The Backroads and Beyond Cycling and Hiking Tour — Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive Donegal Town.
Donegal Town (ancient seat of the O’ Donnell Chieftains, from where they ruled over much of Ireland), is where the tour begins. Depending on your arrival time you might like to explore the town or go for a cycle. The town is steeped in history, with its imposing castle and ruined Abbey. It also has a great selection of lively pubs and cafés.
Day 2: Donegal to Killybegs – 39 km
Cycle west along Donegal Bay. The salty smell of the sea will soon be all around. Pass quiet bays and inlets. Cycle along the narrow peninsula of St. John’s Point where you will have the Atlantic Ocean on both your left and right. Take in the wonderful views of the mountains further west and across the bay to Sligo. View the remains of Rahan Castle and the Killaghtee Cross. Continue to your overnight destination in the bustling fishing village of Killybegs.
Day 3: Killybegs to Glencolmcille – 37 km
As you follow the coast west from Killybegs, the scenery becomes ever more dramatic. Towering cliffs, golden sandy beaches and rocky headlands create a magnificent panorama. As you cycle, you will pass by Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) and you will see the summit of where tomorrow’s hike will bring you. Continue to Glencolmcille, passing some of the most photogenic coastal views you will ever see. Ancient history, the thriving Gaelic culture, vibrant traditional music and the wonderful natural beauty make this valley a must see destination.
Day 4: Hike Sliabh Liag – 11 km
Today you hike one of Ireland’s iconic landmarks. The cliffs at Sliabh Liag rise almost 600 metres above the Atlantic. In the morning we will bring you to the start of the hike. We will give you details for your choice of one of the following: (a) Loop walk; walk along the cliffs to the highest point, and then back by the pilgrims path (approx 5 hours walking), or (b) Linear route; walk along the full length of the cliffs (approx 8 hours walking). We will pick you up on completion of the walk and take you back to your accommodation in Glencolmcille.
Day 5: Hike Glencolmcille to Port – 15 km
The coast between Glencolmcille and the deserted fishing hamlet of Port is among Ireland’s most stunningly beautiful spots. Yet you will almost certainly find yourself alone here among the towering rocks and sea stacks. This is a hike that we promise you will never forget. Return to Glencolmcille, again taking in more of the Early-Christian historic sites.
Day 6: Glencolmcille to Glenties – 39 km
Today the remoteness of the landscape dominates. You cycle through one of the most sparsely populated areas in Ireland. Descend through dramatic Granny Valley to Maghera, where a pristine beach, a series of caves, and dramatic Assarancagh Waterfall await. Cycle on to the heritage town of Ardara, a centre for traditional Donegal tweed and wool crafts. Continue to your overnight stop in the pretty village of Glenties.
Day 7: Glenties to Annagary – 45 km
The early part of today’s cycle allows you to experience the unique splendor of Ireland’s blanket bogs. Heathers, mosses, lichens and rough grasses create an artist’s dream landscape. Further on you have the chance to visit one of the many inhabited islands off the Donegal Coast. Arranmore is a 20 minute ferry trip from Burtonport. The trip itself makes the journey worthwhile. Spend some time exploring the island, or if you prefer, explore the numerous golden sandy beaches on the way to Annagry.
Day 8: Annagry to Glenswilly/Letterkenny – 52 km
The unique beauty of the Donegal Highlands is all around during today’s cycle. Pass beneath the peak of majestic Mount Errigal. If you fancy a hike, the trip to the top will take you around 45 minutes, where the views will richly reward your efforts. Further along is the hauntingly beautiful Poisoned Glen. Your cycle then takes you along Glenveagh National Park and past Gartan Lake on your way to your overnight destination among the lush farmland around Glenswilly.
Day 9: Hiking Glenveagh National Park – 15 km
Spend the day walking in the magnificent surroundings of Glenveagh. The valley, with its pristine lake and cascading waterfalls, as well as the surrounding mountains, are just waiting to be explored. Follow the bridal path through the valley and along the lake. Cross the remote hills via the Lough Inshagh walk to finish beside the Glebe Gallery.
Day 10: Glendowan to Glenties – 44 km
As you leave Glenswilly you gradually climb along the southern edge of Glenveagh National Park. From there descend along a beautiful quiet valley, with the Glendowan Mountains on your left and Slieve Snacht on your right. You’ll need no reminding here why activity holidays in Ireland are simply the best way to see the country. Cycle on to Lough Finn and Fintown village, where a restored vintage railway runs along the lake shore. Then it’s back once again to Glenties.
Day 11: Glenties to Donegal – 32 km
The final day of your biking and walking adventures brings you back to your starting point in Donegal Town. Climb from the town of Glenties over expanses of open bogland. Further on magnificent panoramas over Donegal Bay open up before you. Pass through the village of Mountcharles and back again to Donegal. If time allows, you can also cycle around tranquil Lough Eske.
Day 12: Breakfast and tour end
After one more great Irish breakfast it’s time to depart, taking with you treasured memories of the natural wonders and friendly people of Donegal.