Donegal is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets, nestled at the far north west of the country, post card perfect scenery, mighty mountains, sandy beaches, and even a glimpse of the northern lights. Donegal has even been named by National Geographic Traveller (UK) as No. 1 place for 2017 in it’s an annual “Cool List” of recommendations for people who love to travel. Far from the urban centres, Donegal retains the wild open countryside and welcoming charm of rural Ireland. Travelling through scenic towns and villages, the pace of life is slow and steady, the air is pure and the beaches seemingly endless..
Movie buffs may also like to take note: last summer, scenes for ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’ were filmed on Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula. Outdoor enthusiasts will have a ball in this unspoilt haven, from surfing beaches in Magheroarty and Ballyhiernan Bay to the famous Mount Errigal, Muckish and Blue Stack mountains. Charming St. John’s Point Lighthouse, marks a favourite spot among divers. Donegal’s Horn Head peninsula boasts a driving, walking or cycling loop that squeezes the 1,600-mile Wild Atlantic Way into a 4.5-mile nutshell. The Sliabh Liag cliffs are noted as Europe’s highest sea-cliffs standing 1972ft above sea level. A walk to these towering cliffs also allows ample opportunity to experience the unique wonders of the natural biodiversity of marine flora and fauna found here. Be dazzled by the panoramic view across Donegal Bay, which will take your breath away!
The scenic area of Glencolmcille is also one of those special enclaves of Ireland where the native Irish language continues to be spoken daily. Here you can enjoy a visit to the unique Glencolmcille Folk Village. This Gaeltacht region is a hive of cultural activity from set dancing and traditional music to guided tours and educational packages tailored for those who would wish to learn or relearn the Irish language.
Off Donegal’s northern coast you will see the island of Inish Boffin and then the shilouette of ancient Tory island beyond. Travel by boat to Tory from Bunbeg or Magheraroarty and experience this outpost of Gaelic Ireland where language and culture has been passed on through unbroken generations. This is a magical place alive with legends and history and traces live on in the landscape – from the tower of Balor a one-eyed king, to gentle Saint Columba who once had a settlement here. Just 2 ½ miles long and ¾ mile wide, Tory is home to 100 people and is the most remote of Ireland’s inhabited islands.
In the Donegal heartlands you can explore Glenveagh National Park where woodlands, wildlife and rugged countryside invite you to experience the magic of nature. Glenveagh Castle in Letterkenny is another favourite attraction of the region, where a guided tour brings you a fascinating view into daily life of those who lived here many hundreds of years ago. The Glencolmcille Folk Village and Doagh Famine Village in Inishowen offer vivid stories of Ireland past. Back at the coast, highlights include Malin Head, Ireland’s northernmost tip – and the breathtaking views at Fanad Lighthouse in Portsalon where you can even book a room for the night. The craic is said to be mighty around these parts.
The world famous musician Enya hails from Donegal, the misty magical quality of her music reflected in the luminous landscape here. Along the northern shores, the spectacular display of the northern lights can be viewed on a clear night, a reminder of the mystery and beauty of creation which can be felt most keenly in this most remote and unpolluted region of the planet.
Food lovers can really celebrate at the Taste of Donegal Food Festival which runs from 25-27 of August this year in Donegal town.