Make the time to visit this quiet treasure

by Staff Reporter

THE Ring of Kerry is one of the most visited and best known tourist destinations in this country. There is no doubt that it is spectacular.
However go in a straight line north, about 400km and about 100km east as the crow flies, and you will find scenery of equal beauty, and some of the best beaches in Europe, if not the world.
Donegal is as breath-taking as parts of southern Ireland, but with none of the tourist trappings.
Food hasn’t taken the massive strides that it has down south, you won’t find shops selling Aran jumpers and walking sticks, and you certainly won’t find bus loads of tourists, eager to find a gravestone with their family name on it.
What you will find is real peace and solace, pubs with plenty of craic, and magical scenery all across the county.
I recently stayed close to the Fanad Peninsula, in the height of summer, and barely saw another vehicle – or human, for that matter – as we drove the route over the course of a few hours.
There are plenty of pretty little towns around this area, and we stayed in Rathmullan House, in the village of Rathmullan.
It’s well placed on its own beach overlooking Lough Swilly, and is the perfect spot to truly relax.
During the summer they cater extremely well for families with children, even small children, but during the autumn and winter months, they are eager to welcome older guests who want to sit beside the fire with a good book or the papers and get away from it all.
Close by are the gorgeous villages of Ramelton, as well as Portsalon and Milford. Letterkenny is also no more than a 20-minute drive away.
We dined in Ramelton for lunch on one of our days away in what appeared to be the only cafe/restaurant in the village.
It was thronged with Irish holiday-makers, and there are plenty of those. There aren’t many places to eat in the general area and even the local pubs were closed at lunchtime.
However, this place was doing a roaring trade, and the food was tasty.
For this reason we mostly dined in Rathmullan House, which wasn’t a chore. The food was very good, with lots of choice, including some really good fish dishes, including John Dory, brill and cod.
They also have an extensive wine list, with some unusual and exciting wines.
It was on day two of our visit that we undertook the drive around the Fanad Peninsula, and even though it rained almost throughout, the sun broke through on occasion to allow us some absolutely amazing views of the ocean, and of beaches so sandy and velvety, we longed to swim there.
We drove to the lighthouse and were the solitary visitors at the head!
Back at Rathmullan, there is a swimming pool that we mostly had to ourselves, which was great as it allowed me the freedom to play with my three-year-old and try to start the process of teaching him how to swim.
Our room was beautifully decorated, and there is a choice of old-world bedrooms in the main house, and newer rooms in the new addition to the old house.
Across from the hotel’s private beach is Buncrana, and a ferry can be taken across to visit that village and make the trip to Malin Head.
The beach is long enough for a leisurely stroll along and there were plenty of people horseriding in the waves.
All in all, this place is picture postcard perfect, and is well worth the lengthy drive from Dublin.
For further information on Rathmullan, see www.rathmullanhouse.com.

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