Irish Poet Oscar Wilde described Galway as a “Savage Beauty” and ya know, I couldn’t describe it better myself. The Connemara region is known for its desolate but inspiring and wild scenery, beaches and colourful small towns. Discover the allure of Connemara yourself with my list of the best Connemara things to do.
What will solo travel do for you? You may blossom, grow comfortable in your own skin, have your confidence soar and really open up your eyes to the world. Or you might become more independent and say goodbye to comfort zones. But when it comes to solo female travel, us girls can sometimes have to be a bit more careful of the destinations we choose. While it’s nice to believe us women can travel where ever we like without feeling wary, it may not always be the case. That being said, I am fully confident in saying that Galway is a great place for solo female travellers, and that Galway is probably the best place in Ireland for women traveling alone. Why? I thought you’d never ask! Here are 9 reasons why Galway is great for female solo travel in Ireland.
Ah glorious Donegal – where do we even start?! Voted the coolest place on the planet by National Geographic, and for good reason. I have explored the length and breadth of this wonderful county and I can easily say it is one of my absolute favorite places to go in Ireland. If you like your take-my-breath-away beaches, jagged wild coastlines and ancient epic landscapes, Donegal is the one for you. Get out your waterproofs and hiking boots, because you’ll want to visit these amazing places in Donegal. That’s right, here is your Ultimate Donegal Bucketlist.
Slieve League – One of the Absolute Best Things to do in Donegal
Now we all know that the Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most famous cliffs. BUT I think this should be revised. Because Slieve League cliffs are just something else! Although they are not a sheer drop, they are still incredibly impressive, standing at 596m making them the highest cliffs in the country. And they seem to stretch for miles off into the distance.
Stand and enjoy the views at Bunglas Viewpoint or hike right along the top of the cliffs. On a clear day, you will even spot Benbulbin across the waters in the distance. No Donegal bucket list would be complete without stopping off here.
For more, check out my post – Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal | The Beautiful Slieve League Walk
Fanad Head Lighthouse
Fanad head lighthouse is perched at the edge of Fanad Head Peninsula and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lighthouses in Ireland. In fact, it has been noted as one of the most beautiful in the world. Not only that, you might be lucky enough to spot a dolphin or some whales in the swirling waters below.
*Make sure you explore the whole Fanad Head Peninsula. From Ramelton right the way around. You’ll visit the most amazing beaches such as Ballymastocker Bay. This is for sure a must-do when in Donegal.
Click to see my post on Fanad Head Lighthouse and Fanad Peninsula Drive!
Assaranca Waterfall – Most beautiful Waterfall in Donegal
Assaranca Waterfall is perfectly located alongside a road, so it’s super convenient to get to for all yall lazy bones or anyone who has mobility issues. There’s none of that hiking or walking to get there. Just pull up, hop out, enjoy the sight and snap a pic before continuing on your journey again. Driving down this road and turning a corner to be met with this magical sight, what could be better!
Grianan of Aileach
This is one of those spots that you really only get the full effect of from above. Grianan of Aileach is a restored stone fort dating back to 1700BC. The fort was originally used for defense but now boasts spectacular 360 views over Lough Foyle, Donegal a total of 5 other counties.
Can’t do much more bragging about Donegal views but I can definitely give it another shot. Here, you can walk the feet off yourself visiting the castle, gardens, tea rooms, or some of the many trails. Or you can get on your bike, where you can enjoy the mountains, lakes, waterfalls and the gorgeous native oak woodlands.
Glengesh Pass – Best things to do in Donegal
Glengesh pass is something straight from an Ireland Postcard. Rolling hills split by a valley and a wicked windy road. This area was beautifully carved out by glaciers in the last ice age and what we have today is absolutely stunning. You will definitely wana make your way through this bendy pass.
This is one of my favourite drives in Ireland. For a full list of the most scenic drives in Ireland – I have a post coming soon
It seems Donegal is brimming with outstanding waterfalls. Glenevin waterfall is an impressive 30ft in Inishowen and is just a short walk along a path from a car park. But this 5-minute walk is very worth it as you are rewarded with this view of the falls crashing into the plunge pool below. There’s also paths above the waterfall too so you can see the area from different heights, and picnic spots a-plenty.
Beaches – The Must-Visit Beaches in Donegal
Murder Hole Beach
Yes, you read that right! An intimidating name for an equally intimidating beach. This beach is nothing other than awesome. Although it’s not known exactly where the unusual name came from, it’s more than likely due to the crazy violent waves that collide into the beach here every day. I stood in awe and watched as these massive swells rolled inland and hurled themselves at the shore. The noise in the air was incredible and just as aggressive as the water.
