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7 Beaches off the Beaten Track

7 Beaches off the Beaten Track

Donegal has many wonderful beaches, some known and some not. The beauty in these beaches is the exclusivity you feel on the deserted sand. You may be there to reflect, refresh or to relax in the Atlantic Ocean. One thing for sure is that you always find yourself going back.

1.   Silver Strand

Although well known, Silver Strand is usually a deserted place all to oneself. It is an amazing beach which ties in so well with the Sliabh Liag peninsula. It never fails to take one to a different place, even the sheep that grace the hills here.  Don’t expect phone signal.

2.       TrĂ¡ Ban, St. John’s Point

Situated before the lighthouse, at the end of St. Johns Point lays a fabulous coral beach. The water is always pristinely clear and you can find small coral creatures. Another beach that doesn’t throw up many crowds. Also a great diving area.

3.       Murder Hole

Murder Hole is notorious for its name. There are many myths about how it got its name but one thing for sure is that it’s stunning and as off the beaten track as one can get. Difficult to access because of land issues, public access to land is closed meaning the only entry is a strenuous climb over the hill, but worth the trip. The Murder Hole is one of Donegal’s best-hidden gems – and is now officially Ireland’s most spectacular hidden beach!

4.       Maghera Beach, Ardara

Maghera is absolutely stunning with the added bonus of eerie caves. The area is vast with dunes and sand as far as you can see. The caves can be accessed and it’s a wonderful place to explore. There’s plenty of space to do some beach running too if that’s your thing. The beauty of it being off the road and a short walk over the dunes gets you there.

5.       Dunree Bay

Situated just outside Buncrana, Dunree bay is a stunning coved beach. Sheltered by Dunree Head and once protected by the old Fort Dunree, it is a place with historical significance. The beach is usually deserted so you may have it to yourself.

6.       Kinnagoe Bay

Kinnagoe Bay in Inishowen in the north of the county is a long sandy beach backed by a steep green hill.  The view from the road above over the bay is stunning and quite overwhelming, so is the steep drop to the beach below. Never overly crowded, another beach you may have to yourself and the dog.

7.       Cruit Island

 Cruit Island off the coast of West Donegal near Kincasslagh is a small island measuring roughly 3 miles by one mile. It is well off the beaten track and has a few sandy beaches. There is a golf club nearby, and in great weather the area is fabulous and the beaches are hidden gems.

 Go Visit Donegal

Donegal beaches among the top beaches in the country

Donegal beaches among the top beaches in the country

At a ceremony in Bray, County Wicklow this week (Monday 21st May), 12 of Donegal’s beaches received a Blue Flag, recognising them as among the top beaches in Ireland.

In addition to this, Greencastle Marina retained its blue flag which was achieved for the first time last year.

12 Blue Flags were awarded to beaches at Bundoran, Rossnowlagh, Murvagh, Fintra, Narin (Portnoo), Carrickfinn, Killahoey (Dunfanaghy), Marblehill, Portsalon (Magherawarden), Shroove, Culdaff and Downings.

Meanwhile, Ballyheirnan (Fanad), Drumnatinney (Falcarragh), Magheroarty, and Dooey each achieved the Green Coast award again this year. 
Caoimhe (7) and Alannah (5) Culhane marking An Taisce's announcement of the International Blue Flag and Green Coast award recipients for 2018 

The Blue Flag programme aims to raise environmental awareness and promote sound environmental management of beaches, marinas and inland bathing waters around the world.  The 83 Irish beaches and 7 marinas that have achieved this accolade must adhere to specific criteria related to water quality, information provision, environmental education, safety and site management.

Speaking following the announcement by Cathaoirleach Cllr. Gerry McMonagle said “this achievement represents our profound commitment to complying with the strict standards set by the Blue Flag Programme.  An important part of the programme is about connecting communities with their surroundings and encouraging them to learn more about their environment.  This commitment to an environmentally sustainable approach is also the cornerstone of our strategy for the development of the tourism sector in Donegal”.

Seamus Neely, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council said “we are delighted to have received 13 Blue Flags and 4 Green Coast awards for Donegal and this includes a Blue Flag for Greencastle Marina.  We all know that achieving Blue Flag status and indeed a Green Coast award is no easy task, it requires ongoing dedication and commitment from everyone involved and in this regard I would like to pay tribute to the work of my own staff and indeed to the support and commitment of the elected members as well as the co-operation that we get from local communities and voluntary organisations throughout the year.”

