Welcome to the Go Visit Donegal Blog

Waterworld Bundoran retains county’s only White Flag

Barry Walsh, Ireland Active President presents
Anderson Keys of Waterworld with the Gold Certificate 
Waterworld Bundoran, Ireland’s Premier Indoor Aqua Adventure Playground, has once again been awarded the only White Flag for County Donegal. The Ireland Active ‘Gold Award’ was presented to Waterworld General Manager Anderson Keys at a ceremony recently in Salthill, County Galway.

The White Flag National Quality Standard, grades facilities’ operational standards, similar to the Blue Flag award which classifies Ireland’s beaches, and it is fast becoming the most sought after accolade in the leisure industry. It is the only industry specific award for the Irish Leisure and Spa Industry.
Speaking following the award, Anderson Keys of Waterworld Bundoran said “as we head into year 24 of operations we are delighted once again to be awarded the only White Flag in County Donegal. We pride ourselves on this achievement and work hard each year to ensure that our facility maintains its high standards so that all of our visitors can have an enjoyable, and importantly, safe visit to Waterworld and Seaweed Baths facility. Thanks to the staff here at Waterworld who have once again made this possible and to the Waterworld Directors who endorse and recognize the value of this award to the company’s operation, profile and development.”
Galleon Pirate Ship
The White Flag National quality standard is based on the 3 essential areas when operating any leisure centre or spa: Safety, Hygiene & Maintenance and Customer Care. The standard is designed to encourage continuous improvement and it is categorised into three levels for the leisure centre sector: Gold, Silver and Bronze.
Chief Executive of Donegal County Council Seamus Neely commented: ‘we are delighted that Waterworld has once again attained the White Flag National Quality Standard.  Achieving this best practice standard is a great reflection on the hard working team at Waterworld Bundoran’.

Check Go Visit Donegal website for more details.

Wealth of Artistic Talent in Donegal - Local Hands

Local Hands is a co-operative style fusion of Artists and Craftspeople. Based in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, they work together to showcase, support and sell their work and to promote the wealth of artistic talent in the surrounding region. The emphasis is on high quality unique and authentic Irish art and craft which is locally produced in the North West of Ireland.

The Local Hands shop is located on Main Street, Ballyshannon and is also used as a studio space so visitors can meet the artists themselves and see them at work. They cover a wide range of disciplines including Woodturning, Crochet, Silversmithing, Blacksmithing, Glass blowing, Pottery making, Felt making, Jewellery, Soap making, Stone Carving, Painting and Illustration.

The artists and crafters joined forces in a cooperative way to share costs and time… a good way to promote the work, launch a start-up business, re-open vacant premises and provide an attraction for local and visitor alike. Initially it was decided to open as a “Pop Up” shop but after Season 1 the benefits of the project became clear and it was decided to remain open on an ongoing basis.

So, whether you are looking for a unique quality crafted gift for friend or family, or a “wee treat” for yourself, they’re sure you will discover something that’s just right at the Local Hands studio shop in Ballyshannon or on their new website.

Many of their gifts can be shipped worldwide… just contact the artist for details. 

Check our website www.govisitdonegal.com for more details.

The Allingham Festival 2014 in Ballyshannon officially opened

Based in Ballyshannon, the Allingham Festival is a celebration of the life and works of one of our town’s most famous ancestor writer and poet William Allingham and his wife the artist Helen Allingham. Each year sees their memory celebrated with events and workshops that inspire others in their own achievements in the arts.

William Allingham ((1824 –89) an Irishman of letters and a widely published poet was a native of Ballyshannon and married to the celebrated English artist Helen Allingham. His ashes were returned to Ireland after his death in 1889 and buried at St Anne’s Church, Ballyshannon. The Festival celebrates the Allingham artistic legacy in Ballyshannon. This revival is one of many community projects trying to kick-start economic activity building on the unique historical and cultural identity of the town.

Last night, The 2014 Allingham Festival was officially opened by Minister Joe McHugh, the Keynote Speech by Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, the showcase presentation by Ms Neishaw Ali, President of the Toronto-based firm that creates special effects for GAME OF THRONES, the concert by Keith Mannion and SlowPlaceLikeHome and more.

