County Donegal

Bloody Foreland, County Donegal

Donegal is making waves. Perched on Ireland's rugged northern coast, it recently topped National Geographic's Cool List for 2017 - and with good reason...

Escape to Donegal

Sometimes Donegal seems more like a country than a county amongst many. Situated in the remote northwest of the island, and further isolated by wild landscape, country roads and a coastline that cuts and curves, the word “escape” doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

And as all travellers know, there are rewards to venturing off the beaten track. Take Glenveagh National Park, where the Derryveagh Mountains frame a valley that wouldn’t look out of place in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. So wild is the landscape here, golden eagles have successfully been reintroduced to the skies overlooking Lough Veagh.

Or venture out to the stunning Slieve League peninsula. Stretching from Donegal towards the Gaeltacht village of Glencolmcille, you’ll rarely have much traffic to contend with. And the road literally runs out at the show-stopping Slieve League cliffs. Dropping 600 metres into Donegal Bay, they’re amongst the tallest in western Europe. An unforgettable hike and a highlight of the Wild Atlantic Way, the breathtaking coastal touring route that runs from Donegal to Cork.

Surf’s up

Wanna catch a wave? Bundoran was named one of the World’s Coolest Surf Towns by Travel+Leisure, a place where passion for pubs, music and surf culture collides. You’ll find a similar ethos at Rossnowlagh, Dunfanaghy and the Fanad Peninsula.

Of course, surfing is only the start of the outdoor options. Try salmon fishing, diving in Donegal Bay, rock-climbing on offshore islands, or hiking along the sea cliffs of the Atlantic shore: you won’t want for fresh air in the northwest.

An island fit for a king

Donegal is Ireland’s second-largest county (after Cork), so perhaps all of this diversity is not so surprising. Take the Inishowen Peninsula. This isolated idyll took the glory from our more northerly neighbours recently by welcoming the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) to its shores during a peak in the sun’s activity. Perhaps these mystical lights are what inspired Hollywood to bring the stars to earth, and film parts of Star Wars: Episode VIII here!

Then there’s hiking in the Bluestack Mountains, ancient forts, seaside taverns and several Irish-speaking Gaeltacht regions that await those who take to the roads in this far-flung county.

And it can get very far-flung: 14.5 kilometres off the northwest coast, Tory Island is a place where islanders still talk of “travelling to Ireland.” Shipwrecks, poitín (Irish moonshine) smuggling and violent storms have all been drawn into folklore here. And ancient customs are still in place – including the appointment of the island king, or Rí Thoraí.

Make the trip, and you can expect a royal welcome, too.

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