Your Guide to Visiting Beautiful Slieve League Cliffs in County Donegal

Our first visit to County Donegal, where we stayed in Bundoran, visited Slieve League Cliffs and went surfing with TurfnSurf Surf school,  felt like a rushed trip with way too much crammed into it.

Various attractions and little villages we longed to finally see in County Donegal were connected by narrow country roads, and it took us much much longer to reach them than initially planned. We ended up spending most of the time in the car and had no room to relax and enjoy the spots we travelled to.

That’s why, over the last few years, we took a different approach, made countless return trips and were able to capture incredible moments and see many beautiful places, including Slieve League Cliffs.

We had the fortune to watch the tides come in, take photos of pine trees gently swaying in the morning breeze and wait for purple heather to burst into life.

We were able to feel and to see its magical effect while scrambling down steep slopes and while looking for seashells through tangled seaweeds.

Two rocks in the bay known as ‘giant’s deck and chair’

Your Guide to Visiting Beautiful Slieve League Cliffs in County Donegal

If your spirit is longing for scenic drives, and if you love to be introduced to new sensory experiences, then Slieve League cliffs is a place for you. Here is all you need to know about this place and the best ways to explore the Slieve League cliffs. In this blog post, we cover how to get there, what to bring on the trip, how to hike and reasons to visit.

Let tomorrow worry about itself, pack your bags, dust off your walking boots and come to visit Donegal, it’s a place of hundred thousand welcomes. 

What is Slieve League cliffs and reasons to visit

If you are wondering what’s all the fuss about these particular cliffs – standing at 900ft Slieve League sea cliffs also known in Gaelic as Sliabh Liag which means grey mountain are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe.

What makes them even more special, besides the staggering views and their sheer size – if you compare them to other sea cliffs in Europe, they are easily accessible. You can drive up to the viewpoint, take in the views, snap a few photos and continue to explore Ireland’s rugged Northwest county.

Nearly three times the height of the more famous Cliffs of Moher in County Clare they offer broad, scenic views across the vast waters of Donegal Bay into Sligo, Leitrim and Mayo. On a clear day you’ll even get a chance to see Benbulben; Sligo’s iconic table mountain.

Once a place of sacred pilgrimage hundreds of years ago, it still contains the remains of Ade mc Bric’s chapel, as well as the remains of the monk’s stone dwellings known as hive huts.

Slieve League cliffs offer a sense of solitude and peace. There are no tacky souvenir shops nor large crowds of tourists. There’s just the howling winds, plenty of wandering sheep roaming the quiet countryside.

Did you know…

On the 9th of August 2020, Slieve League got its first known BASE jump when Greg McEntee successfully jumped from the skyline clifftops and landed his parachute on the storm beach at the base.

One of many fascinating views of the cliffs

How to get to Slieve League Cliffs

Remember how Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American essayist, philosopher, and poet once famously said ‘It’s not the destinationIt’s the journey.”? That quote can certainly equal the journey to the cliffs.

See, most of the people know very little what lies north or west of Donegal Town: a quick look at a map doesn’t reveal much and it almost appears empty. There is no train network nor large cities, only a cluster of small towns connected by winding roads.

The road to Slieve League cliffs and little villages along the way is wonderful for itself. Located in the Gaeltacht region of County Donegal, less than an hours drive from Donegal Town, cliffs are easily accessible to travellers.

There is no public transport to the cliffs and it’s best to hire a car to make the drive out to the magnificent site. Once at the base, you’ll see a sheep gate and a small car park. You can either leave your car there and walk 1.5 km to the Bunglas Viewpoint or choose to drive your way up the hill.

The gate will be closed to prevent livestock from wandering around. You’ll need to get out of your vehicle, open the gate, drive-through and close the gate behind you.

  • From Dublin: Distance – 275 km via N2. Travel time – 3 hr 50min
  • From Belfast: Distance – 141 miles via M1. Travel time – 3 hr
  • From Donegal Town: Distance – 50 km via N56 and R 263. Travel time – 55 min.
The absence of crowds convinces us to pack our bags and grab our boards to make our way back to Donegal, Ireland.