The Redcastle Oceanfront, Golf and Spa Hotel receives second AA Rosette

The Redcastle Oceanfront, Golf and Spa Hotel receives second AA Rosette

The Redcastle Oceanfront, Golf and Spa Hotel, Donegal celebrates their second AA Rosette Award for The Edge Restaurant, as part of the AA hospitality award scheme’s annual assessment of hotels across the UK and Ireland.

The Rosette scheme has long been established and successfully recognises cooking at different levels nationwide. The success or failure in achieving Rosettes is based on an onsite AA Hospitality inspection to a hotel or restaurant.
Redcastle Oceanfront, Golf and Spa Hotel

 The award also highlights the consistent skills and expertise of a hotel Head Chef’s prowess as well as their care and attention to quality ingredients. The AA Hospitality inspector said: “My visit to The Edge was a pleasure, revealing a fine balance between formality and friendliness.
“For Rosette Awards it is the food that is key; I particularly enjoyed the fact that so much of the menu is based on quality produce from the region, cooked with care and flair.” 
He also commented that “All of the dishes were very accurately cooked, with great fresh flavours. Indeed, it was difficult to choose from the well compiled menu, featuring so much of what is best in the larder that is the North West.”
Gordon Smyth, Head Chef of Redcastle Hotel & Spa accepting a second AA Rosette for The Edge Restaurant.

The merit which Head Chef Gordon Smyth has achieved for the hotel highlights the fine dining establishment becoming one of the 49 restaurants across Ireland, which is worthy of two Rosettes.

Gordon Smyth, Head Chef of Redcastle Hotel & Spa stated: “It is an honour to receive a second AA Rosette for The Edge Restaurant. The award reflects the skills and diligence that myself and my team dedicate towards ensuring that every meal is prepared to the highest standard.

“We will continue to follow the golden standard which the AA sets for restaurants across the UK and Ireland and I aim to innovate and invent new dishes in the future, to create a memorable experience for our diners’ visit.”

Clement Gaffney, Harcourt Collection Operations Manager comments: “Harcourt Collection are delighted with The Redcastle Oceanfront, Golf and Spa Hotel catering team’s achievement. Gordon has continued to create a level of excellence for the popular restaurant for guests and visitors.

Clement added: “Gordon has set an incredibly high standard in his kitchen to deliver food which is exceptionally prepared, and he has taken consideration in creating The Edge menu, which is open-minded to a range of palates.”

For further information about The Redcastle Oceanfront, Golf and Spa Hotel facilities and accommodation visit www.redcastlehoteldonegal.com

Family Friendly Donegal

Family Friendly Donegal
Its all about family time and enjoying what you do together. No matter the weather Donegal has you covered for your trip away, for little the kids (and the big kids) we have some amazing entertainment options.

Activities to wear yourself out

Area 50 at Rockhill Holiday Park is ideal for all the family, regardless of age. With teddy mountain for the smallest and rock climbing for the big kids your sure to whittle away a few hours and work up an appetite here. http://area50.ie/
With a twist on the traditional game Bundoran’s footgolf to a new way to experience an old game, a nine-hole golf course played with footballs. It can be as fun or competitive as you want!
Ever want to go horse riding on the beach? Now is your chance Donegal Equestrian Centre offers this for all experience levels. Along the song dunes and onto Tullan Strand you can feel the wind in your hair if you’re brave enough to canter, otherwise relax and take in the sea view and fresh air.
Maghera Caves and Beach, Ardara, named in the top ten beaches in Ireland by TripAdvisor the dark caves and silver strand are all you need for a day of fun, exploring and adventure.
Maghera Beach

Educational fun 

Doagh Famine Village go back in time to experience a traditional Irish community during the famine. See how people lived and survived during this time. Attractions include original thatched Irish cottages (inhabited as recently as the 1980s), an Eviction Scene, Orange Hall, Republican Safe House and Irish Wake House amongst others.
Donegal Railway Heritage Centre, looks at information on the history of the railway, model railway tracks, photographic displays, guides to the old routes and treasured railway memorabilia. After wandering around the soaking up the history head out to Finntown where you can travel on the only operational track in Donegal at 5km. Enjoy the trip with spectacular scenery overlooking Lough Finn.
Donegal Railway Heritage Centre

Rainy Days

Just in case of rain (it is Ireland) there are several indoor water parks and indoor adventure worlds in Donegal to wear out the most enthusiastic of travellers. Alternatively, just roll with it and head to one of our many beaches for swimming, surfing and much more.