WONDER OF WORDS will take place on the Saturday evening featuring Theo Dorgan, Donal Ryan, Paul

Lynch, the Poetry Divas, and a special tribute to Ballyshannon’s Cecil Stephens. Readers and writers may also be interested in the Saturday seminars with Donal Ryan and Paul Lynch, as well as the cutting-edge workshop on Digital Marketing for Writers and Artists. Residents of the North West would usually need to travel to Dublin for events like these which is why the Allingham Festival is bringing them to Ballyshannon.

Connecting the Wild Atlantic Way Digital Conference - A Great Success!

The cutting edge digital conference, hosted by Donegal County Council in association with Fáilte Ireland, took place on Thursday, 25th September 2014 in Solis Lough Eske Castle. It was attended by over 150 tourism providers from across the County. The organisers made every effort to invite top speakers from the leading digital companies in Ireland – Google, Facebook, Digital Ambition, Wolfgang Digital, as we as Customer Service Excellence Ireland.

After a short welcome by Michael O’hEeanaigh, Director of Service, Donegal County Council and the opening speech by Deputy Mayor – Nicholas Crossan.

Fiona Monaghan
The first speaker  - Fiona Monaghan of Fáilte Ireland took the stage. Fiona, as a Head of the Wild Atlantic Way Project, spoke about the work completed to date by Fáilte Ireland, the vision of the WAW, long term ambition of putting WAW on the top 10 list of experiences to do globally, as well as project components and its complexity.  Fiona also emphasised the importance of working together saying: ‘The WAW is about co-operation, collaboration, all the agencies working together from a tourism perspective to do the best we can to put the West of Ireland in the international shop window’.

Charlie Boyle
Charlie Boyle from Customer Service Excellence Ireland followed and explained the importance of good customer service in making a Wild Atlantic Way visit to Donegal more memorable, something that visitors take home and tell their friends and family.

Alan Coleman

The first of the expert panel of Digital Marketing speakers was Alan Coleman of Wolfgang Digital who provided a very entertaining and insightful presentation on SEO vs PPC and the power of search marketing in promoting tourism. He explained the 22-step Customer online Path to Purchase and importance of Paid Search alongside the SEO optimised content.

Jill Rob
Jill Robb from Ambition Digital, who said she was renaming the Wild Atlantic Way to Wild Atlantic Wow, followed Alan with her excellent delivery of the top 12 tips on Digital Marketing on a Shoe String. Jill emphasised the importance of education to keep up with the fast changing online environment, understanding your audience and where they come from and how to interact with them, blogging and writing effective content online. She encouraged her listeners to make the most of Social Media using creativity, good imagery and videos to create relevant and interesting story for fans and followers.

Andrew Weld-Moore
Andrew Weld Moore from Facebook offered a fascinating look at the changes taking place online in terms of Facebook promotions and in particular the huge increase in the use of mobile technology which creates an opportunity for marketers to connect to their customers through a very intimate medium that is their personal mobile phone. The most powerful message Andrew shared was: ‘if you’re not thinking about mobile strategy you will be left behind because mobile is right here in front of us’. Facebook has realised that potential and is currently the most effective marketing platform in the world helping businesses to tap into a huge market and reach their target audience at scale using instant mobile strategy.

During the afternoon, groups were invited to listen to three practical case studies from local tourism businesses that have already been using the Wild Atlantic Way to increase business and bring visitors to Donegal.  Representatives from the WildAtlantic Camp in Creeslough, Donegal Tours and the Silver Tassie Hotel & Spa shared their marketing experiences and the work that they have been doing to incorporate the Wild Atlantic Way into marketing plans.

Conference attendees were invited to fill in a question sheet for the expert panel to answer during the Q&A Session at the end of the day.

Claire Walsh
Presentation by a much anticipated Claire Walsh from Google followed the Q&A session. Claire provided the audience with a keen insight into the world of Google, including fresh ideas on using Google Tools, Ad Words, SEO and of course the power of video in particular for the tourism sector.

