Ireland’s Hidden Gem

County Donegal was voted Ireland’s Hidden Gem in the 2017 Irish Independent Travel Awards…naturally! Readers pointed out that the county is ‘absolutely overflowing’ with hidden gems. We agree!

 No. 1 on the Cool List 2017!

Donegal was declared the coolest place to visit in 2017 by the National Geographic Traveller magazine! Of course, their reporters only confirmed what we’ve known for many years. From surfing in the Bundoran in South Donegal to Star Wars-spotting in Malin Head at the northern-most tip of the county and country, Donegal has it all. The Sandhouse Hotel is ideally located for a visit to our wonderful corner of Ireland, and we can help you plan your adventure around one of the coolest places on the planet!

Rossnowlagh Beach

Sunsets, swimming, surfing, walking, jogging, horse-riding, picknicking, fishing…everything!

Rossnowlagh Beach is a breathtakingly beautiful strand which stretches for 3km of golden sand. A Blue Flag beach, it is popular with families as it is safe for swimming, surfing and other watersports. On any given day the beach is frequented by walkers, families, romantic couples, joggers, aerobics classes, surfers, fishermen, photographers, and even fossil-hunters scouring the sea-bed which is visible at low tide. The Sandhouse Hotel overlooks Rossnowlagh Beach, with the exit in the Surfer’s Bar the shortest route to the strand.

Sport & Leisure


Rossnowlagh Beach caters for all surfers, from first time beginners to intermediate and experienced surfers. With gentle crumbling waves and an occasional punchy beach break, Rossnowlagh is the perfect beach to start you off surfing!  No rips, shore breaks or scary sea creatures….Surfing is extremely popular with many of our guests as all equipment can be hired locally. In fact, wet suits can be delivered to your bedroom so you can walk out through the Surfer’s Bar ready for the waves! Rossnowlagh Beach is popular with surfers all year round, and nearby Bundoran is world famous surfing destination.


Rossnowlagh Beach is perfect for walking with miles of golden sand, but the local area has more to offer the keen walker or rambler. The Creevy Shore Walk is a purpose built coastal footpath 10 miles in length running from Rossnowlagh through Creevy to the mouth of the Erne Estuary in Ballyshannon.  Walkers will be enchanted by breathtaking views along the Co-op’s specially constructed cliff walk. The  route passes over moor and farmland and is equipped with fence stiles and direction markers. This walk is most suited to the physically fit and is a must for the explorer!


With many hidden pathways and a stretch of golden sandy beach there are plenty of places to take off cycling. The Finn McCool Surf School hires out bicycles and will point you in the direction of great cycling routes, such as the Ballyshannon Cycle Hub and the Kingfisher Cycle Trail.


Donegal has an abundance of top class links courses, many of which are on our doorstep. We will be only too happy to assist you in booking in to any of the local courses. Donegal Golf Club, Murvagh is only a five minute drive from the hotel. It is one of Ireland’s outstanding championship links golf courses, designed by legendary course architect  Eddie Hackett. Narin Portnoo Golf Club is one of the most scenic golf courses in Ireland. The Par 69 course is perfect for both low and high handicappers with the best of both links and inland features. The County Sligo Golf Club at Rosses Point is less than an hour’s drive from the Sandhouse is one of the oldest courses in Ireland. It is the home of the west of Ireland championship and has hosted many other prestigious golf events.

Arranmore & Tory Ferry

Arranmore and Tory Islands off the coast of Donegal offer visitors an opportunity to experience a different pace of life in these Irish-speaking communities. Both ferry-journeys are quick, and passengers often spot seals and other marine life on the crossing. Both islands have world renowned scenery and offer stunning views of the Atlantic, beautiful sand and stone beaches and traditional music sessions in the pubs.

The Arranmore ferry departs from Burtonport (80 km from The Sandhouse Hotel) several times a day and takes only 20 minutes. Visit their website for more information:

The Tory Island ferry departs from Magheroarty (107 km from the Sandhouse Hotel) twice a day a day, with a journey time of 45 mins. Visit the link for more info:

Walking Tours in Donegal and have teamed up to provide you with a unique experience when visiting Ireland. Whether your visit is simply to enjoy the wonderful unspoilt countryside or to get to those unexplored locations which most visitors don’t see or just simply to travel throughout the countryside and experience Ireland from a local perspective, Walking Ireland will provide you with a tour or walking guide who will ensure that your visit will be a memorable one.