Things to know before you go

West Donegal is known for having some of the most incredible landscapes in Ireland and in order to fully enjoy them, you have to be prepared. We found that a lot of people there assumed that since it was such a short walk to the cliffs that they didn’t need to be prepared, but the cliffs are exposed to natural elements and the weather can turn on you very quickly.

Bring appropriate clothing and footwear | If you are dreaming of getting out into the great outdoors and exploring trails around the cliffs, you have to be prepared. Good hiking boots, with good ankle support and a sturdy sole, is a must when exploring uneven terrain and bog lands.

Another key feature for anyone heading outdoors is a breathable and waterproof jacket. Keep in mind that if your waterproofs are not breathable then you are most likely to get wet from the inside.

Check weather forecast | On a few occasions, we started our visit under sunny skies only to be soaked wet. If you are visiting on a typical rainy day, stay around for a while to see if it clears.

Slieve League Cliffs are walkers and climbers paradise

Bring plenty of food and water | It is important to stay hydrated when being outdoors. Due to the negative effects of single-use plastics, bring a reusable water bottle and plenty of food to keep you fueled.

Entrance fee | One of the best things about visiting – there’s no admission or parking fee to visit the cliffs. Despite the free entry, there are days, especially if you are travelling off-season when you can head up to the viewpoint and no one is around.

Exercise extreme caution | As it is a drop of several hundred feet into the untamed Atlantic Ocean, we would not recommend getting too close to the edge of the cliffs.

Best time to visit | Best time to visit the cliffs are during the summer month, when the weather is warmer and when the days are longer. But even in the summertime, you can expect a bit of everything when it comes to the weather; rain, sunshine, cold and warm temperatures.

Facilities | The unspoiled cliffs don’t have public facilities or a visitors centre and that’s why it’s a good idea to take a break at Ti Linn Coffee Shop which is the last stop before Slieve League.

Emergency | If you get into any difficulty the emergency numbers to ring are 999 or 112.

Sometimes there are these blissful moments you wish would never end. There are memories carved onto your soul, that you’ll carry through the process of finding yourself.

Things to do and see at the cliffs

Bunglass Viewing Platform

You’ll find a designated viewing platform offering visitors astounding views of the cliffs and you’ll be pleased to find out that it’s possible to drive almost all the way to the highest point. Also, there are a few picnic tables. While Bunglas Viewpoint gives you the most panoramic view of Slieve League, those looking for adventure should hike the meandering Pilgrim’s Path up to the ruined church known as a mass rock.

Signal Tower

One of the first things you’ll see on your way to the Bunglas viewing platform is a historically significant, two-story watchtower, perched right on the edge of the Carrigan Head, dating back to the Napoleonic wars when the British occupied Ireland.

Partially collapsed and now out of use the stone obelisk, at the time housing around 8-12 men, was designed by British authorities between 1804 and 1806 to keep an eye out for the French if they decided to invade Ireland. In case of approaching enemy vessels, the alarm could be raised by a signalling system that used ball and flag methods and was passed on from tower to tower that dotted the coast.

Boat trips

One of the incredible ways of seeing the cliffs and cruising close to many of its sea caves and waterfalls is by going on a boat trip and encountering a variety of marine wildlife along the way. During the summer months, there are regular sightings of basking sharks, dolphins, tuna, seals, porpoises as well as lots of seabirds.

Slieve League Boat tours depart from Teelin Harbour, Rinnakill

Giant’s desk and chair

Glance below at the southern end of Sliabh Liag from the path and you’ll see two rocks in the little bay below the cliffs known as Giant’s Table and Chair. When you look closely, one of the rocks with a plunge

One Man’s Pass

From the upper car park, a jagged path leads up and along the steep cliffs to the fittingly named One Man’s Pass; a very narrow ridge that leads to the highest point of the cliffs. The difficult route with near-vertical cliffs that are worth the effort, should only be attempted by experienced hikers equipped with proper footwear.

Don’t even think about the trail if the weather is bad. Rain and mist can roll in at any time; making the narrow ridge treacherous and slippery. Definitely plan ahead if you are planning to hike and bring good hiking gear, waterproof jackets, boots, packed lunch and water.

The Pilgrim’s Path

A much easier and sheltered walk through Donegal’s renowned landscape takes hikers all the way to the top of the cliffs. If you have a good head for heights there is an incredibly beautiful walk known as Pilgrim’s Path. Although it’s only 4 (each way) km in length, it can take around 2-3 hours to complete. The Path starts off fairly easy only to become rocky terrain that is well worn and steep in places.

