South Donegal: Family fun adventures from Bundoran up to Dungloe and everywhere in between
Updated: May 19, 2021
I grew up in a little village by the sea called Mountcharles in Country Donegal. All my childhood memories are of family trips on my dad's boat, going on adventures to new places, picnics at the side of the road and spending every day of the summer holidays at the beach. That's why I love taking the boys up to Donegal and try to spend every school holiday there. Last summer we spend the majority of the summer there and we hope to do the same this year. Although for us it is easy to stay there for such long periods of time since all my family live there and I'm the only one living away. However there is plenty of camp sites, caraven sites, hotels, B&Bs and lots of holiday homes to rent out all over Donegal.
I have teamed up with my mum @anneleonard_nationaltourguide who is a national tour guide with a special interest in Hiking to complete this blog. Her knowledge of Donegal is immense and there isn't a spot left she has yet to explore. The best way to categorise the blog as Donegal is so big, was to spilt it into two sections, South Donegal going from Bundoran up to Dungloe and everywhere in between and North Donegal taking in from Dungloe to Burt and everywhere in between. The places we will be mentioning will be outside (walks, beaches etc ) and mostly free with a few paid tourist attractions that is well worth visiting with children. They have all be tried and tested by us and approved by our 4 and 6 year old boys!
Bundoran is your typical sea side resort, lots of hotels, caravan and camping sites, amusements, a fun fair by the beach, an indoor water park called Waterworld, a cinema, bowling alley and lots of little cafes! Its a great spot to holiday in the summer or even just for a day out.
Beach and cliff walk (Rougey) :
The beach is a blue flag beach and it is beautiful, with lifeguards during the summer months. Its great for surfing and bodyboarding for the older kids and safe for the younger kids to swim in. There are public toilets and plenty of parking (mostly paid parking) with a lovely walk along the cliffs called Rougey which is all buggy and wheelchair friendly. Along that walk you will come to what's known as the Fairy Bridge which is a cliff Arche carved out by the Atlantic Ocean. You need to be very careful with children near here. There is also a wishing Chair along the walk too if you want want to make a wish while watching the beautiful views. This walk is in a loop and while bring you back to the beach.
Bundoran's playground is between Waterworld and the fun fair right on the promenade and it is a lovely little playground with beautiful views of the ocean. Great spot to pass an hour with the kids.
Ballyshannon playground: is just a short distance from the town centre. From the main street from the Bundoran end, you pass the Rory Gallagher statue on your right then you will see a road to the left, take that narrow street. Follow that road along and you will come to the playground with a little park and fairy village right along the river Erne. Its a beautiful playground with plenty of things for smaller kids to do, my 6 year old looses interest very quickly in it. There is a lovely fairy village over by the tree's that we love investigating and every time we visit there seems to be an added addition to it. Its a great park for bikes or scooters with a short walking loop in the park itself. Plenty of parking and they have toilet facilities too.
Castle Adventure Open Farm:
@castle_adventure_open_farm is outside of Ballyshannon. If you put in F94C1W7 into your GPS it will take you right to the door. It is due to open in May this year however some activities and attractions in it may not be opened because of Covid. We normally go to this farm 2 or 3 times a year. Their Halloween and winter wonderland themed days are fantastic. There is lots of animals you can interact with, lots of outdoor activities to keep the kids entertained, an amazing playground, tractor rides, indoor play area and so much more. This is a paid attraction however it is definitely worth the money to visit as you can easily spend the whole day here and there is plenty of places that you can have a picnic. Plenty of parking, toilet facilities, buggy and wheelchair friendly, cafe on site.
Rossnowlagh beach is absolutely breath taking with miles and miles of golden sand. Its a really popular beach for surfing and body boarding because of the waves. On a good day this beach would be very busy as cars are allowed onto the beach so you have to be very careful with little ones. Before going do check out the tide times as every year several cars get caught out and end up surrounded in water and a local farmer has to come to their rescue! Its a great beach to go and spend the day on, on a warm day with plenty of little coffee trailers and ice cream vans around. Plenty of places to park on and off the beach with public toilet. Dont forget to get your picture taking at the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point.
Murvagh beach is between Rossnowlagh and Donegal Town. This is our favourite beach to explore even in the winter months. It's a very special beach to us as the boys and I always go here with Nana nearly every time we go up to Donegal. As you walk down the board walk on to the beach it is like something from a movie! It is such a beautiful beach with miles and miles of golden sand. In the summer months there are lifeguards on duty. Its a great beach for exploring and we love walking on the grass paths through the dunes which bring you up to a huge forests which is brilliant to explore with little ones. Plenty of parking and has a port aloo too. Great spot to spend the day in and don't forget your picnic! Dont forget to get your picture taking at the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point and the cool fish art.
