5 Hidden Gems Not to Miss On Your Donegal Bike Tour
One of the big advantages of choosing to travel by bicycle it the ease at which it allows you to stop and explore. Compared to our fellow visitors, who opt to explore from behind the wheel, being on a bike allows you to easily climb off, to check things out, or head down that narrow road simply because it happens to be there. With a coastline that weaves in and out past bays, beaches, headlands and cliffs, Donegal has more than its fair share of hidden gems. All of these are easily discovered as part of a cycling holiday. With that in mind here are five hidden gems not to be missed when cycling in Donegal.
St. Johns Point
If you look at a map you might wonder why we are including this as a hidden gem. After all this peninsula sitcks out in a rather obvious way – right into the heart of Donegal Bay. However, surprisingly few visitors choose to make the journey. It’s a beautiful cycle down the narrow road that brings you to the lighthouse at the end of the peninsula. On the way you will pass the delightful studio of traditional weaver Cindy Graham, and closer the end another delight – Coral Beach with its unusual pink tinted sand. We could easily say that the lighthouse, Cindy Grahams Studio and Coral Beach 3 hidden gems, but as they are all so close together and within easy cycling distance of each other we will simply call St. John’s Point our first hidden gem.
A very large number of our customers who have done the Highlights of the Highlands cycling tour, or the Backroads and Beyond cycling and walking tour will name the cycle down Granny Valley as the highlight of their trip. Once you have visited you will realise why. A deserted mountain road leads through boglands to the top where views open out from the end of the valley to the beaches, bays and moutains beyond. The roads drops steeply (some cyclists would say scarily) through the valley right down to the coast and beautiful Maghera Beach with its series of caves. A little further on is yet another gem -Assarancagh Waterfall. Once again this could be at least 3 hidden gems, but just like St. John’s Point we are calling the whole area just one.
From close to the village of Ardara a narrow road leads along this beautiful peninsula. As you cycle further from the village more and more wonderful views open up. The road follows the narrow Loughros Beag Bay until it reaches a tiny slipway close to the end of the peninsula. For cyclists tired of the hills this roads is one of the less demanding in Donegal. If you fancy having a pretty beach all to yourself – tiny Trabawn on the north side of the point might be just what you are after. If you happen to be around in the evening the sunsets here are often magnificent. The setting sun adds wonderful warm colours to the surrounding hills as it sinks over the Atlantic Ocean.
The Irish name for this little harbour and beach Oileán na Marbh translates as “Island of the Dead”. Don’t let the name fool you though, this is an absolutely gorgeous spot. The small beach here is located close to Donegal Airport. “Beach” signs close to the Airport will direct you to Carrickfinn Beach – itself a beautiful stretch of almost white sand. To reach Illannamarave cycle past the airport and at the end of the runway follow the narrow road to the left. At the end of this road, a real hidden gem awaits.
When we say the R254, it’s hardly a name that would conjure up the type of images that you associate with the pleasures of an Irish cycling holiday. Yet the R254 is probably the best road to cycle in all of Ireland. The roads skirts the southern and eastern edges of Glenveagh National park, between the villages of Churchill and Doochary. You can cycle the entire length an meet only a handful of cars. This quietness, along with the wonderful valley that the road follows, are what makes it so unique. If you happen to be cycling here after heavy rainfall you will be treated to a display of waterfalls tumbling into the valley.
We could go on an on about the hidden gems in the area, with so many beautiful tiny beaches and harbours, so many archaeological treasures, so many local crafts people producing their own gems we could be here for a long time. Rest assured though that a cycling holiday in Ireland will bring you to a wealth of gems and memories to go along with them.
St. John’s Point and Loughros Point can be seen on our Treasures of Coast and History tour.