Seamus Neely
The finale of the conference was delivered by Seamus Neely, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council who talked about the increasingly important role that tourism plays in the economic development of Donegal.
The conference ignited ambition amongst tourism providers who went home feeling motivated to introduce changes to their traditional marketing plans incorporating both digital techniques and the Wild Atlantic Way. 

The message of the day was that Digital Marketing delivers real results and if tourism providers embrace new technology then a bright future for tourism exists in County Donegal. Digital has the power to bring visitors from all over the world to the very top of the Wild Atlantic Way at Malin Head and to travel throughout Donegal, creating lasting memories of our county on the Wild Atlantic Way that will reach international audiences online for years to come. 

Speakers' profiles and further details about the Conference are available here

Conference Speakers L-R: Seamus Neely, Fiona Monaghan, Alan Coleman, Charlie Boyle, Nicholas Crossan,
Andrew Weld-Moore, Jill Robb

Slieve League Cliffs

Slieve League Cliffs (or Sliabh Liag in Gaelic), situated on the south west coast of County Donegal, are said to be the one of the highest and finest marine cliffs in Europe. To fully enjoy the spectacle of Sliabh League it is best to leave your car at the car park and walk the few miles to the cliffs so as not to miss the exciting scenery of the area. 

There are terrific views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo Mountains and Donegal Bay as you walk towards the terrifyingly high top of Sliabh League, where the cliff face of Bunglas rises over 600m above the raging ocean. Experienced walkers only should venture beyond the viewing point onto One Man's Pass which loops around onto the Pilgrim's Path. 

This is a sacred mountain, for over a thousand years there was a Christian pilgrimage, no doubt Sliabh League was a sacred mountain before the Christians arrived here. You should remember this when visiting, so please do not disturb these monuments of Irish cultural heritage. There's much to know about Sliabh League, like the monks who went to Iceland or the eagle and the baby. To learn more visit the award winning Slieve League Cliffs Centre which is all about local culture, food and crafts served with a real warm Donegal welcome and sense of humour.

Mary From Dungloe Festival

“Oh, then fare ye well, sweet Donegal, the Rosses and Gweedore.
I'm crossing the main ocean, where the foaming billows roar,
It breaks my heart from you to part, where I spent many happy days.
Farewell to kind relations for I'm bound for Amerikay.”

When Pádraig MacCumhaill wrote these lyrics in 1936 about the courtship of Mary Gallagher way back in 1861, little did he realise how his song would capture the imagination of generations of Irish across the world. In doing so, he put the small town of Dungloe in West Donegal, situated on the northwestern tip of Europe, firmly on the map of consciousness for millions of Irish and their Diaspora.

Today, the Mary from Dungloe International Festival continues to go from strength to strength. Now in its 47th year, previous ‘Marys’ have come from places as far and near as Melbourne, Philadelphia, Manchester, Edinburgh, Armagh, Kildare, and Dungloe itself, to name but a few. Each year the festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the area and many cross the foaming billows to get there; although it may be more across the clouds these days. 

Dungloe is part of the large Gaeltacht region of West Donegal and is also known by its Gaelic name of An Clochán Liath which means ‘The Grey Stepping Stone’. This name originates from a grey granite slab that lay on the riverbed at the bottom of the town that was used to cross the river before the erection of a bridge in 1762. It is the commercial hub of the area known as the Rosses, which along with the neighbouring districts of Cloughaneely and Gweedore, are collectively known as the ‘three parishes’, an area which boasts 16,000 Irish speakers. This area of outstanding beauty in West Donegal has to be experienced rather than just seen. 

You need to feel the ground beneath your feet, engage with the friendliest people on Earth, and wine and dine just as proposed by the protagonist of that famous song. This year’s festival takes place from 26th July – 4th August, 2014 and could be your stepping stone to West Donegal with its many wonders of natural landscape and culture.

