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Donegal and Sligo without a car. On winter.

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OK, there is nothing set in stone and I am not sure if it's going to definately actually this coming winter or the next one...but I am day-dreaming for a return trip in Ireland. I have been several times on this beautiful country but due to a health issue and some other incidents, my last visit was a few years ago.

I am a Greek woman in her 30s who is quite confident traveling alone and I tend to allocate 3-5 weeks to travel around in a country, I do lots of homework, have some ideas and potential itineraries on mind, book first few nights and then see how it goes. I am pretty flexible and I have no problem to alter plans while there. I envision the Sligo/Donegal part of the trip as say around a week or two coming from Galway/Connemara area and heading towards Northern Ireland. I hope to have around a month or more available, starting from Dublin and doing sort of a circular route (definately taking in Cork city, I had spend one winter there ages ago and loved it and keep revisiting) and ending in Belfast ( an other city I am VERY fond of after spending an other winter there once upon a time...) .

I have been on various locations around Ireland, any time from November till March and although many people think otherwise, I have managed to enjoy my self on winter even on rural occasions and explore a good part of the country using public transport.

What I need some help with, is some information, links, experiences or ideas, well...some inspiration really, about Donegal and Sligo, two areas I am not familiar with. I have been on Donegal city for a couple of days years ago, ditto on Sligo but I did not get to see any of the surrounding area/countryside. Actually, maybe I am wrong because it was towards the end of a long trip and maybe I was getting travel-fatigue, but both cities seemed quite dull/sleepy although I think it was March when I visited. I remember asking the night guy to unlock my hotel door to go out around 9.30 one night on Donegal and he seemed confused and two minutes after I went out I could see why. No one walking on the street and no open pub in sight although I was staying in what seemed a central spot in town...I walked half km on each direction and I met no one and I remember one car with some guys driving back and forth and not even a single other car on the street!

Wild nightlife is not what I go to Ireland for and I do not mind quiet places. I have been on places like Doolin or Inishmore on February after all. But does public transport suit to head on some interesting side trips from those towns or even stay in a rural area for a couple of days in order to explore some sights or landscapes or do some light hiking in case weather co-operates? Any ideas? I have heard the counties up there are very scenic and unspoilt, but I have not find any solid information on how to explore without a car...

If that helps, I travel on a restricted budget and occasionaly staying on hostels but usually I prefer small family owned B&Bs and while I can not afford a private driver and definately prefer public transport, I can splurge on an organised day tour or a sort taxi ride every now and then.

I am not asking anyone to plan a whole trip for me, but if you can point me to the right direction, that could be great!

Thank you in advance.

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