Whether it’s the rugged beauty of the Derryveagh Mountains, the beautiful beach of Tramore or just any of the county’s picturesque villages, Donegal has an undeniable Irish charm – so could you find your perfect holiday home here?
If you’re looking for a holiday home in Ireland that grants you access to offshore islands, Blue Flag beaches and sweeping coastline, Donegal is the perfect place for you. Here are some of the best areas to look.
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1 – Bundoran
Why? This laid-back surfy seaside town is a fantastic place to buy a holiday home in Ireland, particularly if you and your kids plan to spend holidays becoming Masters of the Waves! The town itself boasts several surf breaks and Rossnowlagh, one of Ireland’s most renowned surf beaches, is just a 20-minute drive away. You won’t have a spare minute in Bundoran, you’ll need to tick off The Fairy Bridges and the Wishing Chair, natural rock formations rich in folklore, plus Bundoran Waterworld and Bundoran Adventure Park, for all the fun of the fair – Donegal style. Bundoran is also a convenient 30-minute drive from Sligo, which grants you easy access to a city known for its live music, shopping, restaurants, beaches and golf courses.
Getting there: You can fly directly to Donegal Airport from Dublin and Glasgow, but if you’re jetting in from elsewhere the nearest international airports are Ireland West Knock Airport (1hr15) and Derry International Airport (1hr37).
Property prices: Two-bedroom properties are on the market from €70,000.
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2 – Dunfanaghy
Why? This village is called home by a vibrant, friendly band of locals who run cool cafés, restaurants and bars, and who can’t get enough of live music. Schedule your holidays to coincide with Dunfanaghy Jazz and Blues Festival, held every September. Dunfanaghy is also an excellent choice for your Irish holiday home if you want to enjoy the natural beauty of County Donegal, which is by far one of Ireland’s most picturesque locations. The town is on the waters of gorgeous Dunfanaghy Bay, and just half an hour from Magheraroarty, from where you can catch a ferry to Tory Island, a rugged and culturally-rich outpost home to puffins, basking sharks and seals. Trá Mór and Ballymastocker beaches have Blue Flag status and have been voted some of the best in the world. Also, Malin Head and Horn Head – a towering headland on the Wild Atlantic Way featuring 180m heather-topped cliffs, are perfect for hikes on clear days. Furthermore, owning a holiday home in Ireland in Dunfanaghy grants you easy access to Glenveagh National Park and Castle (apparently modelled on Balmoral Castle), which is found on the shores of Lough Beagh – a perfect spot for cycling and hiking.
Dunfanaghy is called home by a vibrant, friendly band of locals who run cool cafés, restaurants and bars, and who can’t get enough of live music
Getting there: Donegal Airport is a 30-minute drive, and Derry International Airport is just over an hour away.
Property prices: You can buy a five-bedroom, five-bathroom home that houses the entire clan and has water views for €440,000. For something a touch more modest, you can find three-bed bungalows starting from €135,000.
3 – Glencolumbkille (Glencolmcille)
Why? There are many beautiful towns, villages and hamlets dotted around the coastal Glencolumbkille region of Donegal, perfect for your Irish holiday home. If you dream of days spent walking on blustery beaches, this is the peninsula for you. Maghera Strand is an astonishing place to blow away the cobwebs. Plus, be sure to check out the nearby Caves of Maghera – where hundreds hid (unsuccessfully) from Cromwell back in the 17th century, and Silver Strand Beach in Malin Beg, another that boasts Blue Flag status. Perhaps the highlight of this corner of County Donegal is Sliabh Liag, Donegal’s higher (and many say more impressive) version of the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs at Sliabh Liag tower 600m over the Atlantic Ocean and are a sight to behold – when it comes to spots for watching the sunset – they don’t get much better than this! Also, if you’re partial to a spot of rock climbing, or sea stack climbing, there are some exhilarating opportunities found around Sturrall Point.
Getting there: The nearest airports are Donegal (1hr10) or Ireland West Knock International (2hr15).
Property prices: Four-bed detached houses start from €155,000.
