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Donegal Guide

Your essential guide to Ireland's most beautiful county with 70 of its best locations.
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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Duration: Multiple days
Family Friendly

Overview :  2014 update: this guide is part of the free Donegal App http://www.donegalapp.com/

For those in the know, Donegal is a word that can ... more »

Tips:  Ensure you familiarize yourself with the points of interest beforehand. They are in alphabetical order, rather than in order of... more »

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Points of Interest

1. An Grianan Theatre

Built to the highest spec in 1999, An Grianán Theatre is a modern 383 seat arts and entertainment venue in Letterkenny. It has a truly varied programme of events throughout the year including comedy, drama, music, ballet and much more. The Box office is open Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 6pm,?Saturdays, 10am to 6pm. Disable access. Restaurant... More

A good telling of the role the county played in the weaving industry. There's a hand loom weaver on site and an audio visual guide upstairs as well as a small café. Open Easter-September, Monday to Saturday 10-6, Sunday 2-6.

The Diamond, Ardara
+353(0)74951704

3. Arranmore Island

Get the ferry out from Burtonport to one of the wilder places in Ireland, both for scenery and a cracking time.Highly regarded lake and shore fishing and walking can be combined with a lively pub scene in the evenings.

Renowned for their atmosphere, the island has six traditional Irish pubs. The islanders are proud of the large store of stories ... More

4. Ballyliffin Golf Club

Two championship links - The Old Links and Glashedy Links. Ireland's most northerly golf complex is situated on the Inishowen peninsula in North Donegal, just 25 miles from Derry City. The 36-hole complex at Ballyliffin is ranked amongst the very finest links tracks in the world and is a personal favourite of Rory McIlroy's.

Ballyliffin,... More

5. Balor Arts Centre

The state of the art Balor arts centre opened its doors in 2008. It hosts over 100 music, drama and comedy performances each year in Donegal's newest purpose built arts venue.

+353(0)79131840
http://www.balorartscentre.com/php/index.php

6. Barnesmore Gap

This is the very heart of the county, where north meets south. it's an extraordinary sight whether you see it from Sligo or coming south from Letterkenny. Ensure you stop off at Biddy's O'Barnes pub on the Donegal Town side of the gap to soak up the atmosphere. Tales of highwaymen, hangings, fairies and strange weather abound in this place - make ... More

7. Blanket Nook

At one stage in time, Blanket Nook marked the western side of the divide of the island of Eoghain or Inishowen from Donegal. These days, this curiously titled wetland is a well known site for waders and wildfowl. Best birds are smew (drake and redheads) which have a high count for Ireland. Whooper swans are present as well as some greenshank.

... More

8. Bloody Foreland

Cnoc Fola "the hill of Blood "(Bloody Foreland) is so called because the sun, particularly at evening, lights up the rocks to a reddish hue. In the autumn ferns turns russet redish brown. In truth, the name has no background of history to warrant the title 'bloody' although you may hear of one or two colourful tales about battles with... More

9. Bluestack Way - Ardara finishing point

The Bluestack Way, possibly the finest walk in the northwest, begins in Donegal Town and takes the walker along country lanes to the magnificent Lough Eske - ensure you see our Lough Eske Nature Guide.

At the well marked Famine Pot, take the Path way to the east of Banagher Hill through the Eglish Valley and along the foothills of the Bluestack ... More

10. Bundoran Blue Flag Beach

Bundoran certainly has come a long way since the writer's mother was dragged there every summer some 60+ years ago. Fine walks, plenty to do for the surfer and a cracking Summer festival called www.seasessions.com. The well maintained Blue Flag beach is seconds away from the fine Rougey walk. Look out for Madden's for food and atmosphere and The... More

11. Carrickfin Blue Flag Beach

Flying in to Carrickfin airport on a good day shows off just how stunning a location this long sandy beach is. Make a dip in the water the first thing you do upon landing and a nice stroll getting in that powerful sea air the last thing before leaving - until the next visit.