And I wish I was in sweet Dungloe and seated on the grass.
And by my side a bottle of wine and on my knee a lass.
I'd call for liquor of the best and I'd pay before I go

And I'd roll my Mary in my arms in the town of sweet Dungloe.”

Local business ‘Larkins of Newmills’ launch ‘Larkins Wild Atlantic Way Tours

The Wild Atlantic Way initiative aims to package the west of Ireland experience and establish a route of international standing that can be ranked alongside the great driving routes of the world.

It has the potential to become the European equivalent of the Great Ocean Road in Australia and the Garden Route in South Africa.  Larkins Wild Atlantic way tours will link the Donegal coastline and landscapes which it has influenced.  Donegal has so much to offer in areas of the history, heritage and culture of the beautiful places and people along the way. Larkins of Newmills would like to open tourism up to parts of the county that are forgotten by most tour operators.  So many tours/tourists come as far as Donegal town or may venture to Glenveagh but the rest of the county is not as well promoted, so does not attract tourists.

Larkinn's aim by these tours that we will showcase the amazing hidden jewels from Slieve Leauge to Kilclooney Dolmen, to Fanad Lighthouse, Doon Rock, Lough Salt, Rathmullan, Inishowen and Bloodyforeland etc. the list is endless, and that the rest of Donegal may benefit from Tourism also and end the use of the term for Donegal as ‘the forgotten county’.   This is our chance to show the world that Donegal is one of the most beautiful places on our planet. 

If businesses would like to promote themselves on our map then please get in touch with Larkins of Newmills on 0749126697.  Also they are looking for local craft workers to get in touch to display crafts for sale in our premises.  Further golfing & fishing tours as well as other products that aim to promote Donegal are awaiting launch over the coming weeks.  We are inviting all businesses to our new product launch evening on Thursday 26th June 2014 at 8pm in Larkins of Newmills.  

Grianán of Aileach

A Little History  

As he took in the views across Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle, and out onto the stunning landscape of the peninsula that separates both, Saint Patrick reflected on his return to Ireland; the land of his slavery. For as far as the eye could see the tribal clans made their way towards this historic royal site. The pilgrimage to the Royal Seat of the Ui Neill, the northern clan of the dynasty of Niall of the Nine Hostages, his former kidnapper; was an event that would change the lives of these people forever.

On this day, Saint Patrick, now a missionary bishop would baptise the local chieftain leader, Eoghan, who would give his name to this spectacular peninsula. Tonight, there would be much feasting as he had told Eoghan that upon baptism his people would be elevated to being “people of the Lord, and sons of God”. The hill fort and its ramparts is the centre of the political world of the region; a place of inauguration of kings, and ceremonial splendour that has been used for hundreds of years and will continue to be of historical importance for centuries to come.
This fifth century event is just one of many historical events that have taken place at the site of this designated national monument. Grianán of Aileach has been the royal seat of the high kings of the Ui Neill and the clans of Ulster for centuries and sits just fifteen minutes east of Letterkenny on the main Derry road. It has been built up and demolished on several occasions through plunder and pillage by Vikings and Normans; and also from acts of war by the rival Gaelic chieftains of Munster

Nevertheless, this stunning monument of the history and culture of the people of Donegal, still sits proudly on top of the hill. Its name is said to mean “the Stone Palace of the Sunny View” and on a clear day there is probably not a better panoramic view in Ireland, as counties Donegal, Derry and Tyrone can be seen. This magnificent ancient site, which costs nothing to visit, also has on its site just to the south of the fort, a well dedicated to our Patron Saint, known as Saint Patrick’s Well.

This site should be visited by every native and visitor to Donegal. Why not let yourself stand on these historical ramparts and take in the views that were marvelled at by your ancestors and let your mind drift back to times past.

Let 2015 become the year where you and your family truly connect with Donegal. Over the coming weeks and months we hope to showcase the various regions of Donegal; not only for the visitor, but also for our inhabitants. This summer, let’s get outdoors and enjoy what we’ve got in this spectacular county, and make your visit to Grianán of Aileach the first of many adventures that will invigorate your mind, body and soul.

