Glenveagh National Park nestles in the Derryveagh Mountains 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.
Size of the Glenveagh National Park
The Glenveagh National Park stretches over roughly 16,000 acres.
Location of the Glenveagh National Park
The Glenveagh National Park lies around 25 kilometres to the north-west of Letterkenny.
Getting to the Glenveagh National Park
From Letterkenny take the N56 through Kilmacrennan, then turn left on to road to Gweedore (R255). Alternative routes can be found, but this is the quickest and easiest way.
Glenveagh National Park Visitor Centre
The Visitor Centre for Glenveagh National Park is located on the northern shores of Lough Veagh - and fascinates with its award-winning design. A "living heather roof" lets it blend into the surrounding landscape. Displays within the Visitor Centre provide an introduction to the Glenveagh National Park's history and amenities. Information on walking trails can be found and the guides on duty provide further information.
The Visitor Centre is open daily, excepting Good Friday and Christmas. A small restaurant is open at Easter and tehn again from June to September.
Main Attractions in the Glenveagh National Park
Wildlife and fauna in the Glenveagh National Park is varied according to the different habitats in the park.
The hilltops and rocklands have an ecosystem similar to parts of the Arctic and lower Alps - sparsely vegetated with shrubs, mosses and liverworts. Plants commonly defined as "Arctic-Alpines" began to thrive here after the last ice age, including alpine club-moss, silvery moss, bear-berry and dwarf willow. Needing just a short cool summer they are ideally suited to the mountains of Donegal. Wildlife in this habitat includes hares (which may scare you inadvertently by jumping out of cover and fleeing at the last possible moment). As these are essentially Arctic mountain hares, their coats may turn white in winter. Birds regularly observed here are the golden plover, the peregrine falcon and the raven.
Further below, the boglands of the Glenveagh National Park are comprised of upland blanket bog, covering fissured bedrock with many clefts and gullies. The peat cover is uneven at best of times, of varying dampness and mixed with exposed bedrock is many places. Drier areas provide a habitat for ling heather, bell heather, crow-berry and blueberry. Damper stretches of the boglands support wet grassland with deer grass, rushes, purple moor grass and molinia ("protected" from deer by the purple moor grass) as well as the insectivorous sundew and butterwort. Lower bog areas near the sheltered valley floor thrive with bog cotton and bog asphodel.
You may also spot the largest animal in Glenveagh National Park grazing on boglands - red deer, completely wild and not likely to let you approach freely. Best wait until they are distracted: Rutting season is between mid-September and mid-November.
In summer, scores of meadow pipits populate the boglands of Glenveagh National Park, departing for the winter. Their enemies are birds of prey like peregrines and kestrels. Who will also snack on other small bogland animals, like mice, shrews and lizards.
Glenveagh National Park also has around 100 hectares of (partly) natural woodlands. The largest being Mullangore Wood on the shore of Lough Veagh, consisting dominated by oak and birch, but also rowan, holly, hazel, yew and aspen. These woodlands provide a haven for plants adapted to moist, shady conditions. These are also amongst the favourite foods of red deer, so some areas had to be fenced off. Migrant birds like the spotted flycatcher,the wood warbler and chiffchaff arrive from Africa early summer. On the ground, badgers and foxes are leading their predatory lives in the woods, along with other animals (a.k.a. prey) like the long tailed field mouse.
Freshwater lakes in Glenveagh National Park come in all sizes, with deep Lough Veagh being the largest - and as lakes collect their water from sources within the park, they are free from pollution. Salmonids and eels thrive, along with the Arctic charr (normally a seagoing fish). Waterfowl include the red-throated diver, a rarity in Ireland.
The Golden Eagles of Glenveagh National Park
The reintroduction of the golden eagles to Ireland started in 2001 and several dozen have been released from Glenveagh National Park since then. The best time to spot them in the park is during winter days.
Amenities in the Glenveagh National Park
Glenveagh Castle is a 19th century mansion, built in a remote mountain setting to conform to the Victorian ideal of a romantic highland retreat. Its style somehow imitates Irish tower-houses, erected from granite it has a forbidding air - yet within the rooms are preserved in their romantic yet comfortable original condition. Access to the castle is by guided tour only.
Glenveagh Gardens are situated near a steep, wooded hillside, next to Glenveagh Castle and Lough Veagh. They feature an astonishing range of exotic plants from South America, Tasmania and China and a collection of rhododendrons.
Further Information on Glenveagh National Park
For more information and updates on events use the website of Glenveagh National Park at http://www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie/visit.html