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Top Tips for Families Visiting Donegal

Summertime in Donegal; Lots to See and Do!

The summer is almost upon us! Yes folks, summer time is definitely here so it's that time of year when we need to start thinking about getting out with the kids making some space in our lives for some quality family time. Here are some top class suggestions to start you off and what better time than the present to make the most of the Summer Holidays and sample some of the variety of first rate family activities available to us here in Donegal. Our list has indoor and outdoor activities so you can enjoy Donegal with the kiddies whatever the weather!

Oakfield Park (Click for details)

A lush landscape containing parkland, mature woodlands, formal gardens, lakes and breath-taking vistas surround the beautifully restored Oakfield House which dates back to 1739. Oakfield Park includes beautiful walled gardens with deep flower beds, a kitchen garden, flower meadows, ponds, streams, wetlands, a par-terre, a castle, a classical lakeside Nymphaeum, garden sculptures, heritage listed trees and a newly established international collection of oaks. The gardens can be explored on foot or by train on the 4.5km narrow gauge railway.

Portsalon Luxury Glamping (Click for details)

A great opportunity to let your children roam free and enjoy the outdoors while the entire family gets back to nature and get to enjoy a great family adventure that should live long in the memories of all. See Donegal from a unique perspective among unspoiled countryside and a stunning beach just a walk away. 

Portsalon Luxury Camping has stunning coastal views and mountain scenery. Each of the yurts have a king sized bed (all bed linen provided), double sofa bed and wood burning stove inside. There is a barbecue area and firepit outside. 

Bicycles are available to rent. Eggs from free range hens on site are available, as are excess vegetables from the vegetable garden. Wood for the wood burning stoves is also available. 

The world renowned blue flag beach ‘Ballymastocker Strand’ is approximately one mile from the site. Nearby Portsalon village offers one general shop, two restaurants, one pub, and the famous Portsalon golf club with clubhouse facilities.

Tropical World at Acorns (Click for details)

An ideal day out for kids of all ages. Tropical butterflies in free flight along with lemurs, meerkats and coatimundis make this mini zoo a must see destination in Donegal. With tropical birds, owls and its own reptile house, Tropical World has something for everyone. Being 90% indoors, its perfect whatever the weather.

Visitors can also learn about the environment and conservation as they enjoy their walk through Tropical World. Tropical World aims to engross children and adults alike, all the while educating them about the beautiful world we live in. This area is fully covered and ideal for family, youth and school trips, come rain or shine.

Waterworld Bundoran (Click for details)

It currently has the fastest slide in Ireland, The Whizzer (9.2 degree drop), a Tornado slide (50m long) and a Twister slide (a separate aqua catch landing and a yellow scute shute slide and surf slide for the younger kids). 
Waterworld currently has two 24 metre swimming pools, one is a slide pool (the slides finish into this pool) and the other is a wave pool, which has beach entry water features, with five different wave patterns and two speed rapids. A sure delight for children regardless of age! 

Lurgybrack Open Farm (Click for details)

This centuries old farm building is home to a range of friendly farm animals that children can come face to face with. There are a large variety of animals to see and enjoy, baby kids and lambs can be bottle fed. The rabbits can be handled and cuddled in the pet corner. Kids can enjoy the large playground and sandpit area, have fun on the barrel train run, and feed the ducks. The variety of animals living in harmony in Lurgybrack is sure to amaze and delight little minds. There is ample space to play safely, wander by the riverside, walk or just sit back and unwind with a tasty snack from our tea room or bring your own family picnic.

Ards Forest Park (Click for details)

Situated on the N56, between Creeslough and Dunfanaghy in Donegal, Ards Forest Park is one of the most beautiful and varied of Ireland's Forest Parks.
At Ards Forest Park there are a number of signposted walks incorporating the main features of the park. These include the Arts Heritage Trail which is 3.5km long, the nature trail and the green trail which are both 3km long and the Red Trail which is 13km long. This walk does incorporate some provision for shortcuts back to the starting point should the weather change.
The park is 480 hectares in extent and contains a large diversity of plant and wildlife forms. Sandy beaches, rivers, viewing points, nature walks, picnic and play areas. Hours can be spent here in complete relaxation, be it on the many nature walks or on its golden beaches. It is a place for everyone to get away for a while.
There is also a car park and a children's play area.

 A trip with a difference on board The Donegal Bay Waterbus (Click for details)

The tour includes a full commentary on the history and geography of Donegal Bay by an experienced and fully trained crew, combined with a sprinkling of Irish humour, which ensures that passengers are kept both informed and entertained during the voyage. Highlights on the tour include a close encounter with Seal Island and its 200 strong seal colony and unparalleled views of the Bluestack Mountains and the gorgeous Donegal coastline. 
Live musical entertainment is provided on the homeward leg of each tour and there is even a dance floor for those who wish to ‘waltz on the water’. With easy access for all from the pier and plenty of parking on the quayside, this tour is ideal for old and young alike and is perfect for families, tour groups, and independent travellers. 