For more information about what Donegal has to offer check out: www.govisitdonegal.com 

Explore one of the Ireland's most intriguing highlights- The Donegal Gaeltacht and Donegal Islands

The Gaeltacht is the area in Donegal where, many claim, one of the purest forms of the Irish Language has survived and where the traditions of Irish song, dance and folklore prevail. The largest geographical Gaeltacht in the country, and part of the newly established Wild Atlantic Way, spreads from Glencolumbcille region of the south up along the west coast and through Donegal's Gaeltacht Lár (central) region of the Derryveagh range and the scenic Poisoned Glen; and north through the Rosses on to Fanad Head.

Sitting proudly in the Atlantic Ocean, are the jewels of Donegal's Gaeltacht. On the islands of Donegal, one can experience a vibrancy to the Irish culture that is both inspiring and engaging.  Wild and beautiful; the islands have captured the imagination for thousands of years and provided stimulus for artists and writers alike.

A visit to these any of these islands by ferry is an experience that will broaden your horizon and linger in your heart but foresight is forewarned. Accessible by boat, any trip to the islands should be researched to maximise your experience. For example, high season (July & August) can be quite busy on some, but out of season may require appropriate clothing to appreciate the rugged beauty of these jewels on the outer reaches of Northwestern Europe.

The island is approximately one mile from the mainland at Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore). Evidence of past life remains in the form of the stone homes of families, who have long since moved to the mainland. A number of houses have been restored by former residents and their families. A regular ferry service and the growing interest in ecology and cliff climbing are bringing new life back to the area. Gola Island can be explored in a few hours over easy walking terrain.
 Gola Island Ferry Service
Tel: +3538387 660 7003

Located two miles from Machaire Rabhartaigh (Magheroarty) on the North West coast and has been relatively untouched and unspoilt. A rocky coast with cliffs, sea arches, caves and sandy beaches can be explored. Inland, fields are home to the globally endangered Corncrake and many other bird species. Barnacle Geese fly in to winter here. It is renowned for its water sports with surfing, kayaking and rock fishing growing in reputation annually.

Inhabited for 4,000 years, this Gaeltacht Island has its own distinctive Irish Culture and tradition which is preserved by remoteness. Historical sites include a round tower, a ruined church, the Tau Cross (one of only two found in Ireland).
As well as the unique flora and fauna, visitors can enjoy diving, fishing, rock climbing, whale or dolphin watching or walk a portion of the scenic Donegal Way.
A signposted 4km looped walk starting at the Pier with exceptional scenery will take your breath away. When in Tory, is also famous for its school of artists, whose work has been exhibited all over the world.

Probably the most accessible of all the Gaeltacht islands, Árainn Mór has a resident population of approximately 600. From the island’s rolling hills, observe views of the Rosses region (Na Rosa), the islands and the Donegal Mountains as a backdrop or visit some of the islands lovely beaches. A place to get away from it all and yet mainland Donegal is just a 15 minute boat journey.

Arranmore Island ferries
Tel: +35383 749520532
Arranmore Car & Passenger
Fast Ferry Service
Tel: +3538387 3171810

Inishfree Island, approximately one square mile of sandy beaches and beautiful scenery, the island was home to thirty six families in a tightly-knit, caring community. Subsequently deserted, the island has been re-inhabited recently and Inis Fraoich’s new residents are eager to help visitors benefit from the spiritual atmosphere that seems to pervade this unique place. Cultural courses are organised on the island at specific times and cover topics such as music, dancing, arts, crafts, poetry, nature and heritage.

