Visiting Donegal has been on our Ireland Bucket List for years and we were never really sure when we’d be able to go. Okay, let’s be real. Ability was not the issue, the issue was whether we’d be up for the four hour trip with many long, winding back roads + five
perfectly behaved kids in the backseats. A daunting adventure to be sure! Well it happened. Spur of the moment, the day after the boys were out of school for summer holidays, we decided to make the trek to Donegal, the furthest northwest we had ever been in Ireland.
After a bit of research (by no means extensive), we decided to go about thirty minutes north of Donegal town, to visit Maghera caves and Easaranca waterfall before heading to our hotel in Bundoran, south of Donegal town.
Getting to the Maghera (pronounced mah’-her-uh) caves and beach was not very straightforward, so here’s how we found it: Drive into the village of Ardara, go left toward Killybegs, and once you pass Texaco on your right and Molloy’s on your left, it is the next right, on L2843. Take that road all the way out to the beach(about 12 min, 4.2miles.) You’ll arrive at a house that your man has converted his driveway into little parking lot; make sure you have €3 handy for the parking fee. The owner of the house wasn’t home when we were there, so we gladly got a free parking visit.
From the parking lot, you follow the gravel road at the back of it on the right out to the beach. It’s probably a 10-15 minutes’ walk to the first cave. Bring your sunglasses! The sand is beautiful white sand, so it reflects the sun…don’t make my mistake of forgetting them in the car. The day we went was typical Irish: rainy/sunny/cold/warm, so dress accordingly. Whatever that means. We were fine with light jackets. The amount of caves you will have access to will depend on the time of day and the tide’s status. We went at around 3-4pm and were able to go inside two caves, as the tide was beginning to makes its way in. What beautiful scenery, with the waves touching sandy beach and sand dunes which led right up to gorgeous grassy hills. Breathtaking to be sure.
From our beach adventure, we headed south with a brief stop in Donegal town. Unfortunately, it was not enough of a stop to give any kind of review or suggestion, other than the fact that there were loads of places to eat, had we the time.
Our accommodation was in Bundoran, at the Holyrood Hotel. I will not give my full review, as that is a topic for another site altogether, but I will say that it was perfect for our family. As stated earlier, we have five beautiful children, 8 years of age and down from there. This hotel has a kids program for ages 4 and up running during school holidays that was ideal for our situation, running the whole day, apart from a lunch and dinner break. Also, they had a family room with ample space for all of us – contrast this with some hotels that would make us purchase two rooms! It was the first time in a long time (or maybe ever) that we felt completely normal having kids that made actual sounds (who am I kidding? My kids can be wild); or that they wanted four pancakes full of chocolate sauce; or that they love to hide underneath lobby furniture. Our whole family was welcome and accommodated and we would definitely return if we were in the area.
On our drive back down to the midlands we decided to go through Sligo and Roscommon to change it up. Between Bundoran and Sligo, in Cliffony, was a lovely shop called the Crafter’s Basket right on the main road.
When I can get a spare moment In my past life I loved to sew and it is a bit of a rarity to find shops that sell nice fabric in Ireland. So, my amazing husband, after we had already driven past and without my even noticing the shop, turned around and let me have a look around sans kids. They had everything from yarn to cake making supplies to fabric and paper crafting items. I got away with two cute half quarters to add to my I-need-to-still-make-baby-quilts-for-my-twins-that-are-nearly-two stash. I’ll get to that eventually.
In Sligo we stopped at an antique shop and I picked up a lovely plate for my someday plate wall (another thing I’ll get to eventually). And on the drive we passed some areas where they were harvesting peat, which is so interesting to me.
From there we made our way to Roscommon, with the sole purpose of finding a playground for the kids to get their wiggles out and break up the long drive. To our delight, there is a wonderful playground on the grounds of Roscommon Castle. It’s in the town Centre, not at all hard to find. On your way to the playground, there’s a darling pond full of ducks and other birds you would usually find in a pond by a castle. If you’re in or near Roscommon, this spot is definitely worth a visit. There’s a lot of grassy areas as well, if you were to bring a picnic lunch.
Our flash in the pan, two day trip to Donegal was a great success and we are glad we were able to see what so many have raved about for years. It did feel like we stepped back in time a bit, to a culture quite removed from our own. I will say it was refreshing and worth a visit. If you get the chance to go to Donegal, don’t pass it up!