The Fanad Peninsula on the north coast of Ireland, with spectacular cliff scenery, extends northward for some 12mi/20km between the narrow inlet of Mulroy Bay to the west and Lough Swilley, the broad estuary of the River Swilley, to the east. At the tip of the peninsula is Fanad Head.
From Letterkenny the N56 runs north to Milford, a fishing center at the head of Mulroy Bay. The village has a modern church. Nearby is a waterfall known as the Gray Mare's Tail.
There is good fishing in Lough Fern and other small loughs in the neighborhood on the Fanad Peninsula.
From Milford the R246 goes north along the east side of the fjord-like Mulroy Bay. Just before Kerrykeel (also spelled Carrowkeel) is a prehistoric chamber tomb with a massive capstone between 6 and 10ft/2 and 4m in size. Kerrykeel lies at the foot of Knockalla Mountain, the "Devil's Backbone."
From Kerrykeel the R246 and its continuation lead to Fanad Head, at the northern tip of the Fanad Peninsula (fine views). The return is down the west side of Lough Swilly, on the new Knockalla road (8mi/13km), with breathtaking scenery.
Beyond Portsalon, which has a picturesque little harbor and an 18-hole golf course, are the spectacular tunnels through the cliffs known as the Seven Arches, up to 300ft/90m long, 20ft/6m wide and 30ft/9m high, and the Great Arch of Doagh Beg.Knockalla Mountain, which can be seen ahead, falls steeply down to the lough. On the hill is a 19th C. gun position directed against a possible French invasion.To reach the Knockalla Viewpoint, take the R246 from Portsalon. After one mile, turn left onto the coast road.The Knockally Viewpoint offers superb views of Ballymastocker Bay, the Fanad Peninsula, Lough Swilly and the Inishowen Peninsula.
Flight of the Earls Heritage Centre, Rathmullan, Ireland
The R247 leads past Portsalon and the Otway golf course (nine holes) to Rathmullan, an attractive seaside resort with a sandy beach. At Rathmullan are the ruins of a Carmelite friary (15th C.: National Monument), with a church which a 17th C. bishop converted into his residence, and a gun position, the Battery, which has been made into a Visitor Center (opening times given). From here in 1607 the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell sailed away to France with their friends and supporters: the "Flight of the Earls," which was followed by the confiscation of great tracts of Irish land and the bringing in of large numbers of English and Scottish settlers.