Complete Guide to Malin Head, Donegal, Ireland

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Malin Head in Donegal is the most northerly point of the island of Ireland, sitting at the very tip of the Inishowen peninsula in County Donegal. It’s a startlingly beautiful windswept location that looks out to the North Atlantic and is the northerly starting point for anyone travelling along part or the entirety of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Malin Head, County Donegal

Cionn Mhálanna, Adrmalin, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Coordinates: 55.38244, -7.37171

Wild natural beauty

Weather can be changeable

Open year round

Light-Medium Hikes
Amazing Viewpoints
Toilets
Old buildings
Free

How to get to Malin Head

If you’re approaching Malin Head from Derry, or even from Letterkenny, you can take an inland route or a coastal route via Muff that makes the most of the views across Lough Foyle. Either route will likely take you through the charming town of Carndonagh with its Diamond (or central square), which is worth a stop for a coffee or for snacks. Proceed through the town of Malin, and follow the R242 route which is well-signposted for Malin Head.

You can include Malin Head as part of a longer road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way. Donegal has a lot of gorgeous spots like Binnion Bay, Glenevin Waterfall, the Gap of Mamore, Doagh Famine Village and the stunning Grianan of Aileach. You can read about those in my one-day Donegal itinerary here. Or if you want to stay near the North coast, chose from these hotel and B&B options near Malin Head.

Tours that visit Malin Head

There are not many tours that include Malin Head. Take this as an indication of its remote beauty, rather than lack of popularity!

From Donegal – Private Tour of Malin Head and Inishowen

Private trip for up to 7 people with pickup anywhere in Donegal, visits Malin Head, Mamore Gap, Doagh Famine Village, Grianan of Aileach

From Belfast – 4 Day Donegal & the Wild Atlantic Way Tour

Comprehensive tour of the Northwest section of the Wild Atlantic Way, including many stops (featuring Malin Head), and staying at B&Bs.

How to Visit Malin Head on Your Own

You can self-organise a trip to Malin Head from places like Letterkenny (1h15m drive) or Derry (1h drive) very easily! If you want to drive part or all of the Wild Atlantic Way, then Malin Head is the first stop. There are two car parks at Malin Head, as well as public toilets. This is a great place to take a hike (see more below).

It is not possible to reach Malin Head using public transport.

The Weather at Malin Head

Weather in the North of Ireland can be your friend or your windswept frenemy! I chose a day to visit with high winds and huge, spattering raindrops coming in waves of showers. However, don’t let the weather stop you, just pack appropriately!

Layout of Malin Head

There are two carparks at Malin Head – the lower car park has a useful information sign about the principal walking routes at Malin – the Hells Hole walk or Malin Head Trail is just over 1 kilometre there and back. While the first part of the route is on gravel, it can get a little slippy on rock further down (as well as around the Malin Head paths) and it’s advisable to wear stout walking shoes or boots. Beyond that, the actual walk is of moderate difficulty.

This lower carpark is also the location of some rather groovy public toilets. This is NOT a feature of many of the ‘significant’ Wild Atlantic Way discovery points, so major kudos to Malin Head for spearheading a much needed facility. On a recent trip to Norway, I noticed that major tourist sites not only have toilet blocks, but also have made a real architectural feature out of them, making them places to visit in their own right. The Malin Head toilets fall into that category.


It is the upper carpark that is the site of the original Napoleonic Tower, a further useful infographic and what I discovered was the symbol of all Wild Atlantic Way sites, the rusty sign (see below).

Malin Head Signal Tower

The old signal tower is intact but has become a site for a small amount of flyposting. It was one of a series of towers built to see off the Napoleonic threat by the British and was constructed in and around 1805. It went on to have a life as a signal tower. There’s an interesting technical history of it here.

It was also a perfect place to park up my campervan and walk around the site. You can see the layout of the facilities better from the following drone photograph. The toilet block in the centre-top is the location of the lower car park. My campervan is parked at the top carpark and there are pathways that circulate from car park to car park and towards the ocean.

Sensational Views

The view out to the ocean is what Malin Head is all about. As the light catches and dives into the water, it shifts from steely grey to aquamarine, reminding you of more tropical waters.

As the weather became ever wilder, I had to give up wiping my glasses! In one sense, it’s wise that these signs showing the name of each Wild Atlantic Way site are made to rust, as they’re getting so much exposure to incoming weather! The symbol that you see at the top of the sign is the official logo or shorthand for the Wild Atlantic Way – WAW. It’s used on these signs as well as on roadsigns and is a helpful visual mnemonic.

Second World War Signs – Eire 80

I was fascinated to see the huge sign on the ground at Malin Head that reads ‘Eire 80’ as you can see from the cover shot, which is also below.

I did some reading about this. I had some idea it might be to do with flights, but had no idea it related to the Second World War. In around 1942, 85 of these signs were etched into the Irish landscape using white stone. They were placed at key strategic locations and were designed to inform pilots flying over Ireland that they were entering neutral airspace. According to this article, Malin Head was also a strategic Look Out Point (LOP), one of 85 in Ireland, and its assigned number was ’80’.

Bear in mind that pilots at that time had access to navigational aids but not to our modern geolocation techniques and technologies.

Where to Stay near Malin Head

Here’s a few hotels to consider if you’re visiting Malin Head. One thing Donegal is well known for is its warm welcome.

Find the accompanying video for this article below:

YouTube player

Conclusion

I travelled the entirety of the Wild Atlantic Way and started right here at Malin Head! This is a popular spot not only for its association with the Way, but as a place to visit for people coming from Derry or Donegal for an outing. There’s something about the light here, the boundless Atlantic and the power of the waves that speaks to you on some kind of primal level. If you’ll be in this area, don’t miss it (even with bad weather).


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I'm Patrick, your Irish guide to the skies and beyond. With 58 countries visited, my journeys have taken me from busy economy to fabulous first-class.