See also Glenveagh National Park
The county of Donegal is located in the far north-west of Ireland. The Irish culture and language are strong here with one third of the people speaking the native tongue. Traditional music plays a strong role in pub entertainment. The many miles of indented coastline offer spectacular views of dramatic cliffs and uncluttered beaches. The interior is made up of glens and mountainsónotably the Blue Stack and the Derryveagh mountains.
Glenveagh National Park, Irelandís largest, is sited by the Derryveagh mountains. The park is a mix of moorland, woodland and bog. A large herd of red deer inhabit the park.
A castle, garden, and visitor centre are located here. The four storey rectangular keep was built between 1870-73. The surrounding grounds include an Italian garden, pleasure grounds, walled garden, rhododendrons, and woodland. In the park visitor centre is an exhibition and AV presentation as well as a restaurant and tearoom.
Near the eastern boundary of the park at Church Hill by Gartan Lough is the Colmcille (St Columbo) Heritage Centre. An exhibition on St Columba and a display on manuscript making are housed in the modern building. Remains of a monastery, church, and holy well sit on a hillside looking over Lough Akibbon. Georgian Glebe House and Gallery are in the same area. The house, an old rectory, is home to paintings by 20th century artists, William Morris textiles, and middle east ceramics.
Letterkenny, a market town on Lough Swilly, is the largest and main town in the interior. It is said to have the longest main street in the country. In June it puts on the Donegal International Rally and Open Golf Week; in July an arts festival is held. The cathedral of St Eunan and St Columba was built in the late 19th century in the neo-gothic style. The interior has celtic designs and a Carrara marble pulpit. To visit in the town is the Donegal County Museum in an old workhouse. Artefacts and displays give local information. Three miles south-west at Newmills are two mills, one a grain mill and the other a flax mill.
Raphoe, south-east of Letterkenny, has another gothic church and the ruins of a bishopís palace. The bronze age Beltany stone circle is south of the village. 64 stones of the original circle remain.
Lifford, sits on the border of Northern Ireland. The Seat of Power Visitor Centre is housed in an old courthouse. The dungeons can be visited. Cavanacor is a furnished historic house with a museum, art gallery, craft shop, tearoom, and garden.
South of Letterkenny, Ballybofey/Stranorlar are busy commercial twin towns separated by the river Finn. The ruined walls of Elizabethan Drumboe castle are found in this fishing centre. At Fintown, west of the twin towns, is a narrow gauge railway. North of Letterkenny, at Kilmacrennan is Doon Well.
The town of Donegal is located on a large bay of the same name. Attractions include the furnished15th century Donegal castle, a tower house morphed into a Jacobean mansion, on the south bank of the river Eske and the Franciscan Donegal friary ruins that include a church and buildings. The friary was founded in 1474.
Historic walking tours start at the tourist information centre, and there are water cruises from the pier. A summer festival is held in June. Nearby the Kilaghtee Cross sits in the grounds of a 12th century church. A railway heritage centre and a contemporary craft village with six workshops on the Ballyshannon road are further places to visit.
The oldest town in Ireland, Ballyshannon, overlooks the Erne estuary south of Donegal. Mountain, lake, and forest views are on view from the steep streets. A beach, Georgian homes, interesting shops and pubs enhance this attractive area. Just north of Ballyshannon at Ballintra is the Ballymagroarty Heritage Centre with information relating to the monastery of the same name founded by St Patrick. West of the town on the Rossnowlagh Road is Abbey Mill and House of Craft. One of the two mills is a restaurant other while the other is a craft shop and museum.
Donegal Parian china is found at Portnason on the road to Bundoran. Galway crystal, Belleek china and other products are for sale. A music festival is held in June and a water carnival in July. A Franciscan friary operates from here. Bundoran, on the far south coast at Donegalís border with Leitrim, is a major seaside resort with sandy beaches and a golf course.
Heading from Donegal westward brings the countyís long coastline into focus. Killybegs, set on a steep hill on Donegal Bay, is a major fishing port, while Kilcar is a centre for the famous Donegal tweed.
From the village of Carrick you reach the eastern end of Slieve League mountain where a road leads to Teelin, an Irish speaking village, then heads onward to Bunglass.
A mile and a half after traversing a steep, narrow road you come upon the Sliabh (Slieve) League cliffs (also called the Bunglass cliffs), the highest sea cliffs in Europe at 2000 feet. The view is one of Irelandís best. Glencolumkille Folk Village, on the west coast by the village of the same name, is home to cottages, each reflecting a different centuryóthe 17th, 18th, and 19th. Thereís a teahouse with homemade foods, a bakery, and a craft shop. This is turf cutting country.
