6 Things to do in Donegal
With such a vibrant Gaelic culture, there are so many things to do in Donegal that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Similarly, with such atmospheric beauty, Donegal has a wealth of places you have to see if you get the chance to visit this enchanting corner of Europe. For those of you lucky enough to join us here, we have decided to make a list to help you narrow down some of the best attractions, outdoor activities, and sightseeing spots in Donegal for families, groups and solo travelers. (Not booked your stay yet? Why not check out our Singing Holidays or Contact Us to arrange a trip for your group) So here it is, 6 things to do in Donegal:
Take in the views on top of An Grianan Ailigh
One of the largest ring forts of ancient Ireland still standing, this mysterious, brooding structure dates back to 1700 BC. In Mythology, An Grianan Ailigh is said to be built by the Dagda (the good god), one of the ancient supernatural race the Tuatha de Danann, as a grave site for his son Aedh.
There is quite an ascent to the fort and narrow stairs to climb to the top of the neolithic structure, but the payoff is very rewarding. Breath taking views of Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle juxtapose against the green braes and pastures of the famous ‘Hills of Donegal’ in a most glorious fashion. An area rich in history, there is also a cairn and a holy well situated near by.
Go Walking Ards Forest Park
A must visit spot for anyone looking to stretch their legs in Donegal, Ards forest Park is a 1200 acre woodland park. Although primarily forest, there are also a few beaches. There are a number of trails and terrains to explore there is something for everyone from the casual stroller to the seasoned hiker.
With the all the facilities available within the park (parking, toilets, picnic tables and playground) you can easily spend a whole day exploring the woods, the beaches, or look for the historical sites such as Diarmuid and Grainne’s bed, a mass rock, a holy well and a ring fort.
See Doe Castle
Located on Sheephaven bay, Creeslough, this castle is the backdrop for a tragic love story of Shakespearean proportions.
Thought to be built in 1425 the castle initially served as a stronghold for the MacSweeney clan and also has connections with Gaelic uprising of the 1640s and the rescue of the Spanish Armada.
During the summer months there is a coffee shop and guided tours of the castle are available. This is one of the more little known things to do in Donegal, for reasons unfathomable. Worth the visit for the views alone!
Visit Glenveagh National Park
Not many national parks can boast their own castle. Nor can they boast such an interesting and varied history. From it’s origin in the Dark history of the Irish famine, to ties with the McElhinney Tabasco sauce dynasty, to the disappearance of Arthur Kingsley Porter Glenveagh has a very interesting background, one you can learn about during a guided tour inside the 19th century castle.
Also interesting from a horticultural point of view it boasts some of Ireland’s most beautiful gardens. The contrast of exotic trees and ornaments collated by the castle’s former owners against the rugged Donegal backdrop make for very interesting and varied walks and hikes. There are many walking trails to follow with something to suit every level of hiker.
The visitor centre boasts an interactive experience in which you can learn all about the flora and fauna of the park, as well as a restaurant serving Dinner every day of the week. The Castle tea rooms also serve baked goods and light snacks.
Not to be missed, a trip to Glenveagh National Park should be included in every Co. Donegal stay. For more information visit glenveaghnationalpark.ie
Take in A Traditional Irish Session
One of the best things to do in Donegal when it rains, the ‘trad session’ is a long standing and integral part of Irish culture. If you want a real experience of Gaelic culture it really doesn’t get as authentic as the trad session.
Sessions are usually free to attend and held weekly in pubs. The session is a place where any musician is welcome to bring an instrument and join in, provided they know the tune. The point of the session is not to entertain the people who have come to listen but for the musicians to play the music that is in their hearts and souls. Gaelic authenticity in it’s purest form.
Here you will find a list of Sessions in Donegal. We Recommend Teach Billie in Gortahork.
Visit the Islands
There are a number of Islands off the coast of Donegal, some still inhabited and some abandoned and in a state of beautiful decay, all with something unique to offer.
On arrival to Tory Island you will be given a very friendly welcome from the warm locals. Nine miles off the coast of the mainland, surrounded by the wild atlantic ocean, Tory is the most remote inhabited island of Ireland.
Colmcille founded a monastery on the island in the 6th century, although ruins of a round tower is all that remains.
In Irish Celtic mythology the Fomorrii (another ancient supernatural race) had a stronghold on Tory Island. On the island you can also find ruins of a fort belonging to their king, the mighty cyclops Balor of The Evil Eye.
There is a lot more information on Tory available here.
Only inhabited for a portion of the year, the summers provide a busy tourist season for this small and beautiful Island. A fishing Island where Irish is spoken almost exclusively, it gives a true sense of Irish Gaeltacht life. Accessible from Magheroarty Pier, this quiet and peaceful place is worth a visit just for the stunning views of other Islands and the mainland itself. Connected to the Glenveagh story, it was from here that Arthur Kingsley Porter disappeared.
You can also visit the hovel that once housed Neil McGregor, another interesting character who stayed on the Island, who recently had a film made about his life.
The Largest and most active of the islands, Arranmore is a great stop for tourists. With regular ferries to and from Burtonport pier, traditional pubs and frequent sessions there is always something to do. It is also home to the annual Swell Festival, a showcase of Ireland’s fantastic and criminally overlooked music scene.
Once a busy fishing Island, now uninhabited, this is the definition of abandonment beauty. Ideal for those looking for a secluded walk and a great spot for rock climbing and bird watching. Get there via the Bunbeg Pier.
So as if you needed it, here are 6 more reasons to visit Donegal, the coolest place on the planet. Do you know of any other great things to do in Donegal? Don’t be shy, add a comment!