20. Glencolmbcille – Tower and Mast loops

Looking south along the coast

While the really big attraction in this lovely part of Donegal is Sliabh Liag with its amazing sea cliffs, the loop routes on the hillside above the village of Glencolmbcille provide a very rewarding day’s walk with excellent views all around. The starting point for either walk is at the Glencolmcille Walking Centre (Ionad Siúl Ghleann Cholm Cille) beside the fire station. Just head eastward past the station on L5055 and you will pick up the first waymark post at the next junction, after which the routes are well signed.

Napoleonic Signal Tower

The Tower loop is a 10 km hike that allows for a short detour over to the old watch tower on the sea cliffs and returns by the mast road. The Drum Loop adds a further circle, climbing to the communications mast and round bog tracks to descend to the L5075 country road and westward to join the Tower loop again for the road walk back to the start. Total distance is 13 km. The terrain for both walks is a mixture of tarmac side road, gravel track and rough mountain path.

Both routes, as part of national looped walks, are clearly way marked with distinguishing posts and coloured arrows, though they are well spaced and it is important to pay attention to them. The narrow road passes close to small cottages at the start before climbing a gravel track to the headland. The short detour across to the Napoleonic Watch Tower is worth it as the views out to sea are spectacular, but of course be alert to the cliffs.

If you have the energy, when you reach the communications mast on the Drum loop, there is a track (Left) that leads all the way northwards to the old fishing village of Port. This would lead to a very long day’s hike unless you have a friendly driver to pick you up in port!

Tower Loop Descent toward the Mast Road
  • Trailhead: Walking Centre Hostel in Glencolmcille village. (Currently Closed)
  • Distance: Tower Loop 10 km. Drum Loop 13km.
  • Time: Tower Loop 2 – 3 hours. Drum Loop 3 – 4 hours.
  • Ascent: Between 222m and 283m

Note: There are a number of ancient sites near or on the route associated with St Colmcille, and the delightful Folk Village is well worth a visit. Sadly it is closed at present due to Covid19 restrictions.