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Donegal has it all this Christmas

To quote a famous song….It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!! This is a time of year that means many things to many people. It can be a time for looking back or looking forward; eating too much or sleeping too little; for family and friends, or for escaping it all; for celebrating a small child’s humble birth, or enjoying the generosity of an old man in a red suit!

Donegal has so much to offer you at this magical time of the year, there are a host of events and adventures that cater for families, friends, couples, the young, and the not so young. Go Visit Donegal has put a range of suggestions that will help to maximise your Christmas experience if you are thinking of paying us a visit. It is by no means all that Donegal has to offer this festive season but may whet your appetite to jump on board the magical sleigh ride of festive fun that will be passing your way in the coming weeks.

What better way to get things started, than to join in the many Christmas Light Switching On celebrations taking place across the county, such as the Christmas Lights Switch On in Letterkenny on the 29th of November, or why not join World Renowned Comedian, Tommy Tiernan a week later in Bundoran for the Christmas Lights Countdown.  If you are in Donegal Town on the 1st December, why not join us for the official switch on at The Diamond at 7.30 pm?

Indeed, the last weekend in November will really see the Christmas spark illuminate our lives with unique one day events such as Christmas at Monreagh, an event for all the family where the kiddies will be entertained with  live Christmas music, traditional Scottish dancing, mince pies and most importantly a visit from Mr and Mrs Claus.

Donegal will also play host to some great craft fairs that will provide your loved ones with hand crafted gifts that can be treasured. To celebrate the high quality of creativity that Donegal has to offer, the Christmas Craft Fair in the Holyrood Hotel, Bundoran, and the Christmas Fair at the Mount Errigal Hotel, Letterkenny are just two such events that take place on the 1st of December where you are sure to find Christmas treasures.

The first week of December will also see the start of month long events such as Santa’s Kingdom in Buncrana and Santa’s Hotel at Jackson’s in Ballybofey where families will have the opportunity to meet the man himself! 
A magical family event taking place each weekend for the festive month is Follow the Star at IOSAS, Muff. The tranquil setting will be an oasis for families looking to escape the commercialism, hustle and bustle which can dominate this time of year. Take some time together to enjoy an experience which will have the children discussing the real Christmas story long after this event. Families will enjoy a guided trail under starlight and a very special dramatic piece created especially for this event.

The Northwest Christmas Wonderland will be a magical Christmas family experience opening on 30th November and running each weekend right through until 23rd December.
The Christmas Wonderland will feature Santa’s Grotto, storytelling with Mrs.Claus, Rudolph the Reindeer, a Christmas market, Christmas lights, a live animal crib, children’s disco and much more, this is a must if you are in the area!
One not to be missed if you are in the area is A Little Taste of Christmas in Donegal Town on 30th November and the 1st of December, there will be  host of gift ideas, cookery demonstrations and entertainment for the little ones. 
A week later will see other events join the celebratory run-up to Christmas such as, Santa’s Lodge at Ballyliffin. For the culturally conscious, why not check out the Family Christmas Concert at An Grianan; an evening of Christmas-inspired vocal and instrumental music, which will embrace your festive spirit and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and kick-start your Christmas cheer!
The Children’s Christmas Storybook Workshop in Letterkenny will provide a great platform for children to develop ideas and creative writing skills in a fun and dynamic environment.
Christmas themed nights out for the not so young include Harvey’s Point Christmas Cabaret; Christmas Jumper Night in Killybegs; or more traditional Christmas entertainment such as ‘Christmas by the Hearth’ with Sean Keane and Friends in Letterkenny.
Speaking of Christmas and Tradition, The Abbey Hotel in Donegal Town will play host to the Singer/ Songwriter of one of the greatest Christmas songs ever written. ‘Fairy Tale of New York’ creator, Shane McGowan will take to the stage along with Sharon Shannon and Mundy on the 28th and 29th December as part of a special Christmas Tour that is sure to deliver the finest in home-grown world class entertainment. Finally, let’s not forget the many Christmas Pantomimes that will be performed across the county.

That’s all before we head into the New Year celebrations, and the Epiphany, or Little Christmas as it is also known. Irish tradition dictates that this is the day that women relax after the hustle and bustle of Christmas, while the men take over the housework. The tradition is still alive in counties Cork and Kerry and The Red Door has certainly given it a revival in Donegal over the past three years!

