27. Portsalon Loop

Looking south to Ballymastocker Bay.

I have three very good friends with whom I go walking quite often. They are very familiar with the Fanad Peninsula, and I recently joined them on one of their favourite loop walks near Portsalon. This walk is mostly on small country lanes with very little road traffic, and while it is full of climbs and descents it is on paved surface and the views are very rewarding. At one point you look north toward the Atlantic and later you have a nice view southward to Ballymastoker bay with the Knockalla mountain range in the background. The route described here will cover about 8 km and should take 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on pace.

Note: The Catholic parishes of St Mary’s Fanavolty and St Columba’s Massmount have now waymarked three walks in the same area as described below. Click here for more details.

The walk begins at a car park servicing the north side of Portsalon beach, close to golf club. To get there, the best thing is to enter Portsalon Golf Club in your maps app or sat nav, then look for the well finished car park on the right about 80 m short of the golf club entrance. At present there is a coffee van at the car park entrance that serves good coffee and buns!

And so to the route. First let me say that you need to pay attention to navigation as there are lots of lanes in this area and the route described here is only one of a number of options. Best to print this page and take it with you or download to your phone. (Live coverage can be sporadic.) I walked in an anti-clockwise direction as shown by the arrows.

Update: This route is now waymarked so navigation should be much easier.

Leave the car park and walk NE on R246 toward the golf club entrance. Then take the first turn to the left and begin climbing steadily on a lane. Note the house on RHS with a barking dog (Restrained) and continue upward over the hill for about 1.5 km. You will come down to a junction on a bend where you turn right onto a slightly more substantial minor road. Follow this road for just 450 m then turn left down another lane that winds it’s way northward with nice sea views in the distance. (If you wish for a shorter walk, ignore the left turn and stay on the minor road, which will take you back round to the golf club and the car park. Approx. 50 min walking time). After a dip this lane comes up to a minor road again. At this point turn very sharp left, onto this minor road, and follow it roughly southward. When you pass a lovely Columbcille grotto on your right be ready. You need to take the next right turn up a smaller road that has been recently resurfaced with new asphalt! This continues for 1.2 km (The new tarmac ends after a bit) to where you need to take a left turn. Be alert here. This left turn is on a slight down-slope and there is a telegraph pole right at it.

From here it is pretty much plain sailing as you continue on this lane for about 1.7 km. After one more short stiff climb the view opens up to the south over Ballymastocker bay and the beautiful beach with the impressive Knockalla ridge, also known as The Devils Backbone, beyond. You will presently come to a T junction with the aforementioned ‘Barking Dog’ house opposite. Turn right downhill along the lane you started on, right at the main road, and walk the couple of hundred metres to the car park.

  • Trailhead: Beach car park near Portsalon Golf Club
  • No toilets. Coffee van currently at car park.
  • Distance: Approx 8.2 km
  • Time 1.75 hrs to 2 hrs depending on pace.
  • Surface: Paved minor road and lanes.
  • Ascent: Lots of short climbs and descents!