The west Donegal coastline is full of holes. Most are in the form of caves and sea arches (not to mention a few tunnels thrown in for good measure). Take the sea arches; there are a lot of them dotted around the coast and islands of Donegal. Hundreds in fact that are fairly undocumented, with only a few being in any way known about. I’m just scratching the surface here by pointing out some of my favourites that I have come across on my travels. Most are coastal and attached to the mainland or islands, but there are also lots of free standing sea arches as well. Let’s start with a few Donegal Island arches.
In no particular order:
1. Oileán Glas is an island that sits of the SW side of Arranmore Island. It is steep sided and its SE corner is cut by a huge deep archway that brings you through the island and out the other side to the open Atlantic: amazing! In fact Arranmore has a lot of arches and I will go into more detail in an upcoming overview of the island.
2. Off the coast of Gweedore, amongst the Islands, is the gem of Umfin Island. At the back of Umfin is the Cauldron, a barren rocky area of cliffs and ledges where the Atlantic gets seriously churned up in any swell. The breakers are swallowed up by the high, narrow, archway which juts out into the ocean. It’s easy to walk out to this archway and stand on its summit. At the top of the arch there is a hole, conveniently placed to allow a glimpse at the churning water below. Umfin is also almost cut in two by another lovely archway near the rocky landing spot; so walking across this archway can link one side of the island to the other.
3. Tory Island has some mammoth archways one of which cuts through the Anvil, which is a long finger of rock that juts out from Tory Island close to its north eastern tip. Dramatically situated and purely formed, it’s like a gateway to the island’s rugged northern side. For paddling through this archway you need to get your tides right as it dries out on low water!
4. Owey Island’s big archway is a stunner and is nestled on the Islands eastern side in a small shallow bay surrounded by rock pinnacles and sea stacks. One of these sea stacks has an ancient face on it that looks out towards the mainland, always watching Errigal mountain in the distance. If approached from the south the arch is hidden from view until the last minute.
5. The magical Inishdooey Island, is the middle Island passed on the way out to Tory from Magheroarty on the ferry. Inishdooey has a fine, tall, narrow, and elegant hidden archway that is tucked into a cut on its eastern side; although it can be quite hard to find from the sea. It can be tricky to get through, especially at low water or in any swell. The Island is also home to an amazing huge collapsed cave which resembles a amphitheater, open to the sky (pictured in the previous blog post). A must visit Island.
6. At Glencolmcille, just north of the signal tower on Glen Head, sits the Sphinx arch; located in a sublime bay of grey and green cliffs. It’s a many faced god and takes on different guises when approached from different angles. It can take on the appearance of a cat-like creature ready to pounce on it’s prey, especially when approached from the south close to the cliffs.
7. Horn Head is an amazing place to paddle with many fine arches and caves. My favourite is an arch-come cave which cuts off the last corner of the journey before the Horn Head bay. It takes you out into a deep, dark cut with a big cave opening on its opposite side; you feel as if you are hemmed in on all sides by towering cliffs: sublime!
8. Crohy Head has an iconic freestanding arch which has appeared in many a dreamlike photograph. It’s set in a bay strewn with boulders and rocks in a super shallow area. It’s complemented by a huge double archway only a short distance away which is an added bonus.
9. The Doorway Arch is situated due south of Loughros Point, part of a small island with a square archway at the entrance to an enchanted bay. It’s the southern entrance to the Slieve tooey coastline which is a mecca for sea kayakers in Donegal. We always say that this doorway leads into another world resembling something out of the Lord of the Rings films.
10. The Transformer and the Guillotine are both situated along the Slieve tooey coastline – the stretch of coast between Loughros Point and An Port. Slieve tooey has more sea arches, sea stacks, caves and waterfalls then you can shake a stick at. One of the many archways along this cliff-bound coast that always catches my attention, is the Transformer arch. You can see the resemblance to a transformer from the picture. Also pictured is the Guillotine arch (you can see where it gets its name from the picture). Remember please, don’t show too much neck when passing through the Guillotine!