So here’s hoping that this taster of all that is on offer in Donegal has got you itching to get out the decorations and looking forward to the festive season.
There are many great deals on accommodation in Donegal if you fancy popping by for a visit. So whether you want to avail of one of the many charming self-catering cottages, apartments or holiday homes available, or are looking to avail of some first class service in one of our hotels, B&Bs or guesthouses, come and enjoy the feast of festive fare on offer as Donegal prepares to celebrate the holiday period in style.
Finally, we at Go Visit Donegal wish you and your family a Christmas that is as breath-taking as our landscape, as heartfelt as our welcome, as pure as our water, and as peaceful as our lakes!
Nollaig Shona Daoibh!             

Pumpkin Carving Competition and Pumpkin Parade

Kiddies in eager preparation for the Pumpkin Carving Competition 

If you’re looking for something to keep the little ones (and not so little ones!)  entertained over the Mid Term break, then check out Bundoran as the town is set to go pumpkin crazy on Tuesday October 29th with its first ever pumpkin carving competition and pumpkin parade.

Families and groups will have the opportunity to come together at the Atlantic Apartotel on Main  Street between 4 and 7pm and have some “bonding” time as they carve their own pumpkin which they can then keep after the competition and parade is over. For just €5 registration, a family or group can take part in this fun afternoon of fancy dress and pumpkin carving – designs can be their own or ones provided. Each group will have an hour to carve their pumpkin.

 Weather depending then, Bundoran’s first ever Pumpkin March will then happen at 7pm when everyone’s pumpkins will be lit and, accompanied by the Bundoran Samba Band and the Magh Ene Stilt Walkers, will parade down Main Street from the Apartotel to the junction of Main Street and Station Road and then onto the outdoor performance space beside Bundoran Community Library. Here the pumpkins will be judged and prizes awarded.

 Speaking about the event Bundoran Tourism Officer Shane Smyth said ‘this is the first event of its kind in Bundoran and one we are very much looking forward to. Everyone associates pumpkins with Halloween but the carving of them hasn't been such a huge tradition – this year we want to start that tradition here in Bundoran. We’re also hoping that the weather will be kind to us on the evening of the 29th so we can complete the Pumpkin Parade to the library. More details including a FAQ section are available on: www.discoverbundoran.com/pumpkin’

AND.. Another five great reasons to visit Donegal

  1. Great, Great Food
Dotted throughout Donegal are many iconic restaurants, each with their own wonderful history, style, traditions, charm and picturesque surroundings. Collectively, they aim to bring you a genuine taste of Donegal by obtaining the very best fresh, local ingredients and serving them with lashings of pride.

Donegal offers famous Tirconnell whiskey and McDaid’s beverages, local seafood, meat and homegrown vegetables. Restaurants offer an array of mouth watering dishes including traditional stews and fresh local oysters. By following the trail of Donegal Good Food Taverns, you will also find an itinerary of traditional Irish music, seven evenings a week at different points throughout the trail.

But don't take our word for it, come and see for yourself!

  1. The Gealtacht 

Irish culture has survived and flourished in Donegal in a way it has failed to do elsewhere. Irish language and culture are still vibrant throughout the Gaeltacht areas of the county and foremost among these traditions is the one of welcoming strangers.
The Gaeltacht has a strong sense of its own identity and uniqueness and the land contains a wealth of cultural strengths which is rich in heritage and folklore. The scenery is truly breathtaking with mountains and lake-filled valleys fringed by the unpolluted seas of the Atlantic Ocean with white sandy beaches. Visit the The Language School and Heritage Centre and is just a beginner in the tongue, you will be encouraged to persist and take your skills to a new level!

  1. Walk  in Donegal
Donegal is a natural centre for the avid walker and hiker. You will be spoilt for choice with fine beaches, stunning mountain ranges, and spectacular scenery around every corner. With such a variety in landscape, hundreds flock to Donegal each year on walking holidays.

Walk the highlands and headlands of North Donegal. Fanad coast, Glenveagh National Park and Errigal – our highest and most beautiful mountain.

Good for heart, body and soul!

  1. Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh is the second largest national park in Ireland. The park covers 170 square kilometres of hillside above Glenveagh Castle on the shore of Lough Veagh.