Time and time again we are amazed by how much beauty is there within Donegal.

What to see and do nearby the cliffs

After exploring the majesty of  Slieve League cliffs you’ll be glad to discover that there are many more amazing places nearby you could add to your itinerary. For those looking for a unique Irish experience and a slice of history, you will find it here.

Malin Beg Village | Just 20 km from the cliffs lies the beautifully untouched Gaeltacht village, Malin Beg. The small village, unspoilt by development, is home to 400 residents and one of the finest beaches in all of Ireland. If you are lucky with the weather and the sun is shining then head to the Silver Strand beach – a natural horseshoe shape with fine clean sand and plenty of room to roam around. Keep in mind that getting to the beach requires using lots of steps.

Glencoumbkille | Hidden on the upper West Coast is a lesser-known yet equally bewildering destination; a small coastal village with two pubs and a quaint atmosphere. The village hosts an excellent Folk Museum and offers some of the best hill-walking places in Ireland.

Ardara | Voted by The Irish Times as one of the ‘best villages to live in in 2012, Ardara is one of the most attractive towns in Donegal, where visitors can savour traditional pubs together with gifts and craft shops.

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Now, over to you!

Have you ever been to Slieve League Cliffs? Let us know in the comments!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Slieve League cliffs and have travel-related questions!

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71 thoughts on “Your Guide to Visiting Beautiful Slieve League Cliffs in County Donegal

  1. It looks wonderfully wild yet beautifully tranquil, Aiva. Not an area I’ve heard of and I’m surprised at how much higher the cliffs are than Moher. I’d definitely like the boat trip! Have a great week!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you kindly, Jo! I couldn’t think of a better place in Ireland to breathe in the salty sea air and take in the panorama of blue sky and ocean melting together than Slieve League cliffs which are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe. Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. The wild Atlantic Ocean, the rugged landscapes and the racing skies can be quite magical, indeed. By now we’ve been to the cliffs nearly a dozen times, yet it still takes my breath away on each occasion. Due to the ever-changing weather conditions, one must always bring a raincoat, suncream and plenty of layers, as well as suitable footwear, of course. Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This looks like an amazing place to visit and your tips on how to prepare are really helpful – it sounds like the weather can change suddenly. Your pictures are beautiful too!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you kindly, Meg 🙂 Hiking to the top of the Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) cliffs on the southwest coast of County Donegal and marvelling at the terrific views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo Mountains and Donegal Bay is an experience to remember. Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is truly a most beautiful region, and your words and fabulous photographs make it come alive. Such great information Aiva, is so appreciated! 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Francisco. Travelling to the extraordinary Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) and admiring some of the best sea cliff views in Europe is a trip to remember at any time of the year. For over a thousand years, there was a Christian pilgrimage to these sacred mountains to appreciate their cultural heritage, and it is a spectacular sight to see in person. Thanks for stopping by, and have a lovely evening 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post Ava. I keep saying we need to spend more time in County Donegal. We missed spending time at the Slieve League Cliffs, but managed to visit a few spots, Donegal Town, Killybeggs and Glencolumbkille, before taking the hill roads North to Northern Ireland. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A visit to the cliffs and the surrounding region is a must on anyone’s Wild Atlantic Way adventure, and I hope you’ll get to see them in person one day, Allan – you’ll be blown away by the views. Apparently, the site is still free to visit, but there is a new parking fee which is said to be €5 for a 2-hour visit. The day we went up the cliffs, the parking was free and the weather was great as there was a mist coming down the cliffs but we were still in awe of the scenery and it did not take from the views in any way. Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The sun shone for us too on the cliff tops a few days ago, the views are dramatic especially the shades of the rock surface. There were only a handful of people around and we enjoyed the breathtaking views in peace. Your detailed description is excellent Aiva and very helpful for visitors to the area. Marion

