Hi Everyone. This week we’re going to take a trip to where the Wild Atlantic Way begins, the incomparable County Donegal. The county’s motto, “Up here it’s different”, captures its distinctiveness and isolation from the rest of the country. Lonely Planet quite aptly describes County Donegal as the “wild child of Ireland” and with good reason. A four-hour drive from the capital, Donegal rewards the long journey many times over. With castles, cottages and 300 miles of coastline, it is a truly unforgettable place. So here are 10 (of many!) good reasons to visit County Donegal
10 Reasons to Visit County Donegal
1. Slieve League Cliffs
Typical of the drama of the Donegal landscape, Slieve League are the highest sea-cliffs in Europe, 600m – nearly 2,000 feet! – above the sea. That makes the Slieve League cliffs higher even than their famous neighbours the Cliffs of Moher. Looking down from Slieve League, keep an eye out for two interesting rocks known as the ‘school desk and chair’. Slieve League is most spectacular in the evening when the Atlantic Ocean reflects the last of the daylight.
2. The Poisoned Glen
Visitors to the Poisoned Glen often wonder at how inappropriate this somewhat dark name seems for such a beautiful place. Legend decrees that the hollow of the glen got its name when the one-eyed king of Balor was killed by his grandson Lughaidh. The poison from his eye reportedly flowed into the glen! More likely it is a simple translation error. Only one letter separates Heaven – ‘Neamh’ and Poison – ‘Neimhe’ in Gaelic, the original Irish language. And looking at the landscape, ‘Heavenly Glen’ certainly seems more apt.
3. Glenveagh National Park
Ireland’s second-largest national park covers 16,000 hectares and is a walkers paradise. Feast your eyes on the Derryveigh Mountains and discover the stunning 19th-century Glenveagh Castle and gardens in its fairytale setting on the shores of Lough Veagh.
4. Glenveagh Castle
Glenveagh stands in stark contrast to the rugged Donegal landscape that surrounds it. The Castle and its grounds are a carefully cultivated tribute to the design of Balmoral Castle, the British Royal Family’s holiday retreat in Scotland. Its recent history has been equally star-studded. Past guests include Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo and Clark Gable.
5. The Inishowen Peninsula
Time to head to Ireland’s largest peninsula, Inishowen. More magic awaits here with a wealth of stunning beaches, the highest sand dunes in Europe, charming fishing villages and countless relics of ancient Ireland.
6. Rossnowlagh beach
Rossnowlagh or ‘The Heavenly Cove’ is one of Europe’s top Blue Flag surfing beaches. The force of the Atlantic ocean and the unique funnel shape of Donegal Bay combine to create towering waves, especially in winter, when waves can reach a staggering 7 meters!
7. Fintown Railway
Donegal’s only functioning railway comes highly recommended by the late great Brian Friel, one of Ireland’s most celebrated playwrights. Friel attests:
“What is on offer is a unique journey along the shores of a lake as grand as any in Switzerland or Minnesota”.
A three-mile return trip on the Fintown Railway takes you through mountains and along the shores of Loch Finn, offering a unique perspective on Donegal’s spectacular landscape.
8. Glenevin Waterfall
Standing at over 40ft tall, Glenevin’s wedge-shaped fresh mountain waterfalls onto a black rock called Pohl–an-eas. The name translates as ‘ferment pool’ due to the foam that can be seen on the surface of the pool’s waters.
This stunning corner of south-west Donegal is ruggedly beautiful and tradition, culture and the Irish language are preserved and cherished here. Take in the ever-changing landscape and soak up the unique atmosphere. A veritable treasure chest of stone-walled fields, awesome sea-cliffs and breathtaking beaches.
10. Silver Strand, Malinbeg
So if I was absolutely forced to name my favorite Irish beach then this would have to be it. This stunning horseshoe bay with its sandy white strand and bottomless blue waters is such a treat. Descend the many stone steps and find yourself wrapped in majestic cliffs with exceptional views.
If you get the chance then I urge you to make the trip and experience this stunning county!
And, don’t forget to take your Aran sweater with you if you’re there in the cooler months. Actually take it whatever the weather!
Slán go fóill!