Donegal Border to Narin/Portnoo route, and experience the wonders of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Wild Atlantic Way Route Map
Approx. 162 kms distance, 3 hrs 31 minutes driving time
Download the route map to your phone with ALL the points of interest included here: Donegal Border to Narin/Portnoo Beach.
This is a beautiful sandy beach up against the dunes near Bundoran. This is another surfing spot along the coast. There are fairy bridges here (natural rock arches) and a wishing chair.
Rossnowlagh Beach is an amazing beach in Donegal where you can drive your vehicle onto the beach. There are food stalls here but keep an eye on the tide so you do not get stranded.
My little invention of a wooden square attached to some string (kept in the bike’s glovebox) came in handy here to keep the bike on the sidestand when parked!
If you are really lucky you may get to see some exciting Garda action chasing baddies on the beach! (See this funny video in the link :))
This 2km beach has a fairly large car park and can be reached via a boardwalk.
The beach overlooks Ireland’s largest bay. Behind the beach, there is Murvagh forest.
And a bit further along you can find Donegal Golf club, one of Darren Clarke’s “favourite courses in the world”.
This discovery point on the Wild Atlantic Way is worth a visit. I went here while it was raining yet there were still people swimming from the pier. The pier was built with sandstone to encourage fishing during the great famine.
The sandstone was mined locally in an underground quarry. Originally Mountcharles was known as Tamhnach an tSalainn, meaning green fields of salt. This was because salt pans were used to extract salt for the preservation of locally caught herring.
The famous storyteller Seamus MacManus was born in Mountcharles and used to tell his stories to the kids at the water pump in the village.
Close to the pier, there is a small play area for kids and they have some Llamas you can take for a walk.
The Salthill Cabin coffee shop provides warm drinks and baked produce. Perfect for after a swim!
This lighthouse is quite a way from the Wild Atlantic Way so to avoid the detour I took this shot from a distance from the Killybegs campsite. You can vaguely see Cassiebawn Castle and Benbulbin in the background. This lighthouse is one of the great lighthouses of Ireland, and has operated since 1831.
You can actually rent a house here and spend a few nights away from it all – no internet, no TV. Perfect for some.
This is a harbour light to help take you past St. John’s point and through the channel to Killybegs harbour when you are approaching by boat.
The lighthouse flashes once every 4 seconds and is unmanned. The lighthouse was completed around 1839.
Killybegs is the largest fishing town in Ireland. It has a naturally protected harbour and is home to many fishing trawlers.
There are several places in town where you can enjoy the fresh fish the same day it comes off the boats.
I ate at Melly’s which was fine – it had a lot of local fishermen were eating there, which seemed to be a good sign.
I spent a great evening at this campsite run for years by Patsy and Rose. There are not many campsites in Donegal in this area, so this is the obvious choice.
The road in the campsite is a gravel road so I was a bit wary on my heavy R1150RT motorcycle, having dropped it on gravel the previous trip.
But the owner was very flexible and I found a pitch close to the showers and with a wonderful view.
The views really are spectacular over to St. John’s Point lighthouse and even as far as Benbulbin.
Once you get up to Donegal you start to hear the rather special lilt of the Northern Irish accent.
Facilities are limited but perfectly adequate. The campsite is very quiet and is secure with a locked gate.
This beach is quite beautiful, even when visited on a wet morning, as I did.
It is also home to one of the most spectacularly located GAA fields – the old Killybegs GAA pitch, which is actually hidden away behind the beach.
Access to the beach car park is via a VERY steep single-track road. I must say I was very happy that no traffic was coming the other way when I left!
This must be quite gorgeous, as are many of the Donegal beaches, during the summer.
This famously no-longer-much-of-a-secret-waterfall can be located by looking for the coffee trailer at the side of the road (or just locate it on the map!).
There is parking available near the trailer and a track down to the waterfall. But BEWARE- make sure you visit it low tide or you can forget about seeing the waterfall.
I met an Aussie on the way down who said it would not be worth the hike.
I hiked it anyway and regretted it. The tide was too high and I could not get near the waterfall without clambering over rocks and half-undressing.
This I was not prepared to do with all my biking gear and helmet so I walked back up without seeing anything. A long hike uphill, and I wished I had spent more time exploring Fintra Beach.
Mucross Head (Cionn Mhucrois) is a rather nice spot just off the Wild Atlantic Way where you can stop for a picnic and admire the view.
There are places to park and benches and tables. You can see West out to Carrigan Head, which is close to Sliabh Lieg. There are two beaches along this peninsular.
Muckross Head View
This discovery point looks out over Muckross Head and the beaches there.
The parking space is not that big but there is nothing else to do here so it is unlikely to be busy. The road along from here is quite narrow but has some pretty views.
This photo of the Carrigan Head lookout post 71 was taken from Muckross Head. You can see this lookout post on the left-hand side if you walk the road up to the Slieve League viewpoint.
Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) is one of the most impressive Signature Discovery points along the WAW. These are some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, rising 598m above the sea.
They are almost 3 times the height of the Cliffs of Moher, and are the second highest in Ireland. Indeed on a clear day, the cliffs are quite something to behold. When you arrive by car you are made to choose the walk or bus option.
But on my motorbike, I was able to drive past the cones and drive the road up to the viewpoint without any trouble. This saved me a 2 x 1.7km walk, or about 40 minutes (and the first bit is pretty steep)!
But the walk is a very nice one on a paved road. The EIRE 71 sign and lookout post at Carrigan Head can be seen from the walk up.
There are spectacular views and it is well worth visiting. There is a nice cafe at the bottom which is great for a cup of tea and a bun.
See here a video of the walk up to Slieve League, taken on the way down to the cafe at the bottom.
If you are feeling adventurous you can follow the Pilgrim’s Path down to Teelin from the top. But beware as it is quite a strenuous walk.
Malin Beg (or Málain Bhig) is home to this gorgeous beach, the Silverstrand (one of a few Silverstand beaches on this coast).
The beach is located in a naturally protected bay, and there are 160 steps to climb down to the beach. It is quite a climb back up.
There is a good sized car park at the top. When driving the road to get there you may have the feeling that you are lost, but keep the faith. The road is quite narrow but you will get there in the end!
This Discovery Point has a great view down the valley caused by moving glaciers thousands of years ago. The river Ghleann Gheis (Glengesh) continues the process to this day.
The pass itself is nothing special to speak of as it is not particularly high at 275m. But the road is fun, being pretty much a single-track road with low undulating heather fields on either side.
See me drive up this pass in the wet (the video speed up the pass is enhanced!)
I missed this waterfall on my first journey here, but had seen it from the other side of the opposite peninsular as it was quite impressive even from a distance.
It is roughly a total 30-minute detour from the WAW without your stop time, going the short way.
This is the road driving away from the falls heading back towards the WAW:
Or take the ‘back road’ to get there via Crockuna and enjoy the journey through the valley. See my video here:
This beach has plenty of parking available and looks out onto Inishkeel Island. There are toilets available in the car park and there is easy disabled access to the beach.
Nearby there is the Narin and Portnoo links golf course, located in the dunes. Lifeguards are present during the summer months.
You can walk to Inishkeel at low tide, but check the Portnoo tide times before embarking.
There is a ruined 6th-century Monastery on the island.
Now carry on up the Wild Atlantic Way route going North or South. Use this site as a Wild Atlantic Way Route planner and download this Google Donegal Map to your phone.
I have spent many (fun) hours creating this website to help people travelling the Wild Atlantic Way. If you found it useful and it helped you plan your trip, please consider donating towards my petrol/gas bill! Many thanks!
Last Updated on October 13, 2023 by Gav