There are dozens of peninsulas to choose from in Donegal but there truly is no better way to begin your journey along the Wild Atlantic Way than by exploring the Fanad peninsula. The second most northerly peninsula in Donegal, Fanad has been carved out by the unrelenting Atlantic elements with Lough Swilly to the east and Mulroy Bay and infintite views in between.
Fanad Lighthouse may be the icon of the peninsula but there is so much more to see so don't sell yourself short by keeping to the beaten path along the eastern shoreline.
I’ve mapped out my favourite driving route I use when exploring Fanad including most of the coastal trail from Harry Blaney bridge with stops at the lighthouse, Portsalon and Kerrykeel.
Stop 1 - Harry Blaney Bridge
Romantically named after a local politician, Harry Blaney bridge connects the Rosguill and Fanad peninsula and offers a rare opportunity to drive on wide, modern roads before quickly readjusting to the usual Donegal lanes.
Driving across the bridge provides beautiful views of Rosguill and once you turn to enter Fanad peninsula, you swap one marine vista for another with the glittering waters of Mulroy Bay appearing before you once you cross your first hill.
The drive along the bay is stunning with hopeful signs of a thriving local fishing industry throughout the bay. Mussels, scallops and salmon are all farmed here, providing fresh seafood to the local restaurants and pubs (which you can hopefully sample along the way!)
Stop 2 - Fanad Lighthouse
Fanad Lighthouse has been protecting the lives of Donegal fishermen for over 200 years with it’s faithful beacon blinking out into the Atlantic since 1817. The lighthouse was built after a tragic accident in 1811 when the frigate Saldanha attempted to seek shelter in Lough Swilly but ended up wrecked on its shores with only the ship parrot surviving the seas.
The lighthouse has been opened to the public for tours since 2016 which you can book here (COVID-permitting, of course). If you truly fall in love with it’s rugged beauty then you can even stay over if you fancy it, too!
Stop 3 - Portsalon / Ballymacstocker Bay
Ballymacstocker beach was named the second most beautiful beach in the world by the Observer in 2017, an accolade that is more than deserving when seen from the cliffs above. The windy coastal road known as the "Knockalla Bends" curls up towards the sky and opens up with views across the bay and then on to the nearby Inishowen peninsula.
Ballymacstocker beach was named the second most beautiful beach in the world in 2017
If you’re in need of something to warm up the belly, then the Pier restaurant offers some delicious chowder worth stopping for.
Stop 4 - Kerrykeel
The last leg of the trip cuts across the middle of the peninsula taking you through stunning farmland with the best views of both east and west. This part of the peninsula is perfect to explore by foot and if you want guided by a real local, you can reach out to Mary at Fanad Walks Donegal to organise a guided hike.
Once you make the descent down to Kerrykeel, you can stop here for a wander and another chance to get some grub. The Village Inn is a popular spot among tourists and if you’re lucky, you might catch a local trad session happening in the corner.
Once you’ve left Kerrykeel you can head south towards Milford or you can head north along Mulroy Bay and back towards your starting point at Harry Blaney bridge.
And that's it for your quick trip around the Fanad peninsula!
If you've visited Fanad recently and you'd like to share your own recommendations, feel free to share them in the comments below!