Access is through a farmer’s land so please be respectful and leave no trace. I do not advise swimming here. It is more the kind of place for standing back and appreciating the sheer power of nature
Kinagoe Bay – Beautiful Beach in Donegal
Driving through the windy roads of Donegal, you may be lucky enough to stumble across this magnificent sight. With soft gold sandy beaches, this secluded beach is normally pretty quiet and unusually clean. It has been named Inishowen’s best beach with panoramic views of the bay. There is also a shipwreck of the Spanish armada “La Trinidad Valencara” hidden beneath the waters. So get the snorkel and flippers out or have a picnic on this serene beach. Whichever you’re into.
Malin Beg / Silver Strand
Another really standout Donegal Beach. Standing at the car park you get such expansive views over the sheltered beach, surrounded by cliffs. There’s a pretty dramatic staircase leading down to the golden sands at sea level. Someone has counted 174 steps down (not me, I was too busy gasping for breath).
If I was ever going to wash up on a beach, let it be one like this! If you don’t want to go down the steps just to trek back up to the top (but I highly suggest you do!), you can still appreciate the views from the top in the carpark.
*IMPORTANT* To go down to the beach you have to open a gate. Make sure you close it. Sheep roam free on the beach and cliffs.
There it is, your Donegal Bucketlist
So there you have it. My list of the best things to do in Donegal, and the best scenery. A complete Donegal Bucketlist if you will! This is by no means a complete list though. Donegal has endless possibilities and things to do. And I keep coming across more.
Don’t be shy! IF you have visited any of these spots, comment below and let us know what you thought. Or if you have any you want to visit in future, let me know your thoughts!
If you like my photography, be sure to check out my Instagram. All images are my own and subject to copyright.
For some even great things to do in Donegal, see some more options below:
Other MUST do things I haven’t done but are on my list:
- Climb Mount Errigal – a 751-metre (2,464 ft) mountain. You may have seen images on Instagram. It looks incredible.
- See the Northern Lights
- Wild Ireland – Although I don’t like to discuss places I’ve never been, I can’t not mention Wild Ireland. This is probably the most unique attraction in Donegal. Wild Ireland is an animal sanctuary in Inishowen that has seen the return of some of Ireland’s lost native species as well as other animals that were once here but have been hunted to extinction. From wolves to brown bears and even Lynxes. I can tell ya, it’s next on my list!
*Check back on this post, once I tick off each place above, I will add them to the post properly!
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Most people have a clear preference of which place they prefer in Ireland – Galway or Dublin. This may be a pretty controversial one BUT, I’m going to tell you why Galway is better than Dublin. In fact, I’ll tell you why Galway is the best city in Ireland.
1. Galway is the Cultural Capital of Ireland – we have the most fun!
Ohhh guys I’m starting with a big one! For sure this is Galway’s biggest selling point! For those of you who don’t know, Dublin may be the capital of Ireland, but Galway is the Cultural Capital. That’s right, Galway city is absolutely buzzing with everything that makes Ireland, Ireland!
You’ll find allllll the craic, the Irish language, Irish festivals and folklore. I mean for christ’s sake you will find a leprechaun standing on shop street all day in the summer just waiting to get a photo with you.
Amazing festivals take part every week for example the famous international arts festival.
You will hear Irish spoken on the streets around you. And there are endless pubs to visit.
I mean the city is hosting the European Capital of Culture for 2020 so that says it all.
2. Galway has the best atmosphere – Galway VS Dublin
When I think of Dublin city, I think of people rushing around, walking as fast as they can through the streets, glued to their phones and getting to their next destination. The atmosphere is cold.
Now to jump to Galway. How do you even compare it? As well as cultural capital, the city is bathed in bohemian vibes that every visitor falls in love with.
It feels like Galway is one long 24/7 festival. There is music always drifting through the streets, there are crowds of people milling around and if there is sun, you will find every patch of grass occupied by groups of people drinking, laughing and having the craic.
Life is a lot slower in Galway. People walk slower, they are not rushing and focused on where they need to get, they just enjoy walking around the city. The relaxed vibes emanate from the cobbled streets of the Latin quarter.
It is such a happy atmosphere in the streets coupled with amazing performers enticing walkers by to stop and enjoy the entertainment.
3. People in Galway are much Friendlier – Why Galway is better than Dublin
To me, I walk through Dublin and find that most people are just busy. I feel as though someone could knock into you and not even take the time for a second glance. You definitely don’t get smiles from strangers on the street.
Walking through the streets of Galway you will be met with friendly faces. You just can’t be unhappy in here. You’ll be sure to get chatting to shop owners or people sitting next to you at Spanish Arch.