Inishfree Charters, Burtonport Pier 

                                                                                    Tel: +35383 87 9253534 or 086 2209508
Try a few words 
Dia dhuit Hello
Cadé mar atá tú How are you?
Tá mé go maith, go raibh
maith agat, agus tú fein? I’m fine, thanks. And you?
Cad is ainm duit? What is your name?
Maidin mhaith Good morning
Oíche mhaith Good night
Cá bhfuil an oifig fáilte? Where is the tourist office?
Go raibh maith agat Thank you
Más é do thoil é Please

Slán, Slán go fóill Goodbye

Oakfield Park this Easter

Oakfield Park is an 18th Century Georgian Deanery which has won several national awards for the restoration of its gardens and buildings. Sitting in a lush landscape of parklands and mature woodlands, overlooking the Croaghan Mountain, the grounds include a traditional walled garden and kitchen garden. Flowers, meadows, lakes and streams, as well as wild and wetland areas are entwined with over 4km of narrow gauge railway.
In the 1950s Oakland Park was effectively stripped of all its oak trees by a previous owner. This has now thankfully been reversed and over 60,000 trees have been lovingly planted by the current owners with a mixture of hollies, limes, a lot of beech, chestnuts and, of course, oak. In fact there are up to 140 species of oak now planted.
 A hugely popular feature of Oakfield Park is a wonderful miniature railway. This railway is based on the now defunct Co. Donegal Railways. Over 4km of track has been laid and the narrow gauge railway has a miniature steam engine and carriages in the old CDR livery.

The train winds around the lake and woodlands and offers an excellent opportunity to view the lower gardens in comfort. There are two trains operating at Oakfield Park – The Earl of Oakfield diesel locomotive and the Duchess of Difflin steam engine.
This Easter join the Easter Eggstravaganza’ for the Childhood Cancer Foundation on Easter Monday (21st April) between 12 and 6pm. There is lots to do and see and the children will be entertained. The event will feature Easter-themed activities including an egg trail, face painting and a balloon artist, as well as train rides around the park and a visit from Emerald Garrison, Ireland’s premier Star Wars costuming club. There will be a vintage-themed tea tent for grown-ups and home-baked goods, perfect for an Easter picnic.
In the gardens of Oakfield Park the visitor can discover willow tunnels, oak circles, boardwalks, a par terre and a classical Nymphaeum by the formal lake. The gardens include:-
·                       Formal Walled garden & Kitchen Garden
·                       Parkland, Woodland and Riverside Walks
·                       Abundant Wildlife
·                       Train Rides (Saturday & Sunday only)
·                       Garden Group Tours by arrangement
·                       Picnic Benches
·                       Free Car Parking

Oatfield Park, a video of the railway at Oakfield Park 
and its connection to Percy French. 

Oprah Prime loves Donegal is Happy

The Oprah Winfrey Network has been in contact with Shane Wallace of Wallace Media and Donegal TV to give him surprising news.  Donegal is Happy has been  viewed by the production team for Oprah Prime, the popular show that is hosted and  produced by Oprah, and they love the feel-good video.  Oprah Prime has an upcoming episode of Oprah and music producer / artist Pharrell Williams.  They want to include a segment of Donegal is Happy in a compilation of videos representing all the different countries who have celebrated the song Happy.

Donegal is Happy is already a viral YouTube success with over 130,000 views. Donegal Tourism via www.govisitdonegal.com  are delighted to have supported this production and a clip of the website is featured at the end of the video, so here is hoping that Oprah will pick up on this and promote Donegal on a worldwide stage.

Oprah Prime will bring an unbelievable opportunity to showcase the county and the wonderful spirit of its people.  Shane Wallace of Donegal TV has just returned from a very successful trip to Washington and New York and he is delighted  with this news from Oprah Prime.
Oprah Prime with Pharrell Williams will be broadcast on Sunday April 13th.

Donegal TV http://www.donegaltv.ie/

The Donegal Bucket List

Donegal has no shortage of amazing things to do and see. Being Ireland’s second largest County, you would need a month to get round them all. So to help you get the most out of your visit we have compiled a list of things you cannot miss while visiting County Donegal.

Europe's Highest Sea Cliffs

1. Sliabh Liag: Drink in the best views in Europe

A narrow road twists steeply up from Teelin to the dramatic Slieve Liag cliffs and mountains. From the viewing point, you look across one of the finest panoramas in Europe that will set your heart racing. An information panel, part of the Donegal Interpretative Project, sets out the details of what you see. This area of Donegal is also part of the famed Appalachian Trail that leads eastwards along the Bluestacks Way and joins up with the Ulster Way and the Causeway Coast. The nearby cultural centre, Tí Linn, is run by Paddy Clarke, a rich source of information on the area and its archaeological heritage. 

