Donegal and Sligo Walks

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Hiking, Outdoors, Walking

Hi there, the week has been so busy that I am just finishing this blog post on our latest short trip. Last weekend Alan had a few extra days off, and we decided to head away just for two nights. It’s funny how this type of vacation would have been the norm for us, then there was/is Covid, and we literally stayed nowhere, barring at home and in the camper for two years.

I almost forgot how to book a place, only kidding; we went to Donegal for two nights and stayed in a small apartment a ten-minute drive outside of the town. And, seeing as it is February in Ireland, the weather was, let me say, not so great. But I have learned by experience not to let that stop me from getting out and about.

When we go away, I am really just focused on being outdoors and seeing what is around us in the area we are staying in. I rarely go shopping, and we generally cook all of our food, meaning that it’s not an area I focus on when we are away.

We’ve been to County Donegal many times before. Still, we never really stayed around Donegal town, always ending up further, near Gweedore or right up as far as Ballybofey. Our intention was to take a trip up to Malin Head, but the yellow warning on the coast made us rethink our plans and stay much closer to the apartment.

And this ended up being a fortuitous event altogether. We found a lovely river walk right in the centre of Donegal town and visited Murvagh beach and forest. We had always seen the sign to the beach as we whizzed past in the van, never thinking to turn down. Travelled the coast road to Ballyshannon and discovered some wonderful swimming places in Bundoran, which we will have to travel back to and swim in.

I would love to swim in the beaches all along the coastline, starting in Enniscrone and working my way up as far as Malin Head; maybe this is the beginning of a swimming adventure later in the year.

Today though, I will focus on the Riverbank Walk, Donegal town, and Murvagh Beach for this post. Alongside a hike, we discovered in Co Sligo on our way back to Galway, Slishwood Forest.

I have pinned each walk/hike to the map. If you click on it, it will open in Google maps.

Donegal and Sligo walks

The Riverbank Walk, Donegal Town

Donegal River Walk
There are a few parking spots located at the start of this walk. Alternatively, you can park by the tourist office and walk around the town before crossing Boyce’s Bridge on the Killybegs road. The walk along the Eske River starts to your left after the bridge.

Despite the weather forecast being for rain, we were lucky, the sun shone, and we had blue skies. The pathway is tree-lined, with birds flitting back and forwards feeding on the seeds and nuts in the feeders. Little robins peer at us through the branches as we meander slowly with Missy, our Spaniel.

Donegal River Walk
Donegal River Walk
The route is quiet at about ten am on a Friday morning, apart from a few other dog walkers. The pathway has a slight gradient and is tarmacked, with quite a few bins and seats interspersed at various points. The entire route is 1.5 km both ways, but the day we were there, a section of it was closed due to a landslide. We stopped at an open pier where you can see a panoramic view of the river flowing out into the bay.

It is definitely a walk we will return to and take note off. We are always looking for trails that are easy to access when driving up to different areas in Donegal County. This one is just perfect.

Donegal River Walk

Murvagh Beach, Co Donegal

After a quick coffee break, we headed for Murvagh Beach, which is very easy to get to from Donegal town, roughly a ten-minute drive. I didn’t expect a forest and beach, side by side divided by sand dunes. To get to the main car park, we drove down a narrow road. The view to the beach was obscured by the dunes. All we could hear was the sound of the waves breaking on the shore.

Murvagh Beach Co Donegal
Alan & Missy Dog Murvagh Beach Co Donegal

Parking up near the boardwalk, we followed Missy as she smelled the sea nearby and dashed excitedly towards it. Following windblown, but the sun still shining, the pathway through the dunes gave way to an incredible open vista. A flat sandy beach at least 2km long with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Coastline, I have read on a good day you can see as far as Sliabh Liag.

Murvagh Beach Co Donegal
Walking Murvagh Beach Co Donegal
Apart from us, only a few people were on the beach, also walking their dogs. After a short sea-salty trot, we decided to head back into the forest. Initially, we had thought we may have a quick dip in the Ocean but decided against it as there was not much shelter on the beach. It was a long walk out towards the sea. At this time of the year, cold water and cold winds are not the best of combinations after a swim. Walking back into the shelter of the forest, you would never think it was the same day, never mind the same time. The dunes and the trees buffered the wind and made for a lovely walk.

The beach and the forest area are lovely and make this a standout location to visit again.

After this, we headed towards Bundoran, but I will leave that for the moment until I revisit it on my newly (to be planned) swimming adventure.

Murvagh Beach Co Donegal
Murvagh Beach Co Donegal

Slishwood Forest, Co Sligo

Instead of heading to Malin Head the following day, we headed towards Galway, stopping for lunch in Sligo town. Whilst there, I wanted to get in a walk, so I Googled. Having previously walked the Benbulben forest park (read about it here) and Knocknarea, I wanted to see somewhere different. A variety of walks came up around Lake Gill, and the one that stood out to me was Slishwood Forest.

After a quick read of some reviews, we popped the coordinates into Google maps and away we went. Again it was a relatively short drive from Sligo town. Funnily enough, just like the sign down to Murvagh, which we had passed on numerous occasions, this particular walk was one we also passed by.

This may just have been the weekend of exploring places we pass on the way to somewhere else, and lesson learnt to slow down and explore as we go from now on.

Slishwood Forest, Co Sligo
Slishwood Forest walk/hike turned out to be an absolute gem of a route. We parked in a generously sized car park, with picnic benches and a small river flowing through the centre. There are two routes to follow, one linear and one that loops. After looking at the sign for directions, I asked a fellow dog walker which way was best to follow. He asked whether I wanted to go down to see the Island of Innisfree, as in Yeats’ poem ‘I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree’. I said yes, totally not realising Innisfree was nearby at all. Of course, it did mean going in the direction of the looped walk but not taking the loop, I could not resist.

The route is straightforward, follow the track alongside the lake, populated by trees that disappear up the mountain or slope down into the lake. The forest itself was originally an Oak forest cleared during World War 2. Present-day, the forest is mainly made up of Spruce and Pine, with some Oaks by the lakeshore.

On a side note, WB Yeats not only wrote about Innisfree but the forest as well. It features in another of his famous poems, as Sleuth wood in ‘The Stolen Child.’

‘Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,’

Slishwood Forest, Co Sligo
At about the 1.6km mark, the track separates out into two. The route to the right goes up and loops back to the car park, and the trail to the left leads on towards Innisfree.

Following this track around the forest gives way to open heath, a boardwalk running across it, and views over the lake. We stopped at the high point to the trail before turning back on ourselves. We had walked 3.3km, meaning it was the same back, and our springer, although young thinking in her head, is the complete opposite.

Slishwood Forest, Co Sligo
Meaning I still need to get to Innisfree. I have since discovered you can come at the track from the opposite side and start at the pier overlooking Innisfree Island, another place added to my list.

I absolutely enjoyed this hike. It is definitely one of the ones I would want to do a few times again. Exploring it in different seasons, during the year.

Slishwood Forest, Co Sligo
Slishwood Forest, Co Sligo

Next week I will be exploring a mini adventure we had in Clare Glen Forest, Craigavon. (Click here) Until then, wishing you a wonderful adventurous week and weekend.

Slishwood Forest, Co Sligo
Slishwood Forest, Co Sligo

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