Natural woodlands of Oak and Birch clothe the slopes of the deep valley that bisects the Park. These woods are inhabited by badgers, foxes and stoats, whilst woodland bird life includes Siskins, Treecreepers, Redstarts and Wood Warblers. On the uplands of the Park, birds more likely to be encountered include Ravens, Peregrines, Stonechat and Grouse, and the upland slopes are dotted with the yellow flowers of Tormentil and Bog Asphodel.

Perhaps the outstanding feature of Glenveagh is its wilderness character with the sense of remoteness and solitude that it conveys to the visitor.

  1. Festivals and Events
Donegal is home to a number of spectacular arts, film, cultural, music, food and sports festivals. In Donegal we love to celebrate just about anything, so whatever your interests might be, chances are that there's a festival dedicated to it and some great craic to be had. Attending a festival is a great way to see the county and the residents at their finest.

So start planning now……

5 Good Reasons to Visit Donegal

  1. Beautiful Beaches
Portsalon Blue Flag Beach, Donegal 
Donegal has 13 Blue Flag Beaches. This is the highest number of Blue Flag beaches of any county in the country.

The Blue Flag is one of the world’s most recognised eco-labels and only beaches that meet specific criteria relating to water quality, beach management, environmental information and safety services achieve this accolade.

So whatever your taste in beaches, Donegal has the perfect spot to throw down your towel!

Visit here for more information

Murvagh Golf Club, Donegal

Here in Donegal, we have 7 of the top 50 courses in Ireland. When you consider that there are more than 400 courses across the country, it really shows just how much Donegal is to the forefront of quality golf facilities in Ireland.  However be mindful, the scenery is so beautiful that it can distract even the most focused golfer! 

 Visit here for more information

Island Hopping

    Tory Island, Donegal 
    The rugged coastline of Donegal is dotted with off-shore islands, most of which are no longer inhabited on a year round basis, but all of which hold a certain fascination for both locals and tourists alike. First settled during Prehistoric times, these islands offer an exhilarating experience. Whether you want to learn a few words of Irish, take a walk, do a spot of bird watching or explore ancient historic sites while watching passing dolphins, the islands of Donegal has an experience to offer everybody, particularly the chance to engage with the friendliest islanders in the world!


    Surfing in Rossnowlagh, Donegal 
    Not only is Donegal is one of the most beautiful 
    counties in Ireland, it also has the best surfing in the country. The beautiful coast around Donegal provides some of the best waves that the Atlantic Ocean has
     to offer for surfers anywhere in Europe. With a fantastic range of good quality beaches and reefs to surf on there is plenty of choice for beginners and experts alike. Donegal also offers a host of quality, informal surf schools to bring you to the next level, whatever that may be!
    Click here  for more information

           Sliabh Liag Cliffs
    Sliabh Liag cliffs are the highest and the finest in
    The six hundred metre drop into the wild Atlantic waves below creates a breathtaking and extremely exhilarating view creating a memory that will live forever.  A sheer drop of roughly 2,000 feet separates the Atlantic Ocean from the highest point of the cliffs. Spectacular views of the coast and the cliff face are a sheer delight.

    It is definitely worth a visit, you will be left feeling refreshed and relaxed and pleased that you have a life-long memory of the awesome cliffs at Slieve League.

    Sliabh Liag will take your breath away and that is a promise!

    A day in the life of a Donegal Beach Lifeguard

    A day in the life of a Donegal Beach Lifeguard

    GoVisitDonegal.com wanted an excuse to get out of the office and enjoy some of this amazing weather, so decided it was about time that we took a trip to Culdaff, one of 13 Blueflag Beaches in County Donegal to speak to the Lifeguards about their day-to-day job.

    Did you know?

    Our Beach Lifeguards

    GoVisitDonegal.com arrived at Culdaff Blue flag Beach on the Inishowen Peninsula on Thursday 11th July. It was evident upon arrival that the beach was busy. All Car Parks were verging on full and there was a steady flow of people coming and going in Culdaff village. The temperature in the car was measuring a balmy 26C and it was definitely time for a cooling dip in the sea and walk on beach.
    Malachy and Stephen Striking a Pose
    GoVisitDonegal.com met Malachy Kelly (30) and Stephen McCabe (24), the beach lifeguards on duty at the time and got an insight into the typical day on Culdaff Beach.
    GoVisitDonegal.com - "Malachy, tell me about an average day here in Culdaff Beach."

