The cliffs of Slieve League in Ireland’s County Donegal are some of the highest and most beautiful sea cliffs in Europe. Recent development has made access to the cliffs by car or by hiking trail easier than ever. This general guide describes some of the routes along Slieve League, how to find the hiking trails and roads to the cliffs, and what a visitor can expect to see along the way.
Soaring over 1900 feet above the crashing waves of the North Atlantic, the cliffs of Sieve League (in Irish, Sliabh Liag) are among the highest and most dramatic sea cliffs in Ireland—which is known to have no shortage of cliff competition. Luckily, these spectacular peaks are accessible for either a quick glance from the car or an extended strenuous hike.
The mountains of Slieve League are on the peninsula of southwest Donegal—a rigged, rural county in northwest Ireland—near the pastoral seaside villages of Carrick and Teelin. Thanks to recent development, the clifftop path is easily accessible either from Teelin village or from a nearby parking lot on Bunglas.
From the parking lot, look for the rectangular signal tower, part of a long series of watchtowers built in the early nineteenth century on Ireland’s coast to protect the shores from possible invasion by Napoleon. Each tower was carefully placed to have a direct line of sight to its two neighbors in the sequence, allowing the caretakers to relay warnings along the line quickly. In the far distance, above the horizon, look for the sharp point of Benbulbin, a large, flat rock formation in County Sligo associated with a number of Irish myths and legends.
Walk along the path to the viewpoint and take in the steep sides of the Slieve League cliffs dropping into the sea. Note the loose stones on the upper faces of the still-eroding mountainsides and the sea caves carved by the crashing waves below. Above the viewpoint, a steep trail for experienced, well-equipped hikers follows the peak of the cliffs all the way to Malin Beg-near Rathlin O’Bime island, visible in the distance from Bunglas. Climbing to the summit of Slieve League, you’ll be squishing over the hilltop bogs that cover much of rural Ireland. The peat harvested from these bogs has been an important source of home heating fuel for people in Ireland and Scotland for generations; look for the ridges cut into the ground and stacks of black peat drying nearby.
Find a trail diversion, marked with yellow blazes, following the “Pilgrim’s Path” through the important religious heritage sights of the peninsula. Explore the ruined chapel of Ade mc Bric, an early Christian monastic site built around a holy well, also still visible and marked with a flat standing stone.
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