Start/End Points: Donegal Town Tourist office (OSI Map 11 , Grid ref: G928 783) - Ardara town centre (OSI Map 10, Grid ref: G734 905)
Access: Most hikers begin their journey from Donegal town and travel in a northerly direction along the Bluestack Way. Both local and national public bus services are available to and from Donegal Town. A typical bus journey from Dublin would take around 3hrs and 30mins - schedules can be accessed using the following link: Bus timetables
Parking is also available in the town centre, however public car parks usually come at a cost. If you are staying in Donegal Town accommodation prior to your hike, it might be worthwhile arranging to leave your vehicle at their parking facilities until your return.
Hike Distance: 55km for direct route - 65km for alternative route (The alternative route is sometimes used by hikers as ground can become very wet underfoot (depending on the time of year and rainfall), specifically the section that takes you over Luach na mBrog between Cloghmeen Hill and Binbane hill.)
Time to complete hike: Typically the average person will complete this hike in 2 - 3 days. Walking at a fast pace it is possible to reach Ardara in 2 days of good hiking. Those looking for a more leisurely hike, will extend it for a third day/half day and complete the final section following an overnight stay in Glenties.
Difficulty level of Hike: Moderate to difficult to be on the conservative side. Although there are no major steep climbs, when hiking for an extended period reasonable fitness levels are required. There are significant height gains and losses in sections (1096m total height gain and 1089m total height loss for complete hike), however this can somewhat be reduced if the alternative route is chosen.
Accommodation: During the summer months wild camping is possible, but it is important to seek landowners permission before doing so. The Bluestack Centre offers a 28 bed hostel and is popular with like minded hikers offering Wi-Fi and self-catering facilities. This hostel is located in the village of Drimarone close to Letterbarrow about 3.5km off the bluestack way. Additional accommodation relevant for this hike; in Donegal town, Glenties and Ardara can be located in the accommodation section of this site.
Notable features and additional info: This is a signed walkway and relatively easy to follow using the yellow arrow markers. The majority of this hike is on defined pathways with the track varying between, national roads, local roads and country lanes. Elements of the route will take you over boggy land that can be extremely wet in places (depending on rainfall), but offer some of the better views of the Bluestack hills. By using the alternative route it is possible to avoid the majority of wet ground.
The section between Glenties and Ardara takes hikers along the Owenea river, offering respite from road walking and is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the hike.
The route also takes you past the picturesque Loch Iascaigh (close to Donegal town), this allows for the option to encompass the lake looped walk into your hike, but be advised that you will be adding around 5.5km on to your journey.
Appropriate hiking footwear and clothing is advised, weather is very changeable in Ireland so wet gear should also be at hand. Be sure to pack sufficient food and water for each leg of your hike and have the necessary navigational aids including appropriate maps (OSI Map10 & 11) and compass. Spare clothing and emergency contact numbers are also advisable. Midges are a problem in Donegal during the summer months so it will likely be necessary to have the appropriate spray/cream at hand. More Info