2. Fanad Head: Hire a pedalo at Portsalon

Fanad Lighthouse, Fanad Head
Golden sandy beaches and rolling farmland threaded by narrow roads set the scene in the secluded Fanad peninsula squeezed in between Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay and leading to remote Fanad Head. Families can enjoy a day of watersports at picture-postcard resorts such as Rathmullan or Portsalon. Take your pick from spinning for mackerel off a pier, learning to fly-fish for rainbow trout, hire a pedalo or paddle a kayak. If you are feeling energetic, why not saddle up and gallop along the shores of Lough Swilly on the pristine Rathmullan Strand. As you drive around this thrilling peninsula be prepared for delays on single track roads; your path may be blocked by a herd of heifers and you will be reduced to cow-speed; don’t forget you are in north Donegal where the motto festina lente ‘hurry slowly’ applies and where life moves at an easy pace.   

3. Malin Head: Dip into history or look up at the night sky   

Catch a cloudless evening and you may be enchanted by a night sky display of the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. The celestial light show, with its ghostly wispy rays of dancing colours has been seen hanging like a fluorescent curtain over Malin Head – what better reason to go than to witness this astonishing sight.  As you make your way around the 100-mile circuit of the scenic Inishowen peninsula, you will find many attractions and distractions on the journey to Ireland’s most northerly point, Malin Head. Those with an interest in military history will want to see Fort Dunree Military Museum near Buncrana. Further along, Doagh Famine Village, an outdoor museum, provides a thought-provoking look at the area from the tragedy of the Famine in the 1840s up to the present.

4. An Grianán Aileach: Awaken your mystical spirit

An Grianán Aileach, Inishowen
Perched 800 ft. above sea level, on a spectacular hilltop in Inishowen, the Grianán of Aileach fort is a former home of the Irish High Kings. The origins of this circular site are believed to date from around 1700 BC. Although it has important connections with the ancient monasteries of Donegal, its history stretches far beyond the era of Christianity and is steeped in legend. The terraced fort is an enigmatic place in which to immerse yourself in the past and survey the landscape. Sweeping views take in patchwork fields and lakes as well as the wider hilly countryside. In 2013, the fort was chosen as one of the landmarks included on the new Irish passport.

5. Surfing in Bundoran: Ride the waves  

Bundoran - A surfer's mecca
In the south of the county, Bundoran has become the unrivalled gung-ho centre of surf culture hosting world class competitions. Regarded as the top spot by the black-clad brigade, it is a place where wave-riding runs deep in the veins of some locals’ blood. Set against a backdrop of dramatic scenery and beaches, the reefs around Bundoran are world renowned, producing the optimal wave size. Donegal Adventure Centre in Bundoran ­– the largest of its kind in Ireland – provides expert tuition from qualified instructors in the tricky art of staying up on your board. If you are new to surfing, a good place for beginners is Rossnowlagh, a few miles north.

Carnival Fun during Earagail - July each year

6. Earagail Arts Festival: Catch a song and singalong

They enjoy their culture and craic in Donegal like nowhere else and music plays a huge part in people’s lives. Many small towns stage popular summer festivals. One of the biggest, the Earagail Arts Festival attracts international performers from the musical and theatrical world. Home-grown talent features strongly on the bill too and Irish musicians who have taken part include Moya Brennan, Mary Black, Donal Lunny, Paddy Glackin and Liam O’Flynn to name but a few. Groups such as the Saw Doctors, Clannad and The Henry Girls have delighted audiences. Alongside the music, film shows, literature events and a host of children’s entertainment, all add up to an action-packed programme.