Gartan Outdoor Adventure Centre (Click for details)

Gartan Outdoor Education and Training Centre is situated on a large 87-acre woodland estate and on the shores of beautiful Lough Gartan. The secluded location in the heart of Donegal, makes for an ideal base for a wide variety of adventure activities. For over a quarter of century Gartan Outdoor Education and Training Centre has been providing courses at all levels in a wide range of outdoor pursuits. From Outdoor Learning and Adventure Sport training courses to holidays and guided trips, there are activities to suit all levels of experience on offer. Activities available include Archery, Canadian Canoing, Coasteering, Gorge Walking, Hillwalking, Kayaking, Mountain Biking, Mountaineering, Orienteering, Power Boating, Raft Building, Rock Climbing, Sailing, Sea Kayaking, Surfing, Whitewater Kayaking, Windsurfing. 

Play Centres(Click for details)

If you prefer your fun-times under cover then you’ll discover an abundance of options for entertaining kids indoors throughout Donegal and below are a few ideas.

There’s no shortage of indoor play centres, with Dizzy’s Den in Bundoran, Wain’s World in Buncrana, and Arena7 in Letterkenny, Craic@Jacks in Ballybofey  to name a few.Perhaps one of the county's cinemas is the ideal spot to treat the kids to a movie and popcorn, or maybe some swimming pool fun in Bundoran, Letterkenny, Buncrana, Redcastle, or Ballybofey.

For more information on all things Donegal, check out www.govisitdonegal.com 

10 Cool Pubs in County Donegal that Specialise in Seafood

Being surrounded by the cool, clean waters of the Atlantic Ocean, it is no wonder that Donegal is probably the best county in Ireland to eat fresh seafood. Having been awarded 13 Blue Flag beaches last year, is an indication of how clean the waters around County Donegal are, something that is vital to the healthy growth of fresh oysters, mussels and all other shellfish.

To eat the amazing seafood that is landed fresh into Donegal every day, by locally owned fishing boats off our west coast, is a true pleasure! Our Donegal chefs have grown up with fresh seafood and are proud to cook it simply and let the flavour of the fish speak for itself. To eat delicious fish and seafood in a local pub, with a chilled glass of wine - or even better, with a pint of locally brewed Donegal craft beer - and you will get a taste of what it's actually like to live here in Donegal!

And so, we've put together this list (in no particular order) of 10 Cool Pubs in County Donegal that specialise in cooking and serving the freshest Fish and Seafood. Enjoy!

The Village Tavern 
Mountcharles, County Donegal
Tel: 074 973 5622

The Village Tavern is just 5 minutes drive west of Donegal Town. The Tavern prides itself on the many varied seafood dishes it has to offer. Fresh fish and seafood is sourced daily from the nearby ports of Inver and Killybegs and locally grown herbs and vegetables also make their way onto the menu. The Village Tavern has a modern approach to seafood cooking and presentation and combines traditional methods of cooking with modern styles and flavours such as Byrne's locally Smoked Cod Cakes‎, McHugh’s Atlantic Mussels & Oysters and a Donegal Mountain Lamb Plate. They specialise in small tasting plates (almost like an Irish seafood tapas) that you can enjoy in the bar or the casual dining room. The Village Tavern also offers a large selection of Irish craft beers.

The Fleet Inn
Bridge Street, Killybegs, County Donegal
Tel: 074 973 1518

Centrally located in the heart of the fishing town of Killybegs, the Fleet Inn is just a few minutes walk from the main harbour and only a short drive from the amazing Sliabh Liag Cliffs. The menu is designed to suite almost everyone's taste and includes traditional classics such as Monkfish & Prawns cooked in garlic butter and cheese along with other Oyster, Mussels, Scallops, Smoked Salmon and Crab dishes! Their beer battered fillet of fresh Killybegs Cod is locally famous and they also offer a good selection of meat dishes.

The Salmon Inn
Mullinasole, Laghey, County Donegal
Tel: 074 973 4040

Situated at the head of the pier in Mullinasole, halfway between Donegal Town and Ballyshannon, the Salmon Inn is one of the hidden gems of the Donegal food scene. The dining room looks out over Donegal Bay and the sunsets viewed from there are as spectacular as is the food on offer. Fresh fish and seafood are delivered daily and all are cooked to perfection. Local steak and lamb are also on the menu with daily specials on the blackboard. The staff are friendly and relaxed and the bar-food can also be served outside on the garden benches. Definitely one to try!

