Fanad and Inishowen
After leaving the Peace Bridge at Derry, the route follows the River Foyle to Muff, where the river opens up to the great expanse of water, Lough Foyle. A flat but poorly surfaced fast road takes you all the way to the end of Lough Foyle, before turning left and up into the hills of Fanad and Inishowen.
It’s a relief to leave the traffic behind, and the roads are good but the hills are steep and frequent. There are stunning views and you pass some beautiful beaches.
Due to its northern latitude and low levels of light pollution, the Northern Lights can occasionally be seen from here. Follow https://twitter.com/Aurora_ireland to be informed as to when there may be a good opportunity.
The village of Culdaff provides a good place for a rest, then more hills to Malin Head, which is Ireland’s most northerly point. The coast here is some of the most dangerous water in the world, being the site of over 400 ship wrecks. The route takes you up to Banba’s Crown on the tip of Malin Head, where if you look down you can see the ‘EIRE’ spelled out in large white stones. These stones were put down during World War 2 to inform pilots they were flying over neutral territory.
From Malin Head, it’s quick progress via Malin and Ballyliffin, all the way to Mamore Gap. You can see the road up Mamore Gap when you approach it. But it’s a hill that keeps on giving; When you get to what you thought may be the top, you turn a corner and there is still plenty more climbing to be done! About 100m before a car park there is a white stone on the road which marks a point in which you have the illusion that you roll uphill. If only! At the top of Mamore Gap there is a well and shrine to Saint Eigne.
From Mamore Gap there is a pretty sweet, straight, fast downhill. Mind the sheep, which have free roam on the roads here. The route passes through the town of Buncrana and several villages. Again some quick flat roads enable some distance be gained easily.
As the route passes Letterkenny, it takes a dip inland rather than following the Wild Atlantic Way around the coast.
North West Donegal and Donegal Bay
After leaving Letterkenny, the route hits low-traffic country roads once more as it winds up and over a long hill and into Glenveagh National Park, one of Ireland’s six national parks. The route goes off-road for a 5 km stretch, for a lot of which it’s advisable to push the bike to avoid the risk of a puncture or buckled rim. Once through the park (there is an excellent café half-way along), there is another long climb past Muckish Mountain before a long descent to meet the coast at Falcarragh. The route then weaves in and out along the coast. A lot of hills, and a lot more amazing views of barren landscape, wild and rocky coastlines, beaches and islands. Note, Glengesh Pass and the climb out of Meananeary (amongst others) may have you reaching for your inhaler.