4 – Donegal Town
Why? Base yourself in the heart of County Donegal’s action in Donegal Town itself. This is a lively little spot, which offers waterfront living, pretty scenery on an estuary and more walks than you can shake your hiking poles at. Plus, there are several cosy pubs ideal for post-hike refreshments and raucous musical performances. Furthermore, the town hosts a good range of events, the highlight being Donegal Food Festival, which is held in August, and hosts celebrity chefs, cooking demonstrations and lots of opportunities to sample the Irish delicacies you’ll come to know and love. Donegal Castle is a great day out, as is Lough Eske and the Blue Stack Mountains, perfect for walking and fishing enthusiasts.
Getting there: Ireland West Knock International is an hour and a half away.
Property prices: Four-bed bungalows start from €260,000.
5 – Letterkenny
Why? Towards the north of the county you’ll find Letterkenny, a top spot for shopping, dining out and family activities, plus it’s close to some of the region’s most wonderful natural habitats. Letterkenny is one of Donegal’s major hubs, and is a popular choice with digital nomads, so if you’re looking for place that serves as a home away from home, Letterkenny could be it. The town is another beautifully-located spot, right on the banks of Drongawn Lough. If you’re a fan of 18-holes, Letterkenny Golf Club is a scenic place to hit the fairway. Just a 30-minute drive away is the Rosguill Peninsula, home to some sensational beaches, including Downing’s Beach, considered to be one of the best in Donegal. Lisfannon Beach is another favourite, and is a great one for the kiddies and for sunsets. Head north from Lisfannon and you’ll experience the incredible beauty of the Inishowen Peninsula – the northernmost point of the County, and of Ireland! Great beaches here include Tullagh Strand and Five Finger Strand, which will take your breath away. If you’re a Star Wars fan (and who isn’t), make sure you journey to Malin Head – the most northerly point of Ireland, the start of the Wild Atlantic Way, and the place where scenes from The Last Jedi were filmed.
Great beaches here include Tullagh Strand and Five Finger Strand, which will take your breath away
Getting there: Derry International Airport is a 40-minute drive from Letterkenny.
Property prices: Snap up a four-bed detached house from as little as €230,000.
6 – Rathmullan
Why? This charming seaside village offers those buying holiday homes in Ireland a wonderful slice of peace and quiet. Located on Donegal’s Fanad Peninsula, overlooking Lough Swilly, the town is ideally-located for exploring the County, including the unrivalled delights of the Inishowen Peninsula. This is a decent location for those who enjoy sailing, as well as keen fisherman, who will relish in Rathmullan’s dream combination of rich fishing waters and spectacular scenery. Plenty of fish in the sea means plenty of fresh seafood on your plate – Rathmullan has several restaurants renowned for their catch of the day, meaning plenty of opportunities for candlelit dinners.
Getting there: Derry International Airport is a one-hour drive from Rathmullan.
Property prices: Three-bed detached cottages start from €165,000.
Split the cost – and double your purchasing power – by purchasing with family. Find out how in our Guide to Buying with Family.
7 – Ardara
Why: Ardara is another attractive little town located on Donegal’s incredible coastline. The town is known for its colourful houses and for beautiful countryside cottages overlooking the water and the nearby Bluestack Mountains. Ardara is considered the ‘Festival Capital of Donegal’ due to its fantastic events calendar featuring such delights as the January Country Music Weekend, their Jazz and Bluegrass Festival, Cup of Tae Festival, featuring traditional Irish music, and the Johnny Doherty Festival, where you can learn Irish dancing. It’s not just music that’s their thing – these guys also host an International Walking Festival, which takes keen hikers to the area’s best hidden gems. Perhaps the festival they are best known for is their matchmaking weekend, which takes place every November and welcomes thousands of singles from around the world all in the pursuit of love! If you’re looking to rent out your holiday home in Ireland while not in town, this is an ideal spot given the tourist footfall. Ardara is located to the south of the County, making access to Sligo nice and easy (1hr20). Nearby natural sights you won’t want to miss include Maghera Beach and caves, Fintra Beach, Tramore Beach, Ballinreavy Strand and Assaranca waterfall – a beautiful spot an 8km scenic drive or cycle from the town.
Getting there: Ireland West Knock is the closest international airport at just under 60 miles away, and if you’re jetting in from Dublin or Glasgow, Donegal Airport is a 45-minute drive.
Property prices: A six-bedroom, four-bathroom house on the water in Ardara starts from around €195,000.