Tours include Donegal Town, the Bluestack Mountains and the Slieve League Cliffs. Car Rental 

WPayless Car Rental is the car rental brand of the premium service seeker. They aim to offer better customer service and better cars to their customers. 

Car Rental Locations include Dublin Airport, Dublin City Centre North, Dublin City Centre South, Cork Airport, Galway City Centre, Kerry Airport and Shannon Airport. 

Visit their website today for the best deals: 

Culture & History

Ballyshannon Heritage Town

The nearby town of Ballyshannon is thought to be the oldest town in Ireland. Situated on the mouth of the River Erne, its history stretches back to some of the earliest settlements in Ireland on Inis Saimer. Viking invaders followed and, in 1597, Red Hugh O’Donnell defeated English forces in the Battle of Ballyshannon. The Ballyshannon Historic Town Walk will lead you through sites of historic interest: the once thriving port, the site of the O’Donnell Castle, the 18th century barracks, the home of poet William Allingham. You will also pass the bronze statue to rock and blues legend Rory Gallagher, who was born in Ballyshannon in 1948.

Donegal Castle

Built by the O’Donnell chieftain in the 15th century, beside the River Eske, the Castle has extensive 17th century additions by Sir Basil Brooke. The Castle is furnished throughout and includes Persian rugs and French tapestries. Information panels chronicle the history of the Castle owners from the O’Donnell chieftains to the Brooke family. Limited access for people with disabilities to the ground floor. Donegal Castle

The Franciscan Friary

The Franciscan Friary is located in Rossnowlagh which hosts a fantastic museum as well as beautiful peace gardens.  It was established 1470s, and destroyed in 1601. A modern foundation was made in the county in Rossnowalgh in 1946, where a new church and friary were opened in 1952.  Only a 2 minute drive from The Sandhouse. The Franciscan Friary

Ballyshannon & District Museum

The museum features many aspects of the local area and covers such topics as the railways, the Erne River detailing its history as one of Europe’s richest salmon rivers to the building of the hydro-electric Dam and its effects. The military room detailing Ballyshannon’s extremely strategic location and its long association with military life from earliest times through to the Battle of Ballyshannon 1597 to World War 1 and its local connections. The museum also contains memorabilia and pictures covering a vast array of subjects such as art, music, sport, crafts, fishing and local media. There is a re-construction of the local workhouse during famine times. Ballyshannon & District Museum

Ballyshannon Drama Festival

The Ballyshannon Drama Festival takes place in March every year in the Abbey Arts Centre, Ballyshannon, as part of the national amateur drama competition. Each year, nine drama companies from around Ireland travel to Ballyshannon to compete over nine nights for qualification to the All Ireland Final. Tickets are available on the door each night, with curtain at 8.30pm, except the final night which is 7.30. For more information, visit:

Rory Gallagher Festival

Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival 2017 takes place in the town where the world’s greatest Guitarist was born – Ballyshannon, Ireland. The festival traditionally takes place on the last weekend of May each year. For four days the town of Ballyshannon becomes a mecca for fans of Rory Gallagher, rock and blues, from all over the world. Rory Gallagher was born at the Rock Hospital in Ballyshannon in 1948 and since 2002 the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival has celebrated the Music & Life of Rory Gallagher in Ballyshannon, with over 10,000 fans now attending the Festival annually.

Ballyshannon Folk & Trad Festival

The Annual Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival is the longest running festival of its kind in Ireland. The festival usually takes place around the August Bank Holiday weekend. The sounds of traditional folk and music will echo from the streets, pubs and theatres once again. The weekend is family-friendly.

Allingham Arts Festival

The Allingham Arts Festival brings the finest of local and national artists, writers, poets, musicians and film-makers to Ballyshannon every November. The festival takes place in November each year. . Visit

The Sandhouse Hotel & Marine Spa,
County Donegal,
Tel: +353 (0) 71 9851777