July 26, 2008

Travel: 10 Great Reasons to Visit … Donegal ; The County of Donegal is One of Ireland’s Finest Hidden Treasures. Here Are Our Top 10 Reasons to Visit the Rugged Region

1. Scenery

Donegal is breathtaking with misty mountains, serene lakes and dramatic coastlines. There are some fantastic walks and drives around the county. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas spent a summer there in 1935, in a bid to try and stay away from the bottle and to gain inspiration.

2. Glenveagh National Park in Letterkenny

16,540 hectares of mountains, lakes, glens and woods, with a herd of red deer.

A Scottish style castle is surrounded by one of the finest gardens in Ireland, which contrasts with the rugged surroundings.

Glenveagh Castle was built in the years 1870-1873, the castle consists of a four-storey rectangular keep.

3. Donegal Castle in Donegal Town

Built by the O'Donnell chieftain in the 15th century, beside the River Eske, the castle has extensive 17th century additions by Sir Basil Brooke. The castle is furnished throughout and includes Persian rugs and French tapestries. Information panels chronicle the history of the castle owners from the O'Donnell chieftains to the Brooke family.

4. Tory Island

Situated 11 miles off the north west coast of Donegal and the most northwesterly point in Europe, this treeless Island measures three miles by one mile.

Legend has it that the island was occupied by a race of pirates whose god-chief was Balor of the Evil Eve.

In the 6th century St Columbcile founded a monastery on Tory and its round tower and Tau Cross still survive.

The power of the sea is a constant theme in the Islanders' "primitive" paintings, which are famous throughout the world.

There are regular boat trips to the island.

5. Horn Head

This is probably the most dramatic of the beautiful Donegal peninsulas. You get a real sense of the power of the sea and the resilience of the land on this wild peninsula.

There are two splendid viewpoints, one on the north side where the cliffs dominate the scenery, and the other on the south side overlooking Dunfanaghy with the backdrop of Muckish and the Derryveagh mountains.

6. Old Franciscan Abbey

Situated at the mouth of the Bay are the ruins of an ancient Franciscan monastery founded in 1474 by the first Red Hugh O'Donnell and his wife Nuala O'Brien.

They and their son were laid to rest there; however the exact site of the graves is no longer known. In the course of its tragic history the Friary was besieged many times and in 1601 was partially destroyed by an explosion while occupied by the English who were under the command of the second Red Hugh's own cousin Niall Garbh O'Donnell III.

7. Bundoran Beach

One of the best in the county. It is a Blue Flag beach, about 250m north of Bundoran town's main street. This is a resort town which includes Waterworld and a funfair. It is a sandy beach facing Donegal Bay and the Atlantic bounded on the north and south by rocks and is popular with surfers.

The beach is life guarded from June to August, from 10amto 9pm.

8. Malin Head

This is a favoured spot for bird watchers; most significantly it is one of the few places in Europe where you may hear the elusive corncrake. The Meteorological Station (built in 1955) is at Malin Head.

There is also the Wee House of Malin - a cave in the hillside, which is said to be the home of St Muirdealach. Legend has it that no matter howmany people entered this cave it always had room for more.

At Dunargus on the southwest crown of Malin Head a tunnel drives through the rock.

9. Walking

One of the best is the Inishowen Head Walk that takes you through some of Donegal's most impressive coastal scenery.

Within a relatively short distance of leaving the start of the walk you are in remote country with wonderful views (including Scotland on a fine day).

10. Sheskin More

This area is regarded as one of the most important nature reserves in Ireland. It encompasses an area of approximately 1,000 acres, and is situated near Kiltoorish, Rosbeg, Co Donegal. Sheskin More is open to the public all year round, and offers families and nature enthusiasts all the beautiful wonders of nature only to be found in Ireland.

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