In this second part of our series on the Wild Atlantic Way, we ride (virtually) to the far north of Ireland, to Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula, and then we continue on to the windswept Fanad Head Lighthouse.
The Inishowen Peninsula is one of the largest peninsulas in Ireland and is located in the far north of Ireland. It belongs to Donegal and is in the immediate vicinity of the Northern Irish town of Londonderry. Malin Head is the most northern place of the peninsula and also the most northern point of the Irish mainland. The Wild Atlantic Way begins there. It stretches 2500 kilometers along the west coast of Ireland to Kinsale in southern Ireland.
The Inishowen Drive or Inishowen 100:
This circular drive around the Inishowen Peninsula is about 100 miles long, which is roughly equivalent to 160 kilometers. The signposted route goes once around the peninsula and includes small back roads and narrow roads. The Wild Atlantic Way route, also signposted, follows part of the Inishowen 100, starting and finishing in the small town of Bridgend, northwest of Londonderry.
This route can be combined with a double night stay in Londonderry. Then you can do the Inishowen 100 tour as a day tour and leave your luggage in the hotel.
If you want to study the route in detail, you can take a closer look at it on the tourism page of Donegal. You can find the site at:
Below I'll show you a few special highlights of Inishowen Drive:
This military installation dates back to the time of the Napoleonic Wars (early 19th century) and watched over Lough Swilly.
Lough Swilly is a fjord, or elongated sea inlet, formed by glacial melt. On the other shore is the Fanad Peninsula, where Knockalla Fort can be found as a counterpart.
The long fjord leads to Letterkenny and was of strategic importance. During World War I, the military installation was once again modernized and revitalized.
The fort is beautifully situated on a rocky headland and offers wonderful views of the fjord. The fort can be visited and today contains a military museum.
Five Finger Strand:
This several hundred meter long sandy beach is embedded in a dune landscape. The sand dunes, up to 30 meters high, are among the highest in Europe and have existed for about 5000 years. The hilly surroundings are breathtakingly beautiful and on the way to the beach you pass a scenic church.
The Gap of Mamore is located in the Urris Hills on the west coast of Inishowen. A small road leads steeply up the hill. At the top of the pass there is a Marian shrine to admire, but the very highlight is the stunning view of the coast. Therefore, it is recommended to drive the Gap from south to north, then you have the coast in front of you.
Malin Head is primarily the northernmost point on the island. There is still a watchtower from the First World War and a radio station and that's almost it. But that doesn't matter, because the drive there and before there further around the Inishowen Peninsula is just beautiful!
The Fanad Peninsula:
The Fanad Peninsula is more or less the neighbor to Insihowen. A bit less noticed maybe, because it is not the most northern point, but maybe even more beautiful than this!
The coastal road via Rathmullan and Portsalon to Fanad Head is surely one of the most beautiful coastal roads the motorcyclist can find in Ireland.
The road really leads for many kilometers directly along the water and is just a joy!
Shortly before Portsalon you come to Ballimastocker Beach and then to Portsalon Beach - both hang together and form a very long beautiful sandy beach.
Fanad Head Lighthouse:
Fanad Head Lighthouse is probably one of the most photographed subjects in Ireland. It is also one of the most beautiful and important lighthouses on the island. Fanad Lighthouse began operating in 1817 and has been open to the public as a tourist attraction since 2016.
There is an exhibition and guided tours and you can even stay overnight in one of the three former lighthouse keeper's apartments. It is definitely worth a visit, the facility is really worth seeing and the cliffs in front of it are beautiful to walk.
The romantic Doe Castle:
Almost at the very end of Sheephaven Bay is the pretty little Doe Castle, right on the water. It is surrounded by water on three sides.
Built in 1420, it was the ancestral home of the McSweeney clan for over 200 years. The clan originally came from Scotland, so the castle is strongly reminiscent of Scottish towerhouses: a bright square tower rises high in the middle, surrounded by a defiant wall.
The white sandy beaches on the north coast of Donegal:
As you continue to follow the coast west, you'll pass several beautiful sandy beaches.
On the northwestern shore of Sheephaven Bay is Killahoey Beach, near the village of Dunfanaghy.
A few kilometers further, near Castlebane is the picturesque Tramore Beach. A bit further on is the very long Magheroarty Beach, easily accessible via the parking lot at the Tory Ferry.
If you want to take a break, you can stay at these beaches.
The far north of Ireland can be wild and stormy, but also wildly romantic. Rugged cliffs alternate with white beaches. When the sun is shining, the water of the Atlantic glows in green-blue tones and if you stay here on a warm summer day, you rather think you are on a South Sea beach than in the far north of the Irish island.
Granted, you have to take a bit of a journey to find your way to remote Donegal, but it's worth it!
In the next episode of this series, we'll experience southwest Donegal, near the main town - Donegal.
Check out our premade tour roadbooks including the north of Ireland:
Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg, April 2022
Photo credits: All images: easycruiser.tours. Maps: Google Maps 2022.
Sources: wikipedia.org, irishtourism.com, ireland.com, www.govisitinishowen.com, www.govisitdonegal.com, www.fanadlighthouse.com, www.heritageireland.ie