12. Colmcille Heritage Centre

Interpretive exhibition featuring Saint Colmcille (Colomba), patriarch of Irish monasticism and the Scottish church, founder of Derry, patron saint of Donegal and (alleged) arch plagiarist. One busy man. The story is told with artistically designed banners, stained glass, illustrated panels, artifacts, a wax model with authentic clothing and step ... More

13. Craignamaddy

Just outside of Greencastle, this hilltop view offers the most spectacular view of the Foyle delta. To the left is Shroove, across the water you can see as far as the Giant's Causeway; coming closer, the iconic Mussenden Temple at Downhill, the plateau of Binevenagh and down below is of course Lough Foyle, described by writer Joyce Cary as the... More

14. Cruit island Golf Course

Although a mere 9 hole course, Cruit island is considered to be one of the best 9 hole golf courses in Ireland. The golf course enjoys spectacular views of Aranmore and Owey Islands, Mount Errigal and the ruggged coastline near Kincasslagh on the mainland and is forever accompanied by the sound of crashing waves below.

The golf course is 2,809... More

15. Culdaff Blue Flag Beach

Long sandy beach with Culdaff estuary on the left and rocky Dunmore head on the right. Good all round for kids - there's a playground beside it. Also good for surfers, fishermen and birdwatchers and nearby Culdaff has the great McGrorys to take care of your stomach and your ears with regular trad sessions and some real surprise guest stars.

16. Dan's Cottage

Music, song, recitations and poetry in an authentic thatched cottage. Tea and homemade scones served. Entry is discretionary with proceeds to Charities. Brendan Kearney has intermittent nights of traditional music and craic here in the heart of the onetime "Poitin Republic". In the not so distant past, before television came into peoples... More

Open from Easter until late October, 10-5.30. Disabled access. Tea & scones included with entrance fee. This hidden gem is a reconstructed village with great attention to detail. Your affable host, Pat, puts famine in a global context and tells it with warmth, wit and insight. You also get to hear about old Irish funeral customs as well as... More

For most of the last two hundred years, the majority of Donegal Castle lay sadly in ruins, but was almost fully restored in the late 1990s due to an unwavering local campaign by the likes of legendary Mary B. 'Dee' Crossan and Paddy Meehan (amongst others).

Built in 1474, the castle consists of a 15th century rectangular keep with a later... More

Contains several local archaeological finds, including some early Christian material and Iron Age stone heads. Downstairs is a gritty and honest account of the harshness of life in rural Donegal in the 19th century. Open year round Monday to Friday 11-12.30, 1-4.30, Saturday 1-4.30.

High Road, Letterkenny
+353(0)74 9124613
museum@donegalcoco.ie

20. Donegal Railway Heritage Centre

Donegal Railway Heritage Centre is a museum of entertaining displays, pictures, information and artefacts of the County Donegal Railway and Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railways that once had 225 miles of three-foot gauge railway in County Donegal, all closed by 1959.

The Old Station House, Tyrconnell Street, Donegal town
00353 (0) 74 97 22655
... More

21. Donegal Ancestry Centre

2012 UPDATE: CURRENTLY CLOSED - BEST TO CALL IN ADVANCE IN CASE THERE IS ANY CHANGE ON ITS STATUS. The Donegal Ancestry Centre is the official family history research centre for County Donegal and was established to help people trace their Donegal ancestors.
Learn more about your surname, your place of birth or tracing your Donegal ancestors.

... More

A real gem of a journey around Donegal Bay taking in historical sites as well. Times of sailing dependant on tides so please call prior to journey. As a guide, sailings are from Easter through September. Disabled access although best to call prior to sailing.

The Harbour, Donegal Town
+353(0)74973666
info@donegalbaywaterbus.com

23. Donegal Craft Village

Meet the artists in their workshops and treat yourself to the many items on offer for yourself or as a memorable gift. Donegal Craft Village is a showcase for contemporary arts and crafts in Ireland. Stop off and indulge in Aroma, the award-winning restaurant renowned for its freshly ground coffee, delicious home made cakes and gourmet lunches.... More

24. Donegal Golf Club (Murvagh)

One the longest and best 18 hole links courses in Ireland, the Eddie Hackett designed course at Murvagh is surrounded by Donegal bay. Frequently in the top 100 courses in these islands. Stunning.

+353(0)749734054
http://www.donegalgolfclub.ie/

25. Dunfanaghy Workhouse

Visit the famine exhibition where you'll hear the story of 'wee Hannah' and her life in 19th century Donegal. There's also a craft shop and a restaurant. They also run courses throughout the year. Open all year round.

+353(0)749136540
www.dunfanaghyworkhouse.ie

26. Dunlewy Lakeside Centre

This is a reconstruction of the home of the late Manus Ferry who died in 1975. You can see weaving in progress, see assorted farm animals, take a boat ride with a storyteller and in the evenings there are fine traditional music sessions. Open Easter to October, Monday to Saturday 10.30-6, Sunday 11-7.

