I remember driving past the sign for Derry on a trip to Dundalk and Carlingford and noting it in my notepad in my head to revisit. Roll on a few months and I found myself looking at Airbnb for Derry spurred on by a friend who lives there, author jane Buckley.
I found a house near the city and off we went on our first road trip for 2023; food, Nintendo switches and chargers were at the top of the list of items to bring; clothes, etc. were second. I had an overnight in my friends in Blackrock, Dundalk which broke the trip up greatly, it was one hour and thirty minutes from there.
I enjoyed passing through towns I heard of like Monaghan, Omagh, Newtownstewart, Strabane and then Derry. The house was located perfectly and we unpacked everything and recharged our own batteries. I always have a plan of places to visit and I was on a mission to find Murder Hole beach in Sheephaven Bay in Donegal. I had seen so many photos of this beach on Instagram and it had only been opened to the public last year.
A trip to Derry city center was a must and we went in the following day with our own personal tour guide, Derry native Jane Buckley. Five minutes over Foyle bridge and we were there, I would suggest parking at the main shopping center, Foyleside. It’s very easy to find the Derry Girls mural, visit Guildhall, cross the Peace Bridge and stroll behind the old 17th-century city walls taking in all the history. I was told stories about what it was like to live there not so long ago and it’s hard to believe all the violence and rage that took place here and there is still parts of Derry that stand firm in their beliefs. The Peace Bridge is a real landmark and is now a symbol of peace between the two sides of the city.
There are new buildings among the old and that is just a sign of the times, most cities are the same and hopefully, the nostalgic part of all our cities doesn’t disappear altogether, we can’t forget our history in Dublin, Derry, etc. The walled walk is only about a mile and has plenty of information spots as you walk around. Peering over the walls, you can see all the different styles of housing estates very close together and there are monuments and squares dedicated to Bloody Sunday, the Diamond War memorial, Free Derry Corner, the Peace Flame and lots more. If you love your history, you will love walking around Derry city center.
The next day I was off to find Murder Hole beach, it was just over an hour on Google maps, right at the top of Northern Donegal. The drive was just fabulous, we went on roller-coaster roads, drove past forest parks (Ards was one of them which I will be returning to) went through remote mountain passes, passed Loughs that looked like scenes from movies, passed the most amazing, isolated holiday parks in Downings (one was called ‘Quiet Moments Campsite’) Rosapenna Golf resort (a must for the golfers reading this, spectacular location) and drove onto a farm and then escorted off it to the public car park to Murder Hole beach. It was closed until Easter, getting it ready for the public. I was deflated but I had found it.
We drove then to the next beach Trá na Rossan, stunning, windy, nestled in among the mountains and many cows looking at us, just as much as we were looking ta them. My daughter turns into Mrs. Doolittle when we drive around Ireland communicating with sheep and cows.
We put Dunfanaghy in Google maps (as suggested by many people to visit) and we drove through Creeslough which I wasn’t expecting and it was hard to believe the tragedy that took place there in 2022. The area is boarded up and I drove past the school and the local shops with a very sad heart.
We arrived at Dunfanaghy and the sun was out. I quickly changed and ran across the white sand and into the clear sea water, it was amazing. The children ran up and down the sand dunes taking it all in, we had the beach nearly all to ourselves. It was Valentine’s Day so we made a shell love heart in the sand and hopped back in the car back to Derry. A fantastic day out exploring.
The next day was a trip to the Giant’s Causeway, a first for me. Just over an hour from my location, we set off in the opposite direction from yesterday, heading to the northern tip again. We passed through very English-style villages and busy towns like Coleraine. I have never experienced so many roundabouts in all my driving life and also to say there are roadworks happening everywhere in this country and not just in Dublin.
We reached our destination and were nearly blown down the walkway to the landmark. Be aware it’s pricey to park here and nothing is cheap at the visitor center and hotel. There are shuttle buses to the causeway as it’s about a 10-minute walk from the car park. The shuttle buses are not free.
We came, we saw, we had lunch and we left. The scenery is beautiful at the rocks and there are plenty of spectacular walks along cliff edges if that’s what you like but with small children, this wouldn’t work for me. I am delighted I got to see this part of Ireland.
We drove back through all the roundabouts and I came across Castle Rock beach which was huge and fantastic and I’m sure a busy spot in the Summer.
Our next day was a chilled morning and then out to Lisfannon beach, Buncrana and a visit to the fort Grianan of Aileach in Inishowen in Donegal. Unfortunately, we had a bad weather day but I can only imagine the views from here. I just adore this part of Ireland and am so glad I started discovering Donegal last year. You just can’t beat the beaches along this vast coastline.
There is so much to do from Derry and I highly recommend a visit, there were lots more on my list like Malin Head, Fanad lighthouse and the many forest parks I passed, the stunning loughs with bikers on their scramblers and beaches galore. I will have to return to visit these places.
Get planning your road trips in Ireland for 2023. I am planning my next one – Achill Island and Keem bay.