    Malachy - "Our shift starts normally at 12pm every day. But I try to arrive at least 30 minutes early to ensure that everything is in order. I generally open the hut, check and erect the flags, empty the recycle bins, check our equipment and begin the beach patrols. Every day is different as a lifeguard and naturally enough much depends on the weather and sea conditions as to how the day is going to go. For example, a day like today is completely different than on an overcast or wet day. We have alot of families and young children on the beach and in the water. But on other days, the beach will be alot quieter but with perhaps surfers or swimmers in the water. As Beach Lifeguards we need to be ready for any eventuality."

    GoVisitDonegal.com - "Its obviously been extremely warm for the last couple of weeks, have you had to carry out any rescues this summer so far?

    Stephen - " We have had a couple of rescues to carry out. One involved a child getting stuck out on the rocks, and injured them self. And the other was two children (12 & 8 Year Old), getting into difficulties having swam from one side of the bay to another. But typically, we have encountered a number of lost children due to the crowds coming in the good weather."

    GoVisitDonegal.com "What advice would you give to anyone using the Blue flag Beaches?"

    Stephen - "Always swim between the flags, talk to the lifeguards on duty about the conditions on any given day and respect the water"

    GoVisitDonegal.com - "Have you had any out of the ordinary incidents this year?"

    Malachy - "We actually had a red flag (meaning it is unsafe to use the water) earlier in the week when a dense fog descended on the beach and visibility was reduced to less than a couple of feet. We had to get people out of the water for their own safety. That isn't something that happens every day".

    GoVisitDonegal.com - " As you may know, GoVisitDonegal.com is the official tourism website for County Donegal, therefore, I have to ask you where is your favourite part of County Donegal?

    Malachy - "It has to be Harvey's Point, Lough Eske. It is where I got married."
    Stephen - "Anywhere in Inishowen. My girlfriend is from Buncrana, so I will say there!"

    And that was that. After our chat with the Beach Lifeguards, GoVisitDonegal.com took the opportunity to take a dip in the warm Inishowen water and is happy to report that it was definitely pleasant.

    If you are planning a trip to Donegal this summer, check out GoVisitDonegal.com for all your holiday needs.

    Failte Ireland Finalise Route for Wild Atlantic Way

    The final route for the Wild Atlantic Way was unveiled today (by Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring) at Meitheal.

    The Wild Atlantic Way will be Ireland’s first long-distance driving route, stretching from the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork, offering future visitors an opportunity to truly discover the west coast.

    The 2,500km final route consisting of the main spine of the Wild Atlantic Way, was finalised following a comprehensive public consultation process and 156 strategically placed discovery points have been identified along the way.

    A series of looped itineraries off the spine are also planned to further develop the experience for visitors.
    Overseas tour operators in Dublin to attend Meitheal got a ‘sneak-peek’ of the route last night at a Fáilte Ireland welcome event in the Convention Centre Dublin.

    Along with an interactive showcase of the activities and attractions available along the route, up to 300 overseas operators were also treated to the premiere of the video-trailer above showcasing just what their clients can expect along the route from next year on.

    Paddy Mathews, Manager of Destination Development with Fáilte Ireland, believes the project will be a great addition to what Ireland has to offer visitors -

    “Developing a route like this is an important part of ensuring Ireland is able to provide visitors with an unforgettable experience. It will open up a huge number of towns and attractions to them and showcase the scenery and unique culture of the West Coast of Ireland providing easy access to a range of experiences along the route.

    “Now that the route has been finalised we will be focusing our efforts on turning all this preparatory work into a reality – an international driving route to rival the best in the world.”