Dunlewy 353(0)749531699
http:/... More

27. Fintown Railway

Travel along 4 miles of narrow gauge railway by the lough.

Summer 2012
1st June 2012 - September (start of Sept).
Mon - Fri - 1st train at 10am and then every hour on the hour until last train at 5pm
Sat - 1st train at 11am and then every hour on the hour until last train at 4pm
Sun - 1st train at 1pm and then every hour on the hour until last... More

28. Fintra Blue Flag Beach

The main beach just outside of Killybegs has been a family favourite for years and the venue for a fine Aidan Gillen and Gina McKee short film some years ago, 'Burning the Bed'.

29. Fort Dunree

By any reckoning, there's a lot to see and take in at this historical military fort, the last piece of property to become part of Eire in 1938. Look out for the Guns of Dunree exhibition, The Rockhill collection, wildlife discovery room, scenic walks, souvenir shop & cafe.

074 9361817 E: dunree@eircom.net, www.dunree.pro.ie Limited disabled... More

30. Gartan Outdoor Education Centre

Superbly located, set on 87 acres on the shores of Gartan Lough, 15 minutes from Letterkenny. The Centre provides a wide range of Adventure Sports Activities, Environmental Education Courses, Team Building, Management Training and Adventure Sports Training. Open 7 days a week, all year round. Disabled access.

Gartan 353(0)74 9137032
office... More

31. Glebe House and Gallery

This Regency House built in 1828, is set in woodland gardens, decorated with William Morris textiles, Islamic and Japanese art etc. The collection includes 300 works by leading 20th century artists; Picasso, Kokoshka as well as Irish and Italian artists. Exhibitions are shown in the adjoining gallery. Access to ground floor of the Gallery for... More

Located 3km from the village, the enterprising local priest Father McDyer not only brought electricity to the area, but established this replica folk village back in 1967 complete with thatched cottages and a shebeen with some choice local wines made from fuchsias and seaweed. Bottoms up! Open Easter to September, Monday to Saturday, 10-6, Sunday ... More

33. Glenevin Waterfall and Raghtin Walk

The spectacular Glenevin waterfall is located between Straid and Crossconnel, 2km from the village of Clonmany. The roadside entrance to the waterfall and picnic area is beside the Glen House, but you'll need to park further down the hill towards Clonmany. This waterfall cascades fresh mountain water descending over black rock from an astounding... More

34. Glengesh Pass

This really is one of the great treats of the area. Look down this green valley, towards the caves, the dunes and on to the sea. You are about to come in to one of the most enjoyable parts of the county with copious festivals, an abundance of great scenery that walkers love and something for the pub connoisseurs out there!

35. Glenveagh Castle & Visitor Centre

A Donegal must see. Erstwhile home to gas meter heir, disappearing professor and notorious landlord, now home to red deer and golden eagles in 16,500 square kilometre setting. Also includes a visitor centre with 20-minute audio-visual display. Good clothing & footwear required. Limited disabled access. Restaurant. Open mid March to early... More

36. Grianan of Aileach

Grianan of Aileach, the stonehouse of the sun. According to legend, it was built by Daghda, an ancient King of the Tuatha de Danann. A hillfort that once was at the historical centre where 18 high kings ruled over Ireland. During that time, the acts of its kings, warriors, tribes saints and sages dominate many of the pages of Ireland's history but... More

37. Inch Wildlife Reserve

With good parking facilities, a few designated hides along the way and 8km of walkways mean that this is probably the best resourced vantage point from which to enjoy the cacophonous carnival that is the combination of the 3000 strong swans and geese that can be in this area at any given time.

http://www.inishowenwildlifeclub.com/inchlake.htm

38. Inishowen Head

Views of the northern coast as far at the Giant's Causeway, Rathlin island and the western isles of Scotland. Described in Joseph O'Connor's book, "Inishowen" as the "best view in the world" no less. Nearby Shroove has a Blue Flag beach for some safe Summer swimming. Look out for the looped walk and even the eagles that have... More

The former coastguard station houses a fine collection on the history of local sailing as well as the Spanish Armada as well as a state of the art planetarium. Across the road, look out for a memorial to all those souls who were lost to the sea in the Inishowen locality.