Old Abbey, Donegal Pier:
The old Abbey was an Abbey of the Four Masters which was abandoned sometime in the 17th century and all that is left is ruins. It is to the left of the top of the pier and its a great place to explore with children. There is plenty of parking however it is paid parking.
The Bank walk:
One of my boys favourite walks. It is the walk along the bank of the river Eske that runs through Donegal Town, with some fairy doors up on the tress, lots of trees and lots of area's for children to explore. It is about three quarter pathed so it is buggy and wheelchair friendly. When you get to the end of the wall of the path you will see a stone path going up into the trees, if you follow this it will take you to the very end of the bank walk which has a bench and spectacular views for Donegal bay. It is quite a long walk for little legs to the very end however I find there is plenty of things around in the walk to explore and keep them distracted. The little wall near the end is a lovely spot for a picnic.
The playground is situated across from St.Johns Bosco centre. There is two sections to it, a toddler (under6) area and a section for older children. There is lots to do in the playground however if you have children that like slides there is a massive slide in it that really is for 6 plus and is not very safe for any children under this age. My boys have great fun in this playground and you could easily spend an hour in it.
Famine Pot walk: This walk is just past the turn off for Harvey's Point in Lough Eske on the left. There is plenty of parking and picnic benches. There is some history of the Famine Pot and a replica of a Famine Pot there too. The walk itself is beautiful through the forest. It is a long walk for little legs but it is great for exploring so they are quite distracted. It would be quite difficult to push a buggy through the walking trail. After the walk we love having a picnic at the benches.
If you continue past the famine pot and turn right it will take you to the new car park for Ardnamona Woods. It will take you along a little path over a bridge into the woods. These woods are brilliant to explore with children. At one point in the walk you walk along part of the lake itself. It is a stoney path in a loop.
Lough Eske is situated outside of Donegal Town on the road to Ballybofey.
This beach is on the way out of Donegal Town as you head for the village of Mountcharles. It is signposted and you will be taking a left at a car garage before you come to Texaco petrol station.There is plenty of parking and it is a beautiful sandy beach and is a lovely beach to swim.
Drimarone playground in behind the Drimarone community centre in Drimarone. This playground has plenty for the kids to do and keep them occupied. There is plenty of parking and picnic benches too.
The wee pier is a small stoney pier with sand on both sides. It is a great beach if you have smaller children as the sand is great for building sand castles and its a lovely beach for a swim. There is always loads of crabs along the pier and is great fun for crab fishing for the kids. Don't forget to release them back in afterwards. There is also some sand dunes a short walk from the pier. There is places to park along the road however there is no toilet facilities.
The Big Pier:
The walk from the small pier to the big pier is lovely along the road for adults or with buggies. At the big pier at one side there are steps and a jetty where you can jump off and if your brave enough from the end of the pier too! Many a summer evening was spent jumping off this pier as a child. On the other side of the pier there is a sand area which is great for building sand castles and its a great spot for kids to catch crabs especially in the little rock pools. There is lots of parking and there is a port aloo also on the pier. If you do visit the big pier make sure you pop into @salthillcabin for some coffee and cake and take a little stroll around the mini farm and see all the animals which is free. Don't forget to get your picture taken at the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point.
Inver beach has a lovely beach with great sand dunes for the kids to run and climb up. Its a great spot for a picnic, sand building, a paddles, some crab fishing in the rock pools and a walk along the sandy beach. To get to the beach the road is quite narrow and there is limited parking and no toilet facilities.
Bruckless has just recently opened a lovely community playground behind the community centre as you come in to Bruckless from the Donegal Town direction. We have yet to visit it but family members have been to it and said it is a lovely playground. Can't wait to check it out at the week.end.
St. John's Point:
St. John's Point has a beautiful coral sandy beach. If you park at the beach you can walk out to the light house and if you fancy staying a night in the light house you can! The views from the lighthouse are breath taking.
The playground is on the left hand side as you come into the town. We love visiting this playground and it has lots to do for all ages. There is plenty of parking beside it or near it.
We love taking a walk around the harbour and seeing all the big fishing boats. Please do be careful as this is a working harbour. The walk from the old pier to the new one is a really nice walk along the water edge.
St. Catherine's well:
St. Catherine's well is at the new round about turn left and a sharp right into the car park for St. Catherine's well. Its a short walk, wheel chair and buggy friendly with lots of benches to sit. It is believed that this well can cure different types of aliments.
Don't forget to head into @sweetnewskillybegs for some of their yummy Ice cream.
Fintra (Fintragh Bay) (Ba Fhionntra):
Fintra beach: is about 5km outside of Killybegs and it is a beautiful sandy beach. This beach is just breath taking. It has miles of golden sand. Great spot to spend the day there, have a picnic and have a swim. The car park is quite small so car parking is limited. Dont forget to take a photo at the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point.
