The dramatic Slieve League cliffs and mountains have become the starting point for the Irish leg of the International Applachian Trail, an extension to the original route stretching from Georgia to Maine and then on to Newfoundland. And what more spectacular setting could you have for such a renowned trail linking two pieces of land separated by thousands of kilometers of ocean?
Make no mistake, the landscape hereabouts is awe-inspiring. The narrows and twists of R263 afford terrific views of Donegal Bay before descending into pretty Cill Chartaigh (Kilcar), a traditional center of tweed making. Signposted by its Irish name, the next village, An Charraig (Carrick), clings to the foot of the Slieve League Mountains, whose color-streaked ocean cliffs are, at 2,000 feet, the highest in Ireland. Slieve League (Sliah Liec, or Mountain of the Pillars) is a ragged, razor-back rise bordered by the River Glen. To see the cliffs, follow the little road to the Irish-speaking village
of Teileann, 1½ km (1 mile) south from Carrick. Then take the narrow lane (signposted to the Bunglass Cliffs) that climbs steeply to the top of the cliffs. The mountain looks deceptively easy from the back (the inaccessible point borders the Atlantic), but once the fog rolls in, the footing can be perilous. If you want to take in this thrilling perspective—presuming you're hardy and careful—walk along the difficult coastal path from Teilann: not for the dizzily squeamish. The cliffs have been made more accessible by widening the road to the top and enhancing it with parking lots, turnouts, fencing, and an information panel as part of the Donegal Interpretative Project, the first of its kind anywhere in Ireland. A viewing point over the sea cliffs ensures visitors can appreciate one of the finest panoramas in Europe in safety. The designation of the Slieve League Cliffs as one of the leading Signature Discovery Points on the Wild Atlantic Way means you may have to share the stunning views.
If you've a mind for a hike, then follow the Appalachian Trail through County Donegal, head eastwards along the Bluestacks Way, cross the Irish border on to the Ulster Way and end up on the Causeway Coast Way, finishing your trek at Ballycastle in the far north of County Antrim. Now that's a walk that'll require a certain amount of advance training—never mind a little stamina and some planning. And, if you feel like an even grander challenge, then Scotland—just a few miles across the sea—has also signed up for the trail.
Teilann, Co. Donegal, Ireland