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Slieve League is the thinking man’s alternative to the Cliffs of Moher, if only for the much more natural and uncrowded experience. I am glad to hear you had great weather for visiting the cliffs, it can make a huge difference for anyone exploring such wild and wind-blasted places around the rugged coast. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly 🙂 The west coast of Ireland is home to spectacular cliffs and a perfect scenic location to take in the unspoiled nature. Arriving at the cliff-top viewing point will almost certainly be one of the most thrilling highlights of anyone’s Donegal vacation. Thanks for reading, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much. The Slieve League cliffs are in the remote, pristine wilderness of Southwest Donegal’s Gaeltacht region, a short drive from Killybegs, and it’s a perfect place to soak up panoramic views of the vast Atlantic Ocean 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva xx

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  6. I have been to Bundoran and I think some relatives are from there. What a beautifully wild place – love your photos. When I was young everyone brought back dried seaweed – Dulse – from Donegal. We must have been such healthy kids!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am glad to hear you’ve been to Bundoran, It’s a lovely, little seaside town worth exploring as they have plenty of things to do, especially the seaweed baths and surfing!

      We loved exploring the wild cliffs and feeling natures true power when the wind gusts suddenly released their full power during our hike. We all know that the importance of developing a connection with the natural environment cannot be understated in today’s world where people can be seen to pat their pocket and smile, having been reassured that their phone was still safely nestled close at hand. Thanks for stopping by, I hope all is well 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I never take my phone with me on walks – which drives my husband crazy. There is nothing like being completely alone with nature. The last time I felt the full power of nature was on a wee boat in the Pacific off Monterey. The boat was pitching up and down with the huge waves while a humpback was surfacing right next to the boat. Despite being terrified of deep water, I REALLY wanted to see the whales. Fantastic moment. All is well here, hope all is well with you, Aiva. K x