Open June-September Monday to Saturday, 10-6, Sunday 12-6. Winter opening... More

40. Killahoey Blue Flag Beach

Just north of Dunfanaghy, this beach has ample parking and has white sand and blue seas - the stuff of childhood dreams.

41. Killybegs Maritime and Heritage Centre

Besides being Ireland's premier fishing port, Killybegs is a great area beside the sea and is brilliant for water sports like surfing, canoeing, windsurfing, diving, kite-surfing and also water skiing. A new dive centre just opened last year and diving is available for over 16s but for 12 and over swimming pool diving is available. At the dive... More

One of the hidden gems of the peninsula. To those in the know, there is beautiful beach within the bay sheltered by steep hills offering spectacular views. It's the location point of the Spanish Armada ship, La Trinidad Valecera, shipwrecked in 1588, a popular site for divers.

43. Knockamany Bens

The view on a good day from Knockamany Bens is without a doubt, one of the best panoramas you will see in your life. And that is no exaggeration. After Lagg church, follow the brown Inis Eoghain '100' signs and brace yourself - it gets windy up there.

44. Lifford Courthouse Visitor Centre

The 18th-century Old Courthouse is home to a fine heritage centre with eerily lifelike recreations that use actors faces projected onto waxworks. In this manner, Manus O'Donnell tells the story of Donegal's Gaelic chieftains and several bona-fide trials are re-enacted in the austere courtroom (including that of Napper Tandy, John 'half-hanged'... More

45. Magee of Donegal

Magee of Donegal, opened in 1866 by the founder of the company John Magee, it is located in Donegal Town. We have a great selection of tweeds for both men and women and beautiful knitwear and a large range of casual wear. Occasion wear to hire and an excellent selection of suits. Upstairs, they have an extensive gift department and a lovely cafe, ... More

46. Maghera Caves

One of the hidden gems of the county, just off from the Glengesh Pass road. Thankfully, they are signposted. The beauty and tranquillity of these caves belies the tragic past when rebels hiding from Cromwell's forces were finally found and executed in the caves. Grounds open year round. Take account of the tides.

Granny, Ardara.

47. Magheroarty and Tory Island

In a county of numerous stunning views, there are few more imposing sights of fear and wonder than looking out to Tory island from here. The island is famed for being the home to Balor of the Evil Eye, a nefarious giant cyclops and looking at the jagged rock and heaving waves around it, you might just for a second make out his shadow...

With its ... More

48. Malin Head

Ireland's most northerly point overlooks the crashing waves of the Atlantic. An area rich with flora and fauna and the freshest air in Ireland, ensure you walk from the Napoleonic tower on Banba's Crown hill to Malin Head itself taking in such curious sights as Hell's Hole and Devil's Bridge along the way. Good sea angling, hillwalking and... More

Note the scenic cottage which featured in the opening scene of The Railway Man with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. Being so far out in to Donegal Bay, you are looking out to Mayo, down to Croagh Patrick mountain. Note that the nearby Rathlin O'Beirne lighthouse was for a while in the 70s nuclear powered no less, before becoming the wind... More

50. Mamore

Mamore - Madhm Mor, great breach or gap. The glacial debris here dates back some 15,000 from the Ice Age.

In 1811, the parish of Urris was ordered to pay a heavy fine for making poteen. In consequence, some of the men in 1812 equipped themselves with cannon taken from the wreck of the Saldanha and ambushed a British force in Mamore - the only way... More

51. Marble Hill Blue Flag Beach

Tucked in to the coastline beside Port na Blagh, this beach is popular for the surfers out there.

52. Mount Errigal

Donegal's highest peak at 752 metres is a fine site and is doable if you are equipped for the weather and terrain. Two routes up it: the easier one taking 2 hours with the more difficult one on the northwest ridge taking 2.5 hours over tricky scree. Fine views await of not only all parts of the county, but well into surrounding counties, weather... More

53. Narin Beach

A real gem of the county, there is an island not far from the beach that can be walked out onto when the tide goes out.