    Update on the Wild Atlantic Way

    You can now vie the latest Wild Atlantic Way project update and the full Route Identification Report at www.failteireland.ie/wildatlanticway

    Full details are available on o# Failte Ireland'S website – www.failteireland.ie/wildatlanticway

    Donegal Gathering - New Calander of Events for 2013

    Come home to a Donegal welcome

    Throughout 2013, Donegal will open its arms to thousands of friends and family from all over the world, calling them home to gatherings in villages and towns throughout Donegal. Donegal Gathering has launched an online events calendar with over 140 local gatherings and events including international festivals, concerts, sporting events, music, drama, literature, dance and lots more!  Communities, villages and towns have organised these vibrant, local festivals and gatherings to welcome people from all over the world. The people of Donegal will be rolling out the red carpet to ensure your visitor experience is better than ever. Whatever your interest there will be something for you with a packed calendar of local gatherings and events specially organised in honour of you, our Diaspora.

    Come to Donegal and take a stroll through our green fields, look out over the Atlantic ocean on a secluded cliff with the wind in your face and the sun on your back, smell the fresh sea air, admire our landscape dotted with ancient castles, enjoy living life and experience the warm welcome of The Gathering in our towns and villages. Donegal can stir the soul, it can remind you of the power of nature, it can rejuvenate the mind and remind you that we all have a place in the world!

    Take this opportunity to reconnect with your Donegal roots and start preparing your visit to Donegal in 2013.

    Beidh céad mile fáilte Romhat

    Click here to view the calendar of events

    Rock Climbing in Glenlough Bay

    Rock Climbing in Glenlough Bay
    Iain Miller

    Living at the North Western tip of the Slievetooey Peninsula in one of Irelands most remote locations is the breathtakingly beautiful Glenlough Bay. (1) This huge bay sits 3KM to the north east of the An Port road end. This bay stretches for 2KM from Tormore Island at it's southern end to the End's of the Earth Stack at it's northern end. The bay terminates at it's southern end in a wide Geo separating Glenlough Bay from the Cobbler's Tower land mass. In this wide geo a pair of huge bull seals live, they have always been there every time I have paid a visit visited. They are extremely curious and will come to within a few feet of you before disappearing under the waves.  Glenlough Bay contains one of the largest raised shingle storm beaches in Ireland and on a day of huge north west sea motion the roar of millions of tonnes of shingle being moved up and down the beach by the incoming seas can be deafening even from the cliff tops 200m above the beach. This 1KM long raised shingle storm beach is very effectively guarded from all sides by steep sided 250m slopes of scree and cliffs and from the sea by huge north Altantic swell.

    Glenlough bay contains a vast amount of excellent, if a little adventurous rock climbing. At the southern end of the bay sits Tormore Island (2) at 150m at it's highest point above the ocean this is Ireland's highest sea stack. This huge square topped stack can be seen for many kilometres along the coast either side of it. It can even be clearly seen from the Dungloe/Kincaslough road some 40KM to the north. In the centre of the bay a further three huge sea stacks sits. Each of these three sea stack present a very different mountaineering challenge for the aspiring summiteers. By far the hardest and potentially the most dangerous of these climbs is the most northerly tower named Jenga Tower and for anyone who has played Jenga, you will get the idea of the rock quality on the sea stack. Running along the north wall of Glenlough bay is the aptly named “End’s of the earth crag,” (3) this cliff is the a contender for most remote rock climbing location in Ireland and provides excellent slab climbing in a truly mind blowing location above a huge sea level blowhole. Guarding the northern end of the bay is the lonely End’s of the Earth Stack, (4) This 20m high sea stack sits in one of the most beautiful and remote locations in Ireland. It sits 300m out to sea from the lonely wee bay to the north of Glenlough Bay. To the south you have the vast expanse of Glenlough Bay continuing south along the West coast to Tormore Island and to the east you have the vast expanse of the north coast of the Slievetooey Peninsula. It's location ensures it attracts the confliction tidal streams from both the south and north west causing a colossal amount of white water violence in the bay surrounding the base of the stack and standing on it’s summit is a moment you will remember for a very long time.

    For a free downloadable rock climbers guidebook to the Slievetooey Peninsula and Glenlough Bay visit http://www.uniqueascent.ie/sea_stack_guide or for more information to rock climbing locations around the coast of Donegal visit http://www.uniqueascent.ie/undiscovered_donegal

    Iain Miller is a rock climber, hill walker and mountaineer living, working and playing on the mountains, sea cliffs and sea stacks of county Donegal. http://www.uniqueascent.ie/

    Below are the further information links to the places mentioned above there are also further photographs and footage.