Further up the west coast the road leads to the Glengesh Pass. A car park at a viewpoint shows a valley between mountains. Ardara is a Donegal tweed centre and its story is told at the Ardara Heritage Centre. Five miles north-west in Lough Doon is Bawn, an oval fortress with 17 foot high walls. Glenties lies at the junction of the Owenea and Stracashel rivers. In the old courthouse is the St Connellís Museum and Heritage Centre where local history can be discovered with AV presentations and artefacts. Across from the museum is St Conalís church.
On a peninsula between Lighros More and Gweebarra bays at Portnoo is the Kilclooney Dolman Centre, an eco-tourism centre built by the community. It houses a local craft centre and art gallery.
Aranmore (Aran) Island, three miles off the coast, is the second largest Irish island. Ferries reach it in a 20 minute trip from Burtonport. On the island are cliff views, a walk to the lighthouse, seven lakes, and local crafts. A festival is held in August. Annagry, sandwiched between the coast and the Derryveagh mountains near Lough Anure, is a Gaeltacht area. Casad Ntsugain is a restored thatched cottage offering crafts and snacks. There are beaches nearby.
Bloody Foreland gets its name from the sun that causes the rocks to give off a reddish hue. This is most noticeable in the evening. In addition the ferns growing here turn a reddish brown in the autumn.
Offshore, Tory Island is reached from Bunbeg or Magheraroarty. Known for its school of painters, the island also has the Tau Cross and round tower left from a 6th century settlement founded by St Colmcille. Falcarragh is a market town on the north coast where the An Tsean Bheairic, a former police station, houses the Donegal Visitor Resource Centre with history and culture displays, a tourist information centre, coffee shop, and an AV presentation. In Dunfanaghy a former workhouse tells the story of the people who lived in it. An art gallery, craft shop, and coffee shop provide amenities for travellers.
The 1188 acre Ards Forest Park lies on the N56 between Dunfanaghy and Creeslough at Sheephaven bay. Beaches, rivers, walks, sand dunes, viewing points, and historical and archaeological features provide a variety of activities. The Horn Head scenic route includes high cliffs, a blow hole, bird colonies, and views in all directions. Near Cashel is 15th century Doe Castle, a national monument. The four storey keep protected by a moat had a great hall, round towers and a building added at later dates. Next to the castle are the ruins of a Franciscan monastery.
Another scenic drive circles the Rosguill peninsula. The Fanad peninsula lies just across the water. Sand dunes, small lakes, and white cottages characterize the countryside. At Rathmullan is an exhibition, the Flight of the Earls. It refers to 1607 when the earls of Tyrconnell and Tyrone sailed from Ireland after being defeated by Queen Elizabeth I and never regaining their power. Also in the town are the ruins of a 15th century Carmelite priory. Ramelton is an attractive town sitting on a river. Warehouses along a quay, a town square, and a ruined 17th century church provide interest.
To reach Donegalís Inishowen peninsula requires heading south to Letterkenny to pick up the N14 north. This large peninsula has at its tip Malin Head, Irelandís most northerly point. Mountains, blanket bog, steep cliffs, and stony ground make up the countryside. Many fishing villages have thatched houses. Heading up the west coast of the peninsula leads to the Grianan Aligh (Grianan of Aileach). Itís a reconstructed circular stone fort that copies the original constructed in the early Christian years. The walls have small chambers, and there are steps to the ramparts which have views over the countryside.
Buncrana is the main town and resort on the peninsula, helped along by its long sandy beach. OíDochertyís keep is a Norman tower with a nearby mansion. On the outskirts of the town is the Tullyarvan Mill Museum, all about the textile industry. 18th century Fort Dunree, on a cliff overlooking Lough Swillyís panoramic views, houses original guns and contains exhibitions and military memorabilia. Ballyliffen is a resort.
The ruins of Carraickabraghy Castle at Doagh Island (not an island) house a visitor centre with exhibitions on the famine and culture and history of the area. Malin is a 17th century plantation village. At Carndonagh is St Patrickís high cross dating from the 8th century. Other crosses are those at Carrowmore, site of a monastery, and St Bodanís cross by the ruined 17th century Clonca church.
Kinnagoe Bay provides a sandy beach while Inishowen Head offers views over to Northern Irelandís Giantís Causeway. The Inishowen Maritime Museum is located at the Coastguard station, in Greencastleís harbour. The town also has a state of the art planetarium and a pleasant beach. Ferries make the short run across to Londonderry county in Northern Ireland.