54. Newmills Corn and Flax Mills

The oldest surviving building here is said to be 400 years old. Indeed, the whole complex is an interesting reminder of a stage in the industrial development of this country which has now given way to a more sophisticated, but usually far less fascinating technology. The visitor to Newmills can experience the pleasure of seeing one of the largest ... More

Oakfield Park is an eighteenth century Georgian Deanery, which has won Gerry and Heather Robinson national awards for the restoration of its gardens and buildings. Sitting in a lush landscape of parklands and mature woodlands, overlooking the distant Croaghan Mountain, the grounds include a traditional walled garden and kitchen garden. Flower... More

56. Old Tom Morris Links Rosapenna

The other great course in Rosapenna. In 1891, while a guest of Lord Leitrim at his nearby estate, Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews, a winner of four British Opens in the 1860s, took a drive to enjoy the Donegal scenery. Morris was quick to see the golfing potential of this fine stretch of Donegal coast line and before returning to the home of golf he... More

57. Peter Oliver's

A.K.A. The Corner House owned by musician Peter Oliver McNelis.

Legendary trad music house - 7 nights a week. A 'must' if near Ardara.

58. Poisoned Glen

This is an awe-inspiring ice carved corrie by the side of Errigal mountain with Dunlewey at its centre. It once held a glacier that flowed north towards Dunlewy and debris left by the glacier still covers the marshy floor. The glen's curious name is thought to come from a poisonous spurge that once grew there. Don't be deterred by this as the... More

59. Portsalon Blue Flag Beach

Pipped to the post as the best beach in the world some 40 years ago according to some travel writer, it still has a lot to offer, bar the hoards and the Hawaiian temperatures of the outright winner. Long, sandy and windswept, it's a treat for the kids, big and small.

Portsalon,
Fanad peninsula.

A very highly regarded links course. Worth the journey for both the views and the craftsmanship of the course. Portsalon Golf Links was established in 1891 and is one of the founder members of the Golfing Union of Ireland, the oldest golfing union in the world. This gem of Irish golf holds a lasting memory for every golfer of a truly
outstanding ... More

61. Rossnowlagh Blue Flag beach

Beach of Tony Blair's childhood, scene of the biggest Orange parade in the Republic every July and surfers' Mecca, there's something for everyone on this famous beach. Make sure Smuggler's Creek up on the hill or the Sandhouse Surfers' Bar are factored in after a lazy day here.

62. Slieve League sea cliffs

Often called the highest sea cliffs in Europe, but a very respectable sixth dropping some 600 metres to the sea, they are located some 5km northwest of the village of Carrick via Teelin. Ensure you follow the sign marked Bunglass (not the Slieve League one!) to start your walk. Good footwear and clothing essential. Watch out for the dreaded One... More

63. St. Connell's Museum and Heritage Centre

The Heritage centre is named after St. Connell Caol who, in the 6th century, founded a monastic settlement on Inniskeel Island, north of Portnoo near Glenties. The museum includes the prison cells of the late 19th century courthouse and has many artefacts pertaining to the famine in South West Donegal. Open throughout the year and guides are... More

64. Start of Atlantic Drive

You are about to embark on a magnificent drive that hugs the coast in parts and is rightly regarded as one of the best scenic drives in Europe.

65. Teach Hudi Beag

Legendary Gweedore pub where all great trad musicians have played and where it is said that the actual Irish session as we know it, started. A must see - and hear.

Near Bunbeg pier
353(0)749531016

66. The Flough

Sam Laird's house, known as The Flough referring to the marshy soil around it, was in its day a notorious smuggling house along the border on which it sits. These days, the only mischief taking place comes from The Flough members, a performing group that meet up sporadically in the Summer to recreate an American Wake, being what the departure of a... More

67. The Old Abbey

With great views of Donegal bay, this was the former site of the old abbey of the Franciscan monks, one of which was Brother Michael O'Cleary, the head of the Four Masters who wrote the main chronicle of the middle ages, The Annals of the Four Masters.

The annals are mainly a compilation of earlier annals, although there is some original work.... More

68. Tullan Strand

If you're in to surfing then this is the place to go. Site of the European championships a few years ago, this beach on the outskirts of Bundoran is one that is left all to the surfer to enjoy.

69. Ulster Scots Centre

Poised gracefully amid the fertile lands of the Laggan Valley in East Donegal, near the banks of the River Foyle, approximately 8kms from the historic city of Derry is Monreagh Ulster Scots/Scots Irish Heritage & Education Centre. In the tranquil settings of a beautiful restored 19th century manse. Visitors are taken on a journey through the... More

Wave pool with 5 wave patterns, 2 speed rapids and a variety of children's water features. Slide pool with the Tornado Flume, Yellow slide and Snake spray. Whizzer Slide - the fastest water slide in Ireland. Sauna & Steam Room and loungers overlooking the Atlantic available.

Open daily over Easter week. Open weekends rest of April and May ... More