Olde Castle Bar, Donegal Town
Castle Street, Donegal Town, County Donegal
Tel: 074 972 1262

The Olde Castle Bar & Fish Dock Restaurant is home to some of finest Donegal Town's finest seafood, steaks, beers & whiskies, served by the O’Toole family and their team. The Bar is situated in the centre of Donegal Town, under the shadow of the famous Red Hugh O'Donnell Castle on the banks of the River Eske. The Olde Castle Bar serves a creamy Seafood Chowder and seafood and fish sourced from local ports and delivered fresh to their kitchen 6 days a week. Their Lobster, Crab, Mussels and Oysters are all fished from Donegal Bay.

Coll's Bar (Téach Coll)
Magheroarty, Gortahork, County Donegal
Tel: 087 7836415

Coll's Bar (Téach Coll in Gaelic) is a long established family-run public house in the North West Donegal Gaeltacht of Magheroarty. It overlooks the pier and beach, with the Inisboffin & Tory Islands, Muckish and Errigal mountains in the distance. The pub was established around 1900 by James Coll, the current proprietors grandfather. Coll's Bar is cosy and relaxed and the food is fresh, simply cooked and very tasty. They serve fresh Hake, Haddock, Oysters, Mussels, Smoked Salmon and are locally famous for their fresh Crab Claws and the house special Cod on Champ with Chorizo!

Nancy's Bar
Ardara, County Donegal
Tel: 074 954 1187

The McHugh family have owned Nancy's for over seven generations! At Nancy's you will find a host of cosy wee rooms waiting to make you feel at home, with helpful staff, delicious food, great local craft beers and a chatty, friendly atmosphere. The menu is simple and classic - from hearty vegetable soup and it's famous Seafood Chowder to local Oysters and Mussels. The house specials also include the Louis Armstrong Sandwich with smoked salmon, juicy homemade burgers and Charlie's Supper, a dish of prawns and smoked salmon warmed in a sweet chilli and garlic sauce.

The Singing Pub
Downings, County Donegal
Tel: 074 915 5176

The Singing Pub, at Clontallagh in Downings, is a traditional thatched pub with open fires that serves good pub grub, with an emphasis on local steaks and locally caught seafood. It all goes down great with a pint of local craft beer and they have regular live music sessions. The bar food ranges from homemade soup and chowder with traditional breads to a full a la carte menu including their famous Seafood Platter and a mouth-watering Steak on a Stone. The menu changes every week with fresh local seafood on the special daily menu board.

The Lobster Pot
Burtonport, County Donegal
Tel: 074 954 2012

The Lobster Pot has been in the Kelly family for over thirty years. Anne, Tim and the staff really love their seafood and they have built up a great reputation for serving superbly fresh and simply cooked seafood. Fresh Lobster, Crab Claws, Mussels and Oysters are all served. Their signature Seafood Platter, known as "The Titanic", is a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds!

The Seaview Tavern
Ballygorman, Malin Head, County Donegal
Tel: 0749370117

Michael and Caitriona Doherty run this wonderful old pub. Bar food and lunch specials are served daily with the emphasis on local produce including fresh seafood from the local pier. Lobster, Mussels, Oysters, Crab and Salmon are just some of the succulent seafoods available throughout most of the year with fresh seafood and meat specials on the blackboard every day!

Kealys' Seafood Bar
The Harbour, Greencastle, County Donegal
Tel: 074 93 81010

Kealy's Seafood Bar has been family run by James and Tricia Kealy since 1989. It is situated in the picturesque fishing village of Greencastle with an abundance of freshly caught fish, quite literally on the doorstep, from members of the Greencastle Fishermen’s Co-op! Fresh Hake, Haddock, Salmon, Oysters, Mussels and Smoked Mackerel are some of the favourites. The chefs at Kealy's also take great pride in the fact that they prepare all the breads, sauces, dips and desserts in-house.

Website: www.kealysseafoodbar.ie

And now for a Very Special Mention for the Best Seafood Chowder in the World!

Nancy's Barn
Main Street, Ballyliffin, Clonmany, County Donegal
Tel: 086 843 2897

Nancy's Barn is not a pub, but it is a beautifully restored old barn in the heart of Ballyliffin, which serves the most delicious seafood chowder in the world - and that's official!

Chef and owner of Nancy’s Barn, Kieran 'Duey' Doherty, won the sixth annual All-Ireland Chowder Cook Off in Kinsale in April last year, which earned him the right to compete with some of the best chowder makers in the world. On Saturday, 10th June, 2017, Nancy's Barn competed in and won the 1st Prize at the 36th Annual Great Chowder Cook-Off in Rhode Island, USA, which is the longest-running event of this kind in world.

The restaurant is run by Kieran and his wife Edel, and they serve delicious fresh home baking, desserts, shortbread, scones, sandwiches and seafood chowder.

For more information on all the bars and restaurants that provide food in County Donegal and other information about events and places to visit, go to our website at www.GoVisitDonegal.com.

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