7. Angling: Bag a salmon, hook a trout or wrestle a shark

Sparkling rivers, well-stocked lakes and the fruits of the sea attract anglers from many countries. Donegal is noted for game and coarse fishing and its coastline is washed by some of the cleanest and clearest seas in Europe, offering shore and deep sea angling. Many species, including pollock, mackerel, wrasse, gurnard, tope, ray and shark have been caught in the sea. Shore angling enthusiasts enjoy the sheltered waters of Lough Swilly and many other locations along the coast right round to Donegal Bay. Trout and spring salmon are found in abundance at fisheries such as those at Gweebarra, Dunfanaghy and on the Eske, combining the River Eske, Lough Eske and its tributaries.    

8. Golfing: outdoor tonic

Ballyliffin Golf Club, Inishowen
As a golf tourism destination, Donegal with premium seaside courses takes some beating. Many championship 18-hole courses are set in areas of natural beauty and Bundoran Golf Club, founded in 1894, co-hosts the West Coast Challenge each year. During the 1950s it was the home of the ‘Master Golfer’ Christy O’Connor Senior. At Murvagh, on the shores of Donegal Bay, Donegal Golf Club was named by Golf World as one of Ireland’s top 10 clubs and is consistently rated high by local golfers. With one of the longest courses in Europe, it suits the big hitters. In the north of the county, Ballyliffin Golf Club has two fine championship links and comprises 365 acres of dune land. In 2006 Sir Nick Faldo re-designed the Old Links course.
                                                                              Click here for more information

9. Hike Errigal: stand at the top of Donegal  

The distinctive white conical peak of Errigal, (from the Irish translation, Aireagál meaning ‘oratory’) the highest point in the county, is a potent symbol and has a grip on the imagination. Pull on your walking books for a pleasant hike across heather and grass before joining a stony path to the summit at 2,466 ft., where two cairns are connected by a narrow path. Anyone with a reasonable level of fitness – and the right gear – will be able to complete the walk to the top in less than two hours. It’s well worth the effort. You will be rewarded with an uninterrupted panorama of Bloody Foreland, a countryside speckled with sheep and white cottages, and lying out to sea, the islands of Inishbofin, Inishdooey and Inishbeg.


10. Glenveagh National Park: look out for golden eagles

Scenic Beauty at Glenveagh

The largest tract of land in the wildest part of Donegal, Glenveagh National Park incorporates moorland, mountain, lakes and woods within its 40,000 acres of wilderness. The park – the second largest in Ireland – was once owned by the American millionaire Henry P. McIlhenny and is now in the hands of the Irish government. Tours of the castle, as well as guided tours of the Italianate formal gardens are available, or you can join a ranger-led walk along footpaths through the grounds. You may be lucky enough to catch sight of soaring golden eagles which have been reintroduced into the area or chance upon a shy red deer.

11. Daniel O’Donnell Visitor Centre: a glittering life of music

He has appeared 18 times in the US Billboard World Album Charts and now Donegal’s famed singing star, Daniel O’Donnell has his very own visitor centre charting a glittering musical career. The Daniel O’Donnell Visitor Centre in Dungloe opened in 2012 and since then thousands have come through the doors to celebrate the story of his life. A 12-minute film explains his humble beginnings in Kincasslagh and rise to international stardom. Memorabilia includes gold discs, stage outfits, his wedding suit and his wife’s wedding dress, as well as his first schoolbag. O’Donnell’s repertoire of songs covering Irish, country and pop has struck a chord with many emigrants. In a musical career of more than 30 years he has sold 10 million albums.

12. Glencolumbcille Folk Village Museum: Commune with the rural past  

There are few better places to delve into the past than at Glencolumbcille Folk Village. This clachan, or village, comprises eight thatched, whitewashed cottages showcasing three specific years of Irish culture: 1720, 1820 and 1920. New exhibitions house a fisherman’s cottage and a traditional pub-grocery and shoemaker’s shop. Potter around this reflective place and you will find a sweat house (an early Irish sauna) replica lime kilns and mass rocks. A few miles north of Glencolumbcille, at Port, you can follow in the footsteps of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who holidayed in the area in 1935. Organised walks lead through the serenely beautiful peat bogland of the valley of Glenlough, past glacial waterfalls, and over the Glengesh Pass to Ardara.