One with Nature

Lose yourself in the wild with many parks and forests to explore.
Glenveagh National Park is the perfect setting for your family day, “a remote and hauntingly beautiful wilderness, with unlimited opportunities to explore “, with the garden, castle and educational centre you’ll have earned a rest at lunchtime. Don’t forget to pack your picnic and dine al fresco by the castle.
Inch Wildlife Reserve is perfect for families in both Summer and Winter, with different displays on daily from the birds in their natural environment. With walks and seating on the reserve you can watch them in their home and enjoy the undisturbed atmosphere of the lake and its surroundings.
Glenveagh National Park ©Chris Hill

There is so much more on offer for families in Donegal, the above is a very small snippet. The following link is to our brochure which is jam packed with activities for all ages.
Hope to see you in Donegal soon.

May the fourth be with you in Donegal

May the fourth be with you in Donegal

May 4th, Star Wars day, a day to celebrate everything from the galaxy far, far away.

In Donegal we have our own galaxy far, far away, which is Malin Head.  The most northerly point in Ireland is surrounded by rugged, wild landscape just like Ahch-To in Star Wars The Last Jedi. The peninsula is stepped in culture, history, wildlife and views that go way beyond that one could imagine of such a place. It is a place, which transcends both space and time.
Malin Head ©Chris Hill

On the topic of transcending space and time, the Millennium Falcon was perched on a cliff edge for filming of The Last Jedi. A Star Wars set was in full flight for a short period. During this time Star Wars hysteria took over the region and hasn’t left since.
Millennium Falcon on Malin Head ©LucasFilms

Malin Head is definitely worth visiting even if you have no interest in Star Wars; the area has more than enough to offer. Donegal Climbing offer a Star Wars walking tour where you can visit the cliff region the Star Wars cast embraced, you can also visit Farren’s Bar which was made actor Mark Hamill’s local for his stay. Pride of place is the Stormtrooper boot which was signed by none other than Luke Skywalker himself, actor Mark Hamill. Donegal Climbing has a great insight as they were responsible for the personal safety of Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley during filming.

There are many other activities you can enjoy around Malin Head or just explore the area and find the hidden gems which may be the most satisfying.
Malin Head is a place of extreme beauty, a place for wayward Jedi and for explorers searching for another world...another galaxy far, far away.

Check out the Go Vist Donegal website for things to do in Malin Head.

Chasing a Secret Slab

Chasing a Secret Slab

Have you ever been standing, looking out towards the wild Atlantic and suddenly spot this white movement in the distance? Thinking it may be a whale or rock but it’s actually a wave.
A venture from Andrew Cotton supported by Red Bull is a fascinating insight into what drives the big wave surfer to chase the unknown. His Beneath the Surface project started in 2013, after he caught a glimpse of a potential giant wave about 3km off St. John’s Point, Donegal.
Five years and a lot of logistics later, Cotty returned to this spot armed with a boat and a dedicated team of watermen to spend the winter chasing down the elusive slab. The result of this venture can be seen in Cotty's film Beneath the Surface.
Andrew Cotton gets set for his Atlantic voyage
Andrew Cotton gets set for his Donegal adventure. © OLAF PIGNATARO

An area accessible only by boat launching from Killybegs, the pursuit of the uncompromising and isolated wave brought with it a battle of logistics. The wave situated just off the Cardinal Mark Bullockmore, which is near a reef that if met by the perfect conditions, it has the potential to offer 60ft plus waves, the equivalent of 4 double decker buses.
Cotty managed to enlist an adventurous team of surfers and sailors who were equally willing to put their lives on hold for six months and join him in the chase of the unknown.
Andrew Cotton reaps the rewards of his discovery
Andrew Cotton surfing the secret slab. ©JORGE LEAL

The results were 30ft waves that the team were disappointed with, they were on the lower end of the spectrum to them but still pretty big to us. Ben Freeston from everyone’s favourite surf forecast site Magic Seaweed, suggested that “we have to assume that 30ft would be at the very lower end of the best you could expect in a typical winter. It’s hard to extrapolate to larger swells from this. It is possible that at a larger size, the wave would change shape or other factors could come into play that would make it impossible to surf”.

If 30ft waves are at the lower end in a typical winter then what could this secret slab produce in ideal conditions.

Check out Beneath the Surface here: https://www.redbull.tv/film/AP-1NN82RUJ91W11/beneath-the-surface
The story behind the wave can be found here: https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/beneath-the-surface-the-story-behind-the-wave
Credit to Red Bull and Andrew Cotton.