Visiting County Donegal? This most northern part of the Irish Province of Ulster
(which is not identical to Northern Ireland) has a number of attractions you will not want to miss. Plus some interesting sights that are slightly off the beaten path. So why not take your time and spend a day or two in Donegal when visiting Ireland? Here are some ideas to make it worth your while ...
Rossnowlagh's Orange Parade
It is a moment of high weirdness, once very year - orangemen and -women descend upon the sleepy seaside town of Rossnowlagh to parade from the church to the beach. What has the trappings of an outing to the seaside (complete with ice cream vendors, food stands and tacky souvenir stalls) is in fact the only parade of the Orange Order in the republic of Ireland
. Peaceful and a family affair. And colourful, though blue, white and red are the pre-dominant shades.
Rathmullan's Tribute to the Earls
The Flight of the Earls Heritage Centre
in the small town of Rathmullan will provide visitors with an glimpse of a momentous event in Irish history - when the rebels Hugh O'Neill and Rory O'Donnell emigrated in 1607, effectively leaving Ireland in the hand of the English.
When you are visiting Donegal Town, you will notice Magee's shop in the centre - which also is a sort of centre to the tweed trade here. And much more. the small but sprawling emporium has everything you need to remind you of you visit to Ireland. From small souvenirs to whole outfits. From conservative to modern. from tweed, mainly. If you need a "lad's cap" in multiple colours, a grandfather shirt for a good night's sleep or simply a sturdy pair of breeches, you'll find it here.
With all this tweed, do not forget to visit Donegal Castle - it is just around the corner!
Glenveagh National Park
Come for the landscape, maybe spot eagles and more mundane wildlife ... Glenveagh National Park
is the northernmost of the National Parks of Ireland, located on 16,000 acres of mountainside in County Donegal. A remote, beautiful wilderness area with rugged mountains and crystal-clear, often mirror-like lakes. The park consists in part of the old Glenveagh Estate and its mountains, but also the peatlands of Lough Barra bog.
Slieve League - Cliffs of More Height than Moher
They will take your breath away, that is a promise - the cliffs of Slieve League
are the highest sea cliffs in Europe. A nearly sheer drop of roughly 2,000 feet separates the Atlantic Ocean from the highest point of the cliffs. A guaranteed lethal drop, so extra care is advised, especially with children. Signposted only locally and in the middle of one of the remotest areas in Ireland, Slieve League is not easy to get to. And this will not get better once you pick up the signposted route. But the way is worth every twist and turn and sheer drop ...
The Mysterious Grianan Ailigh
A stone erection of note - the Grianan Ailigh (or Grianan of Aileach) can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The main structure visible today is a ringfort (long destroyed but restored in the late 19th century and, again, a few years ago), but a holy well
and other, older structures nearby suggest other uses of the site as well. Open to interpretation.
Glencolumbkille - An Early Tourism Initiative
The small village of Glencolumbkille (or Glencolmcille or Gleann Cholm Cille) is in a very remote part of the Donegal Gaeltacht
, here Irish is frequently spoken ... but nothing else really was going on. Until Father James McDyer hit the rural scene in 1951. The priest developed the first community facilities (in an area that did not even have electricity at the time) and tried to stop the general decline of village. One of his ideas was the re-development of small, local industries and a visitor-friendly folk village and museum. Though this may not live up to the hype any more, it is still worth visiting.
Spiritual Healing at Saint Patrick's Purgatory
This is not a tourist attraction as such - this is a pilgrimage site strictly open to those seeking meaning and direction (or simply quiet contemplation) only. Visits of the "quick look, photo and away again" kind are definitely discouraged. But for any traveller wanting to experience the spirituality of Ireland Lough Derg (also known as Saint Patrick's Purgatory)
is worth serious consideration. Serious in every sense, as the full pilgrimage should not be taken lightly.
More Information on County Donegal and the Province of Ulster
Moving On ... Beyond Donegal's Borders
Enough time spent in County Donegal? Then carry on in the neighbouring counties: