The prettiest places in County Donegal

Oh, Ireland. You flirted with us and then flung us around. We drove through the emerald hills, eyes stuck to the twinkling lochs and treetops. We stopped and tiptoed along the sand, spellbound as the clouds raced overhead. And then… we broke down.

So that’s why it’s called the luck of the Irish… After a sunny then stormy week meandering around a tiny patch of Donegal’s green west coast, our wee Fiat Punto decided to die on us. The alternator cracked with old age or overuse, who knows. All that we knew was that we were going to be on the phone with the AA for a long time… but that’s another story (disclaimer: if you’re expecting speedy communications from the UK branch, don’t. They’ll put you through to their customer services department in Lyon, France. Pas bien).

But on to better tales. Here’s a quick guide to beaches, bistros and boarding near Annagry, an outpost on Donegal’s wild west coast.

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Somewhere in the middle of Glenveagh National Park…
Where we ate

The small westerly village of Annagry is host to the award-winning Danny Minnie’s restaurant. Entering a seemingly nondescript building, the eye is drawn to ornate furnishings and heavy materials; the low light rendering the other diners faraway, if not nonexistent. This is a place where you become lost in the food, the triad of potatoes (creamy, mashed, ‘normal’), the smooth sauces, the presentation… And the chocolate tart dessert. Holy moly. A long rectangular dish arrives, split into three parts: white chocolate ice cream held high in a milk chocolate bowl; the tart drizzled with cocoa and berry coulis; a tiny jar containing the richest dark chocolate mousse, sliding from spoon onto tongue. One per diner is greed, yet it’s the only logical way to pay homage to this awesome pud (in my mind, anyway).

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Photocall on Mullaghderg Beach

Further down the road, facing the sea, is perhaps Annagry’s favourite pub. The Caisleian Oir is where my uncle celebrated his wedding ceremony, and it really didn’t disappoint. Imagine a fish main where the salmon steak is literally the size of a brick (‘that would cost you a tenner in Marks!’ my grandpa exclaimed). Following the usual courses was champagne, three tiers of homemade cakes and then (after a few hours of dancing) more food, in the form of bitesize fish and chips, sandwiches and wedding cake. And it was all absolutely amazing.

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The cottage at Carrickfinn
Where we stayed

We spent just under a week in a cottage overlooking the stunning Carrickfinn peninsula. Although the panoramas from the conservatory were astounding (nothing like watching the next wave of rain approaching) and the wooden interiors gave the house a homely feel, it wasn’t overly clean. However, if you overlooked the abundance of grey hairs lying on the floor, the cottage really did enjoy a great location, being just a five minute drive from Donegal Airport and ten minutes from Annagry. It seems to have been taken off Google listings though, so here’s a few others to whet your Irish appetite.

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The view onto Carrickfinn blue flag beach from the dunes
Where we walked

We’d planned to visit Glenveagh National Park, head up Errigal Mountain, perhaps even visit the Slieve League Cliffs… but as you know, the car put paid to all that. Luckily, there were two amazing beaches within a few minutes of our cottage. On the first evening, my uncle took us over the hill to Mullaghderg Beach. It’s a beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay where the wind was pushing the waves into high arcs; we watched the sun slowly set to the ticking of the water. The following day, we went on a mammoth walk across the north dunes of Carrickfinn’s blue flag beach, then onto the sand itself. This beach is probably one of the most spectacular I’ve seen (even bigger than Camusdarach on Scotland’s west coast). The water is crystal clear, choppy enough for surfing and greenish as it deepens. I could have wandered along this beach for hours, stopping only at the south end’s airport for an ice lolly. Total bliss.

How to get there

Fly from Glasgow to Donegal for around £70 return with Aer Lingus. Alternatively, P&O Ferries sail from either Cairnryan or Troon over to Larne, a journey which allows you to drive through the stunning scenery of Co. Donegal but does present problems if your car breaks down…

Where would you recommend on Ireland’s west coast?

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