The Secret Waterfall, Largy: Park at the Largy viewing point. Please check tides before going in search of the secret waterfall and not suitable for small children and rocks can be very slippy
Muckros Head (Cionn Mhucrois):
Senic area with beaches on both side and very popular for absaling. Lovely walk along the head land, not buggy friendly. Parking is limit, toilet facilities in the tea room. Don't forget to get your picture at the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point.
Sliabh Liag (Slieve Ligh, sometimes known as Slieve League):
Slieve League has the highest Sea Cliffs in Ireland. The views from it are breath taking. There are a few area's where you can take some photo's however to take the walk up to the second viewing point, proper shoes are required and not safe for small children, people who are afraid of heights or are unsteady on their feet. I personally have yet to make it up to it as I always end up turning back half way! Children need to be constantly supervised and never go behind any fences or barrier's toward the cliff edge. The narrow costal road up to it is not for the faint hearted! There is a small amount of car parking spaces at the top however please make sure you close all gates behind you if you decide to drive up. You can park at the bottom at the discovery centre and walk up however it is quite a long trek and not suitable for small legs. There is no Wild Atlantic Way discovery point here but plenty of places for a fantastic photo opportunity!
Malin Beg (Malainn Bhig):
Sliver strand beach is a beautiful horse shoe beach at Malin Beg. There is 174 steps down the side of a very steep cliff to get to the beach itself. Caution is needed for people who are afraid of heights, unsteady on their feet and small children. The grass area at the top is a lovely spot for a picnic and the views are amazing. Don't forget to get your picture taking at the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point.
Folk village: If you visit Glencolumbkille a visit to the folk village is a must. Its a lovely place to visit, with thatched cottages dating back to the 1500, a lovely walk around the grounds with little houses that have activities for children in them. This is a paid attraction.
This beach is across the road from the folk village. Plenty of parking and toilet facilities in the near by tea rooms.
Stone Map of Ireland: Dont forget to check out the only stone map of Ireland in the car park.
Malaibh Ghleann Gheis:
When driving through Ghleann Gheis it's like something from a movie with the narrow roads, mountains on both sides and sheep on the road. Don't forget to stop at the top of Gheann Gheis and get a photo with the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point. There is lots of picnic benches too for a picnic.
This beach is beautiful. There is about 20 caves along this beach and when there is low tide its a great place to explore. Please always make sure you check tide times before you go exploring these caves. This beach is not suitable for swimming.
This waterfall is on the way to Ardara just passed Maghera beach. Its a lovely spot to stop off for a photo opportunity.
Ardara, Portnoo and Narin:
Santaana drive: This is a scenic loop around from Ardara to Portnoo. When you come out off Ardara, take the Portnoo road and turn left onto the Santaana drive and takes you Tramore beach which lovely white sandy beach with plenty of parking. Then you continue on along that road you come to a small fishing village of Rossbeg which has a small beach and pier. This road then takes you along to Portnoo
Portnoo Pier is a lovely little pier where you can have a swim or take a little walk along the rocks and see the fairy village. Plenty of parking, not buggy friendly where the fairy village is as they are on the rocks. Great spot to explore.
Iniskeel (between Portnoo pier and Narin beach):
As you come from Portnoo pier and head for Narin beach you will see some picnic benches on the left. Lovely little spot for a picnic and a beautiful spot for a photo with Narin beach behind you.
Narin/ Portnoo beach:
This is a beautiful blue flag beach with a life guard on duty in the summer months. Great place to spend the day in, with lots of parking, toilet facilities and a coffee hut near by. Don't forget to take your picture at the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point.
When the tide is out you can walk out to the island but you have about two hours to walk out, explore and walk back before the tide comes back in. Always check the tide times before heading to the Island to explore.
2Km back towards Ardara there is the Kilcooney Dolmen. You can park at the Dolmen centre and walk toward the trail towards the Dolmen. Please bear in mind that you will be going through private land so please be respectful.
This beach is a white sandy beach, great for surfing and very high sand dunes to explore. Lots of parking at it. Beautiful beach to spend the day at.
Maghery and Crohy Head:
Maghery has a lovely beach to explore with lots of parking. When your at the beach you can see a tower at Crohy head and you can take the path up to it to explore. When your at he top of Crohy head you can see a Cliff arch that has been carved out by the Atlantic Ocean. Not buggy friendly for the walk to the tower.
We are looking forward to exploring North Donegal in the month of July from Dungloe to Burt along the Wild Atlantic Way, Arranmore, Gola and Tory Island and everywhere in between. Our North Donegal Blog post will be posted sometime in July after we have explored but in the mean time why not check us out on Instagram and follow us along on @playwithmemammy to keep up to date of our adventures. Thanks to @anneleonard_nationaltourguide for contributing to this blog. Do check out her Instagram account for more on exploring Donegal.
If you do get a chance to explore any of these spots we hope you have a great time,
Happy exploring beautiful Donegal