Bunglas to Glenties
This section is the first section of the IAT in Ireland, following the Atlantic Coast from Bunglas, past Slieve League, Glencolmcille, Ardara and ending at Glenties.
Distance 42 miles
OS Map 10 & 11
Terrain Some steep, difficult ground. Can be rocky, boggy and exposed in places. There are some on road walk sections. Parts of the route are unmarked in places. There are also footbridges, boardwalk and stiles to cross.
Nearest Town Bunglas
Route Shape Linear
Grid Reference G571 755
Route Type Quality Walk
This section is that first section of the IAT in Ireland, following the Atlantic Coast from Bunglas, past Slieve League, Glencolmcille, Ardara and ending at Glenties. The route is waymarked from Glencolumbcille to Ardara with a yellow arrow and yellow walking man (Slí Columbcille) and with yellow on black walking man and arrow disk with ‘Bluestack Way’ written on it from Ardara to Glenties.
Please be aware that this walking route passes through areas of open land such as working farmland. Livestock may be present and ground conditions may be uneven or wet underfoot. Please refer to the ‘Walk Safely and Responsibly’ information in the Useful Info tab above.
Sub-section 1 – Bunglass Car Park to Malin More (17.5km)
The IAT begins at the Bunglass car park where information signs, wooden tables and are provided. Excellent views along the jagged coastline and cliffs can be enjoyed from here. Climb the steep stone steps to the high point. From here you can see the trail hugging the cliff edge winding up to The Eagles Nest. The trail now moves slightly away from the coast where one trail becomes many routes in a heavily used area with several paths leading to the same place. Choose one and continue climbing where the trail traverses a knife-edge heading towards The Eagles Nest. This trail is very exposed, tricky to follow and has dangerous footing, so care is needed. The views are incredible looking straight down to the sea and along the coastline. The trail then goes up and down before reaching a highpoint and levelling out. An alternative trail skirts around the knife-edge of The Eagles Nest, which is far less exposed and easier to follow. The path can be boggy and the footing difficult in some places, but this is considered the safest way up the ridge. The trail intersects with the pilgrim path leading from Teelin, which is marked with yellow blazes/markings painted on the stones. Follow the yellow blazes down a few hundred meters to Ade McBric’s church ruins and holy wells, where views looking north east can be enjoyed. Make your way back up to the trail and continue along the level terrain towards Slieve League. The trail follows a short knife-edge finally reaching the 595-meter summit of Slieve League, from where there are 360-degree panoramic views.
Walk off the summit and continue down the steep grassy trail. Please note that this section of trail from Slieve League summit to Malin Beg is not waymarked due to being an environmentally sensitive area. It is recommended that only experienced hikers with a map, compass and appropriate equipment should attempt this section of trail. There are excellent views looking back along the cliffs and rugged coastline back towards the car park. Cross a fence and stay on the ocean side of the fence for a couple of hundred meters, where you then cross back through the fence and continue steeply downhill towards the creek. Stay close to the coast when meandering down the steep terrain. You then cross the creek and climb a hill, from where there are incredible views looking back up towards the summit. Cross another creek and climb the side of Leahan near the coastline, from where the best views of the day can be enjoyed. Continue along the side of Leahan and begin descending towards the town of Malin Beg. Views of the town and beautiful coastal areas come into view here. You then reach a dirt road and follow it into town, where you walk behind a few houses and farms before reaching a gate. Go through the gate and follow the paved road through part of town. At the T-junction take a right and continue 7km (or so) to the town of Malinmore. There are great views during the road walk of Leahan and Malin Bay.
Sub-section 2 – Malin More to Port (14.5km)
The trail continues past the Aras Ghleann Cholm Cille Hostel along the road for a couple hundred meters. It then takes a left and follows the bumpy gravel road up the mountain. Climbing towards the high point there are great views of the sea, Leahan and Slieve League and the town of Gleann Cholm Cille come into view. The gravel road turns into pavement and continues into town. Gleann Cholm Cille is a small town with shops, restaurants, post office and hostel.
The trail crosses the main road in the town and continues following the Sli Cholmcille trail signs. Cross the river and take a left at road junction with a loop walk marker. Continue towards the sea and pass beside the strand and cross over a bridge. Views looking up towards beside Beefan and Garveross Mountain can be enjoyed here. Follow the looped walk posts to the right and pass behind a house and continue to climb. Walk past two more houses to reach a dirt track with a gate, go through the gate and continue to climb. Walk up several switch backs towards Glen Head. There are excellent views looking back at town. After reaching the highpoint a trail junction marked ‘Signal Tower’ takes you to a stone signal tower overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with amazing views.