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Despite my seasickness, I would most likely go out on a boat to see the whales too – I can only imagine the pure amazement of seeing them in their natural habitat. All is well here, too. Kids are back to school after a short mid-term break. Ericeira is starting to learn how to write. Writing is an important part of our daily lives. It is, however, a difficult skill to learn and master, but we’ll get there. Have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. I have to admit that I quickly turned around upon reaching the infamous One Mans Pass – even with taking courage in both hands. I believe that you won’t miss out on the spectacular views, wildlife sightings, and connection with nature by choosing an easier trail for your adventure. Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  7. This looks incredible, Aiva. I’m with you that places like the Slieve League Cliffs can’t be rushed and warrant return visits. I’m glad you’ve had opportunities to explore in more depth. Your photos are stunning.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Caroline. There are many amazing and untamed places to see along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and Slieve League cliffs are one of them. We spent the whole day walking along the terrifyingly beautiful cliffside coastline and could have spent much more if the weather allowed it. If you’re into photography you’ll want to stick around and wander along the coastal walk since there are many different vantage points to enjoy. Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Gosh, what stunning cliffs! I’d hoped to go see the Cliffs of Moher whilst in Ireland many years ago (but sadly couldn’t get to them), but to see Slieve League Cliffs that are three times taller and larger, perhaps I’ll have to consider Slieve League instead! The views of Pilgrim’s Path looks incredible and, despite being a novice hiker, I’d love to practice in order to trek that path someday. Thanks for sharing more of the beauty of your host country, Ireland! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Rebecca. Seeing the cliffs towering over the Atlantic Ocean on a sunny day was an experience to remember. If you ever plan on visiting them – Slieve League will take your breath away, that is a promise. I’ve hiked many challenging trails in Ireland, but coming face to face with One Man’s Pass – a nearly sheer drop of roughly 2,000 feet separating the Atlantic Ocean from the highest point of the cliffs made me think twice about my hiking abilities. One mistake would guarantee a lethal drop, so extra care is advised, especially in rainy weather conditions with poor visibility. Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Diana 🙂 Ireland has a varied coastline, but a basic distinction may be made between westerly shores exposed to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean and the more sheltered east coast. Actively eroding cliffs are widespread along the west coast, for example at the famous Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare and at Croaghaun on Achill Island, Co. Mayo. Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The Slieve League sea cliffs look gorgeous, Aiva. One Man’s Path sounds like it would be a fun, yet super strenuous hike, but a good way to see a different angle of the cliffs. I would probably opt for the easier Pilgrim’s Path trail though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Linda 🙂 Signposted only locally and in the middle of one of the remotest areas in Ireland, Slieve League is not easy to get to. And this will not get better once you pick up the signposted route. In fact, it will get worse: a winding, narrow and quite frankly bumpy road takes you to a farm gate (open and, most important, close this yourself), and that’s what makes it so memorable. The first and only time I’ve tried the One Man’s Pass was around ten years ago, and have no intentions to do it again as it was quite dangerous – one misplaced step and you are plunging into the wild ocean! Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  10. OMG, I would love to see these cliffs one day, they are truly impressive. I would definitely opt for a boat cruise, we took some similar trips in the past, and seeing the cliffs from the sea level gives you a totally new perspective. So many great opportunities for you Aiva to show us how beautiful Ireland is🙂
    Have a nice day, Christie, xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. County Donegal is known for its striking coastal beauty, but to get the best views, it’s best to get out on the water. That’s why we’ve been planning on exploring the wild cliffs with a scenic cruise but unfortunately had to cancel each time due to the unstable weather conditions. Thankfully there are plenty of other things to see and do for any outdoor and nature lover. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. From rugged mountains to wave-hewn sea cliffs, Donegal is one of Ireland’s most memorable counties. Donegal has 1,134km of sandy beaches, cliffs and craggy inlets to explore, but its highlands and mountain valleys are just as impressive and a welcome escape if you’re looking for a wild adventure 🙂 Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, kindly, Linda 🙂 This holy mountain was a Christian pilgrimage site for over 1,000 years and it’s easy to see why it was regarded as a sacred place. Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Did I ever tell you Aiva, that my mum was born and raised on Slieve League! Not the cliff side obviously but you would have passed by her place as you drove down the Teelin Road. So I spent my summers here as a child, on the side of the mountain! Locals are only now coming to terms with the interest that has sprung up – relatively recently really – I can remember the odd camper van or ‘strange’ car passing down the road – mostly German as I recall.
    And while I’m at it… your 4th photo – Muckross Head – that’s where my dad is from – his homeplace is just out of view from this angle!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, how amazing is that! Thanks for telling me that, Marie. Spending summers in Donegal sounds like a childhood to remember, I can’t believe that both of your parents are from such fascinating places. I can only imagine what it must be like to grow up in rural Donegal and witness how the land and the sea shift and change with each passing season. Although the Slieve League Cliffs were our main point of interest when exploring southwest Donegal, it was the Muckross Head that stole our hearts with its utter beauty. We were in awe of its horizontally bedded sandstone interspersed with thin bands of mudstone that have been eroded faster no wonder rock climbing here is excellent. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. If you ever happen to be exploring Ireland one day, you wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to visit one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets and a signature point on the Wild Atlantic Way – the rugged Slieve League cliffs. Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day. Aiva 🙂 xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Bernie. The highest Accessible Sea Cliffs in Europe are a must-see and worth the 3-kilometre trek for the view. Along the way, there are many impressive views that are worth the detour. Thanks so much for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  12. Wow, this place looks really stunning. It kind of reminds me of some places in Cornwall, where I lived a few years ago. I remember standing on top of cliffs and just being in awe of how beautiful nature was. And I find that places like these really force you to contemplate how magnificent the world we live in is. Thanks for sharing 😊

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    1. Thanks so much, Juliette. Slieve League cliffs are one of my favourite places to explore and photograph in County Donegal due to their staggering beauty and the secluded location. There are fantastic walks and amazing views everywhere you look. Over the last few years, we’ve watched the sun set and rise on many occasions and never regretted returning, it’s one of those places that just keeps on delivering. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly. Slieve League cliffs are a fantastic place to explore for the whole family – paths are well marked and clean and there is no commercialisation as with some other similar places. Have been many times to the cliffs now and they never fail to amaze me! Moreover, it’s free! Thanks for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much! If you are in Donegal don’t leave without paying the towering Slieve Leaguencliffs a visit to see in person many caves and waves battering them. On our last visit, we were lucky to dodge crowds and experience the cliffs in between rain showers. While it is a bit of an effort to get there it is worth it for sure. Thanks so much for stopping by, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  13. You made a good point in stating how attempting to do too much as well as the matter of those long days by car can interfere with a trip’s daily enjoyment. We’re thinking of exploring regions rather than undergo the entire cross country experience in the future. To me , it sounds like the boat trip to Donegal cliffs would seem to be the more efficient way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

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