For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website
Abbey Mill and House of Craft
Rossnowlagh Road, Ballyshannon
Tel. 0 71 985 1260
An Tsean Bheairic (Falcarragh Visitor Centre)
Tel. 0 74 918 0888
Web: Falcarragh Visitor Centre
Ardara Heritage Centre
Tel. 0 74 954 1704
Ards Forest Park
On N56 between Creeslough and Dunfanaghy at Sheephaven Bay
Tel. 0 74 912 1139
Arranmore Island Boat Trip
Tel. 0 75 20532
Ballymagroarty Heritage Centre
Main Street, Ballintra
Tel. 0 74 973 4966
Anagry, near Lough Anure
Tel. 0 74 954 8770 or 0 74 954 8726
Cavanacor Historic House
Tel. 0 74 914 1143
Colmcille (St Columbo) Heritage Centre
Tel. 0 7491 37306
Doagh Island Visitor Centre
Tel. 0 74 937 8078
One mile off Carrigart-Creeslough road
Tel. 0 74 913 8445
Donegal Ancestry Centre
The Quay, Ramelton
Tel. 074 915 1266
Web: Donegal Ancestry Centre
Donegal Bay Waterbus
Donegal Pier, Donegal
Tel. 074 972 3666
Donegal town centre
Tel. 0 74 972 2405
Donegal Craft Village
Ballyshannon Road, Donegal
Tel. 0 74 972 2225
Donegal County Museum
Letterkenny, in old workhouse on High Road
Tel. 0 74 912 4613
Donegal Parian China Visitor Centre
Portnason, Bundoran Road, Ballyshannon
Tel. 0 71 985 1122
Web: Donegal Parian China
Donagel Railway Centre
Old Station House, Tyrconnell St, Donagel Town
Tel. 0 74 972 2655
Web: Donagel Railway Centre
Dunfanaghy village outskirts
Tel. 0 74 913 6540
Fintown Narrow Gauge Railway
Tel. 0 74 954 6128
Flight of the Earls Exhibition
Rathmullan, by Lough Swilly
Tel. 0 74 915 8131
Web: Flight of the Earls Exhibition
Fort Dunree Military Museum
Tel. 0 74 936 1817
Web: Fort Dunree Military Museum
Glebe House and Gallery
Tel. 07491 37071
Open: 11am-6.30pm, closed Fridays
Glencolumkille Folk village
Tel. 0 7497 30017
Glenveagh National Park and Castle
Near Churchill; shuttle bus from castle to visitor centre
Tel. 0 74 913 7090 or 0 74 913 7262
Kilclooney Dolman Centre
Greencastle to Northern Ireland
Tel. 0 74 938 1901
Inishowen Maritime Museum and Planetarium
Greencastle, coastguard station at the harbour
Tel. 0 74 938 1363
Web: Inishowen Maritime Museum and Planetarium
Newmills Grain and Flax Mills
Newmills near Letterkenny
Tel. 0 74 912 5115
Railway Heritage Centre
Tel. 0 74 972 2655
Seat of Power Visitor Centre
Tel. 0 74 914 1733
St Connellís Museum and Heritage Centre
Glenties, in old courthouse
Tullyarvan Mill Museum
Buncrana, outskirts of town
Tel. 0 74 936 1613
County Donegal Tourist Information Centres
Railway Road, Inishowen
Tel. 0 74 936 2600
Tel. 0 71 984 1350
Chapel St, Inishowen
Tel. 0 74 937 4933
Tel. 0 74 972 1148
Open year round
Tel. 0 74 952 1297
Tel. 0 74 918 0888
Open: Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm, Sat and Sun noon-5pm
Tel. 0 74 912 1160
Open year round
Official Tourism and Government Sites
Inishowen Tourism Society
Photos of Glenveagh, roadside view of mountains, Glenveagh castle, Bloody Foreland, Doagh Island © by Barbara Ballard
Other photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Lough Eske by Henry Clark; Lough Akibbon looking east, Letterkenny cathedral of St Eunan and St Columba, Raphoe St Eunan cathedral interior, Lifford town courthouse, River Eske, Ballyshannon street, Ballyshannon St Patrick church, Bundoran beach, Aranmore island, Aranmore island beach, Tory Island bell tower, Rathmullan Flight of the Earls sculpture, Ramelton village, Carndonagh Cross by Kenneth Allen; Beltany stone circle by Chris Gunns; Dunfanagay by Ron Goodhew; Letterkenny by Mervyn Greer; Kilcar, Adara main street by Gordon Hatton; Killybegs road from Donegal town, Donegal Abbey ruins, Gartan graveyard near St Columbcille church ruins, Donegal craft centre by Kay Atherton; Kinnagoe Bay by Patrick Mackie; Ballbofey sculpture, Drumboe castle ruins by Louise Price; Donegal town ruined friary, Ards Forest Park boardwalk by Ross; Donegal town walk along Esk River by P L Chadwick; Teelin Harbour, Bunglass cliffs by John M; Kilclooney dolmen by Oliver Dixon; Ards Forest Park path by Joseph Mischyshyn; Malin Head West town habour, Buncrana coastal view by Dr Neil Clifton; Kinnagoe Bay by Patrick Mackie
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