The great Irish long weekend: the north
Bundoran has a lot to thank the surfing community for, not least the rechristening of the Donegal seaside town as “Fundoran"
Bundoran. Photograph: The Irish Times
Ballymote, Co Sligo
Bundoran. Photograph: The Irish Times
Bundoran has a lot to thank the surfing community for, not least the rechristening of the Donegal seaside town as “Fundoran ”. Simply by coming in their droves for its wild Atlantic rollers, they have brought a whole new feel to the town.
Gone is the image of washed-out caravan parks still sporting the abandoned buckets, spades and Bay City Rollers scarves left, Marie Celeste -style, in the dash for 1970s Santa Ponsa. In its place is a cracking spot for a long weekend, with enough v ariety to appeal to all members of the family.
What to do?
For children it’s all about Waterworld (waterworldbundoran.com) a great pool complex with waves, rapids, chutes and flumes, including the Whizzer Slide, billed as the fastest in Ireland. Reopening at Easter and for weekends in May, it’s open daily for the season thereafter. It is on the seafront in Bundoran and if you don’t fancy a dip, you can opt for the seaweed bath next door.
In summer there is all the fun of the fair at Bundoran Adventure Park (bundoranadventurepark.com) which has water-walking zorb balls, bumper cars, rides and a go karting track.
For outdoor pursuits, Donegal Adventure Centre and Surf School (donegaladventurecentre.net) has terrific instructors to guide you through its infamous “Leap of faith” or get you hanging 10 like a pro with a surf lesson. There’s no shortage of surf schools here. Take your pick between, among others, Surf World (surfworld.ie), Turfnsurf (turfnsurf.ie) and Bundoran Surf Co (bundoransurfco.ie). Expect to pay around €30 for adults and €25 for kids.
The beach is, of course, the star here but if the weather’s not quite making you inclined to strip off and swim (even in a wetsuit), you can always explore it on horseback. Donegal Equestrian Centre (donegalequestriancentre.com), a mile from the town centre, caters for novices to experts and offers trail rides round Ben Bulben.
For a gentler option, take a horse-drawn carriage from Islandview Stables, 12km south of Bundoran at Grange in Co Sligo.
Within an hour’s drive of Bundoran you have plenty of other attractions too, including Eagles Flying in Ballymote, Co Sligo (eaglesflying.com). Open from the beginning of April, it is the largest centre for birds of prey in the country and runs daily displays with eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures and owls – with indoor and outdoor display centres, so shows run whatever the weather.
Offshore Watersports (offshore.ie) in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, a 15-minute drive away, offers scuba diving and deep sea fishing. Or, at Rosses Point, learn the ropes of kiteboarding with LSD Kiteboarding (lsdkiteboarding.com).
The area has great coastal walking along beaches and cliffs and, thanks to the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW), Ireland’s new 2,500km touring route from Donegal to Cork, the area has been put firmly on the tourist map.
Bundoran’s Tullan Strand is the first WAW Discovery Point you’ll meet in Co Donegal, if you’re heading north along the route. From it you can see Mullaghmore and across Donegal Bay to the Slieve League Cliffs, among the highest in Europe.
Walk the Roguey Cliff Path, a circular route that brings you to the stunning Fairy Bridges, the sea stacks which were the original tourist attraction of the area, in the 19th century, and just as impressive today.
WHERE TO STAY The Great Northern Hotel has golf, pool and live music. Short breaks, including two nights’ B&B plus one dinner from €139 per person sharing greatnorthernhotel.com. The Allingham Arms Hotel in town centre has a packed schedule of music and dancing. Three nights’ B&B from €175 pps. allinghamarmshotel.ie. Turfnsurf Tours, run by Turfnsurf Lodge and Surf School, will pick you up in Dublin and bus you to Bundoran from €120pp including B&B and surfing. turfnsurftours.com
WHERE TO EAT The Peak Restaurant has some of the best views in the country, and good food too. La Sabbia has comfy armchairs and open fires.
WHERE TO DRINK Madden’s Bridge Pub, ask for a Donegal Blonde – a local craft beer.
DON’T MISS The Wishing Chair. Close to the Fairy Bridges. Sit for 15 seconds, tap twice as you rise, to show your commitment, like.
DON’T SAY “Ouch!” Wear your jellies to guard against weevers in summer.