If you’re coming to the north-west at all, you’ve got to visit Malin Head!
People are naturally drawn to Ireland’s most northerly point; there is something compelling about getting to the very tip of the country. Making it up there you will find it is just as barren a point as you could hope for and there really is a sense of this being our last lookout post on the world.
But what everybody wants to know is; what’s the best way to get there?
First of all you should know that Malin Head is really more of a district name, it refers to the whole area at the very top of Inishowen. The actual most northerly point is, of course, at Malin Head. This is called Banba’s Crown, a rocky outcrop which you can drive right up to. There are two car-parks, an off-road walk and the remains of a World War II lookout point. Banba was a mythical queen of Ireland, who competed with Eire to have the island named after her. Eire won, but at least Banba is remembered here!
First off – you’ve got to get yourself right into the heart of the Inishowen Peninsula. Carndonagh is roughly in the middle, and because it’s also where we are, we’ll talk you through it from here.
Coming from Derry/Londonderry the R240 will take you into Carndonagh – called Carn locally, if you need to ask for directions! You can also follow the signs for the Wild Atlantic Way. From Carndonagh the R238 is signed for Malin, and this road become the R242 as you follow it. When you get into Malin you will see that Malin Head is sign-pointed in two different directions. Our recommended route is to turn left (R242), this follows the coast along Trawbreaga Bay with views across to the Isle of Doagh.
Up until this point you may have noticed signs for the Wild Atlantic Way, and also for the Inishowen 100. Malin Head is the first Signature Discovery Point for the Wild Atlantic Way but… the Inishowen 100 has the better route to take you there! As you follow this coastal route you will see a small chapel tucked in amongst the dunes – there is also a turn off for the Five Finger Strand if you fancy a walk on the beach – from here on keep an eye out for the Inishowen 100 signs. They will take you to the left off the road you are on and up a winding road to Knockamany Bens. In our humble opinion this is where you’ll find some of the best views in Inishowen, if not all of Ireland, and you’d be mad to go any other way.
This is a great road to cycle, so long as you have a reasonable level of fitness. It climbs and winds, but there are also great descents and views to make it all worthwhile. There are a couple of viewpoints that will take your breath away and you may see wild goats roaming the countryside!
Sticking with this road it will join back up to the R242 where again you have a choice; you can either join the R242 now and follow it to Banba’s Crown or, follow the Inishowen 100 again. Either way is good – the Inishowen 100 has the better views but at this stage if you’re cycling you may feel you’ve done enough… The fist loop of the ‘100’ is in my opinion the best, and I usually join the R242 for the last bit. Following that road you will find the turn off for Banba’s Crown well-signed on your right.
This last bit is a challenge! Steep and twisty, but if you can stay on the bike you’ll feel great when you get to the top! Cycle Inishowen have binoculars for their customers to borrow and we’d recommend you take a pair if you’re going to Malin Head. From here you have a great view of Inishtrahull Island; uninhabited but with the remains of houses, a school and still home to an automated lighthouse. On a clear day you can see the Scottish Paps of Jura, and if you’re very lucky you may spot dolphins, seals or basking sharks.
Coming home you can re-trace your steps, or take the slightly shorter route back and stick to the R242. Happy exploring!