Retrace your steps back down to the trail junction. Take a left here and climb the grassy track heading away from the coast. The trail is very wet and boggy in places but easy to follow and eventually the trail turns into an old road. Continue down to a junction where you can take a right and head back down into town. The route then takes a left and continues up the old road towards some radio antennas. You then reach a high point where the views open up towards Port and down the valley to the East. The trail hugs the coastline here and the closer you get to Port the more spectacular the scenery becomes. There are countless views of the deep blue sea and the crashing waves against the rocks and coastline to be enjoyed. The route crosses a stone bridge and continues towards Port, where you pass a memorial headstone in memory of a ship wreck from 1870. Cross another stone bridge and you are at Port.
Sub-section 3 – Port to Ardara (23km)
The trail continues up the gentle sloping road and follows the river, before passing alongside Killyfanned Lough. Even though this is a road walk there are great views of rivers, lakes and the countryside. Pass Lougheraherk in the distance and bear left at the first road intersection. Soon after this, take a left and follow the road heading in between Slievetooey and Crockurra. The road ends and the trail continues along a track here. Pass through a gate and continue along the fence and Glen River where the trail hugs the small river. The terrain is rolling, very wet and boggy, so be prepared. Follow trail posts scattered across the countryside heading towards the north side of Crockurra.
You will reach a fence near the saddle of Crockurra, where you take a right following close to the fence. Continue to follow the fence when it heads left, the terrain levels off here and the views of the Maghera Strand, Loughs and countryside open up. The route crosses the fence and continues down towards a road far below. Follow the pavement along the stunning valley. Maghera Strand opens and great views down the valley with the Owenwee River flowing towards the Bay, can be enjoyed. This road section follows along the Maghera Strand before finally reaching a stunning tiered waterfall, Assarnacally Waterfall. Please note that the road can be busy at times and care should be taken. The road intersects with the N56, take a left and head into the town of Ardara.
Sub-section 4 – Ardara to Glenties (12km)
This is the beginning of the Bluestack Way. The IAT route follows the same path all the way towards N15 outside Donegal town. In Ardara head north along the main street, crossing the Owenlocker River and climbing the hill. Pass the N56 junction to Glenties and continue on towards Nairn and Portnoo, following a busy road. Follow signs for the Bluestack Way to Donegal Town and take a right to follow a quiet road. Cross through the gate and continue along this country road. Great views towards Bluestack Mountains and back towards the coast can be enjoyed here. You then reach the Owenea River and cross over the bridge then climb a wooden stile to head cross country following the river. Continue to walk over the many short wooden planks, which are in good condition. Climb another stile and continue along the river, passing a short, boggy section. Old rail road tracks appear on and beside the footpath, continue to walk along the tracks for a couple hundred meters. You should cross a fork in the river and reach a forest track. Continue between the river and forest, passing by two metal footbridges and a stone bridge. Climb a double stile and take a right over a bridge. After 50 meters, take a left, then climb another stile and continue along the river. Cross a total of five stiles and finally cross a metal bridge over the river. Continue straight from the bridge heading towards the building with red roof. Take a left here and go through the gate. You will then reach a road junction with trail signs and markers. Take a right turn (sign says to Donegal Town) and follow the road, before reaching a ‘y’ junction and veering right. Glenties comes into view and the road enters the town. Arrive on the main street and take a right. Continue to walk down the main street passing several restaurants, shops and pubs.
Slieve League, Gleann Cholm Cille (Gaeltacht region of Donegal), Assarnacally Waterfall.
From the town of Killybegs, follow the R263 to the west, following signs for Kilcar and Glencolumbkille. After 15km and upon arriving in the village of Carrick, take the Teelin Road to the left, following signs for Bunglas and Slieve League. Continue to follow signs for Bunglas, arriving at Bunglas car park after 5km.
Bus Eireann Service 490 operates between Killybegs and Carrick, after which there would be a 5km walk to the start of the route at Bunglas car park.
In Malinmore there is a wonderful hostel called Aras Ghleann Cholm Cille Hostel. A great place, incredibly friendly with nice rooms and excellent breakfast. The owner will provide shuttles to and from places along the trail.
Ardara is a small town with several good eating spots and pubs. The Nesbitt Arms Hotel is affordable and there is a relaxing pub with good food in the hotel.
A great place to stay in Glenties is Campbells Hostel, located just off Main Street. There are plenty of bunk spaces, several private rooms and a large common area and kitchen with reasonable rates available.