Rugged, dramatic Irish coastline and scenery – most people will immediately think of Cork, Kerry and Connemara to name a few. However Donegal, while not as well known, is no less beautiful. It is no wonder that National Geographic recent awarded Donegal ‘The Coolest Place on Earth’
From Europe’s highest sea cliffs to wild moorland and endless white beaches; From castles and forts to ancient sites bursting with history. Not to mention playing host to the latest Star Wars franchise. Donegal is truly an untouched and beautiful part of Ireland just waiting to be discovered.
Glenveagh National Park
Justifiably claiming to be Ireland’s most scenic National Park, Glenveagh is the second biggest national park in Ireland, after Wicklow. Rugged mountains and lakes serve as a backdrop to Glenveagh Castle, which sits proudly on the lake shore.
Cycle, walk or take the shuttle bus up the road path that hugs the lake up to the castle. Whilst at the castle, be sure to check out the beautiful walled gardens, then walk or cycle past and explore deep into the park.
Afterwards you can pick up a tasty cake and coffee in the small café there and sit back to savour the scenery. And don’t forget to look up, because Golden Eagles have been recently introduced to the area.
Truly an untouched gem in the heart of Donegal.
Sheskinmore nature reserve
Located just north-west of Ardara is the Skeskinmore Nature Reserve. Regarded as one of the most important nature reserves in Ireland, it is perfect for nature enthusiasts.
Depending on the time of year, you’ll see something different. In spring you’ll be treated to hues of whites and yellows from the snow drops and dandelions, while in the late spring you’ll find colours of pinks and purples on the landscape from the Irish Orchids and Sea Pinks.
Discover more about the different seasonal flowers here on Friends of Sheskinmore
It’s truly this area of Ireland’s unspoiled nature, that lends itself so well to such an incredible nature reserve.
Friends of Sheskinmore would like to point out: “That the site is protected for conservation, is also a nature reserve and partly privately owned, so just to respect the wildlife and people – Thank you”
Situated on the shores of Sheephaven Bay, and in the foothills of the majestic Derryveagh Mountains, is the town of Dunfanaghy. The town has a friendly and vibrant feel to it. With traditional pubs and a cool outdoor pizzeria, it also happens to be a bit of a hub for watersports and horse-riding.
Horseriding on Dunfanaghy
What better way to embrace the Wild Atlantic Way, than by horse-riding along one of its pristine shores. Dunfanaghy stables lets you explore this sandy and rocky shoreline by horseback.
Murder hole beach on Melmore point
Described by the Irish Times as – Ireland’s Most Mysterious Beach. Don’t let its ominous name deter you, which is thought to come from Irish Legend. The story goes that the Irish warrior Fionn Mac Cool murdered Goll Mac Morna here, in revenge for killing his father.
The beach is difficult to find, no road goes there and you may have to cross a field of friendly cows, but it’s well worth the effort. Once there, you can take in the cliffs and sea caves that surround it. The perfect spot to enjoy a picnic, away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Doe Castle, Sheephaven Bay
Not far from Dunfanaghy on the shores of Sheephaven Bay, is Doe Castle. It was once the stronghold of the MacSweeneys for 200 years, who came from Scotland as mercenaries on the behest of the O’Donnells of Donegal.
The castle was called Caislean na dTuth, but like many Irish place names, it was anglicised to Doe Castle.
In its off the beaten path location, you’re unlikely to find lots of tourists here. – leaving you free to explore freely. There is a tour of the castle, which only costs €3 and gives you a glimpse into the past historical events the occurred here.
Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula, is famous as being Ireland’s most Northerly point. Also soon to be famous for another reason – scenes from Star Wars VIII were filmed in this location.
As you drive up from Buncrana, the views of Malin Head really open up. The coastline is dotted with rocky outcrops, rolling grassy hills and sandy beaches. If you can, make sure to catch a sunset there – pure magic.
Grianán of Aileach
Its hilltop location was built as a strategic defence against potential invaders. Nowadays from the top of the Neolithic Fort you can stand and view the three counties of Donegal, Derry and Tyrone, which makes for an amazing panoramic view.
The fort was built in 600AD but the site dates back to 1,700BC. It has been built and rebuilt over the years. This has helped to act as a timeline for the Celtic empire. There is even a local legend around it – if you tell a secret with the fort walls, everyone will find out!