Get ready to make new friends in Tigh Neachtains or whatever pub you choose to visit. It’s going to happen!
4. Galway has the BEST pubs
Speaking of pubs. When you ask a visitor to Ireland what is their favourite pub in Dublin is, you know what they say? Yep, the temple bar. 99% of tourists will have the same answer.
From Tigh Neachtains to The Quays, The Dail Bar to O’Connors and Taffes. Every pub in Galway is loved by tourists and natives alike, and for good reason.
5. Galway is more compact & Easier to get around – Which do you prefer, Galway or Dublin?
In Galway, there is so much more stuff in such a small area. The City Centre is super compact, but in a good way. Everything is within walking distance. Even Salthill and the beach is just a 25-minute walk from the city centre.
We’ve all stayed in Dublin and got back to our hotels and collapsed on the bed, feet throbbing having dragged ourselves around the city all day. Not in Galway though!
6. Galway has Constant Festivals Year Round – Another Reason why Galway is better than Dublin
There are constant festivals in Galway year-round for you to enjoy. In fact, there there are at least 13 major festivals, just in the summer alone. Yep, Galway is mad for a good festival. Dublin has ~13 major festivals in an entire year.
Need convincing, where do we begin?
- Galway International Arts Festival
- The Galway Westend’s Street Feast
- Galway Film Fleadh
- Macnas – My personal Favourite!
- The Food Festival
- The Oyster Festival
7. Galway is prettier than Dublin – Let’s be real, Galway has SO much Charm
Galway is a maze of cobbled streets full of character, colour, fun shops and pubs. The entire city is crazy picturesque with extra beautiful scenery along the River Corrib and the canal.
Remnants of its medieval past can be seen scattered around the centre. From the popular Spanish arch, the old city walls and of course, the charming Latin quarter.
Sure Dublin has nice spots but just doesn’t have the charm of the West of Ireland.
8. Galway has beautiful Islands just off the Coast to Explore
There are amazing islands just a short boat journey from the city. Just off the coast, you have incredibly scenic Aran Islands. Off the West coast of Galway you also have Inish Turk and Inishbofin.
When you head off the coast in Dublin, your nearest landmass is the UK!
9. Galway is Cheaper Than Dublin – ever so SLIGHTLY cheaper!
They say money makes the world go round right? Well, the cost of living in Galway city is 28% lower than in Dubin. Can’t argue with that!
The commuter towns like Barna, Spiddal and Ougherard are just as inviting and are more affordable again. BUT they’re still close to the city and have so much character.
10. GALWAY IS HOME TO THE ORIGINAL SUPERMACS – Galway VS Dublin
Galway is the real home to Supermacs.
So for those of you who don’t know, Supermacs is Ireland’s own version of McDonald’s – just a lot better (ohhh this post is full of controversial topics isn’t it!)! Although the first one was in Ballinasloe, Galway, the one on Eyre Square is huge and is where you will find half the city after a night out.
11. Galway has some of the HAPPIEST people in the country
Galway people are happy people. In fact, in a study done by NUIG, a whole 98% of people were happy with the quality of life here. I mean normally you can’t please everybody, but in Galway, apparently, you can!
12. Finally, The West is BEST- We all know that!
Okay, so we all know west is best. The west of Ireland is straight out of a landscape calendar with endless green countryside and rugged wild coastline. Not only that, from Galway City is smack bang in the middle of it. Perfectly positioned halfway through the Wild Atlantic Way. You don’t have far to go to see any of it. Just a stone’s throw away from never-ending beautiful sandy beaches. From Salthill just off the city, to Silver Strand and right the way out to Connemara, with Gems like Dog’s Bay.
Beat that Dublin.
Ahhh Dublin is Okay though
Now just so I won’t upset too many people, Dublin has its good things too.. just not as many as Galway (:P)
Why you might think Dublin is better than Galway
- better transport links – although Galway is so compact you don’t need the same level of transport!
- close to the main airport – Galway is not far from Shannon airport
- more things like shops and cinemas – BUT Galway now has a very luxurious Omniplex in Salthill with leather electric reclinable seats. The restaurant and bar are due to open next year too – delivered right to your seat. Ya love to see it!
- More jobs and pay more. Can’t really argue with that one!
Okay guys hope this doesn’t offend too many people! I may be biased as I’ve lived in Galway for years, so why not tell me in the comments below what you think?! Galway VS Dublin? which do you prefer?? If you wana fight your side of the battle,
If you like my images, be sure to check out my Instagram 🙂
Some things to do near Galway: