8 Reasons to visit Ireland’s Forgotten County – Donegal

Tara McHugh

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According to the National Geographic Traveller, County Donegal is the coolest place to visit in 2017. In the complementary article of Ireland’s ‘forgotten county’, the National Geographic Traveller outlines why the Hills of Donegal is a must see destination.

“This is a dreamlike landscape, wild and remote. It’s the kind of place where you may spot a golden eagle soaring above Glenveagh National Park, or hear Irish spoken as a native tongue in the Ghaeltacht around Gweedore and Glencolmcille. Driving Donegal’s peninsulas, your phone reception flickers in and out of reach, and there’s a constant risk of crashing into the scenery. At the end of the Slieve League peninsula, there is a sickle-shaped strand cut into the cliffs at Malin Beg. The roads wind like ribbons and suddenly run out at Silver Strand. No mobile coverage. Often no people. Next parish? Boston.”

Incase you need anymore encouragement to travel to the North West, Tara McHugh has shortlisted the must see spots in her beloved county.

1. Slieve League

One of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, Slieve League offers “an amazing sea vista and landscape.” The image says it all, even on an overcast day!

Slieve League Cliffs - Photo Credit, Matt Dean
Slieve League Cliffs – Photo Credit, Matt Dean (Flickr)

2. Fanad Light House

Situated between the idyllic Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay, Fanad Lighthouse has been voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. Nestled deep in the Donegal Gaeltacht, Fanad Lighthouse offers breathtaking views of the Donegal scenery. You might even spot whales, porpoises and dolphins on your visit! The Lightkeeper’s House has been beautifully renovated in recent years, why not book into the lighthouse for a night to truly appreciate the Wild Atlantic Way’s hidden gem.

Find out more information at http://fanadlighthouse.com/

Fanad Lighthouse, Co. Donegal - Photo Credit, Matt Dean
Fanad Lighthouse, Co. Donegal – Photo Credit, Matt Dean (Flickr)

3. Shandon Hotel

The newly refurbished Shandon Hotel & Spa, Portnablagh overlooks one of the most famous beaches along the Wild Atlantic Way, Marble Hill Beach and Sheephaven Bay. You’re also guaranteed to wake up to stunning views in the hotel as every bedroom overlooks the beach. Think it can’t get any better, think again. Book into the tranquil Shandon Spa and you’ll never want to leave. 

Find out more information at http://shandonhotelspa.com/

Marble Hill Beach, Dunfanaghy - Phot Credit, rongorongo (Flickr)
Marble Hill Beach, Dunfanaghy – Photo Credit, rongorongo (Flickr)

4. Glenveagh National Park 

Want a relaxing day away from the hustle and bustle? Whatever the weather, Glenveagh National Park is always worth a visit. The 19th century Scottish style castle is surrounded by almost 41,000 acres of mountains, lakes, glens, woods and manicured gardens. After the guided tour of the castle, sit back and relax in the tea rooms before have a stroll around the gardens.

For more information at http://www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie/

Glenveagh National Park - Photo Credit, Amanda Baker (Flickr)
Glenveagh National Park – Photo Credit, Amanda Baker (Flickr)

5. Redcastle Oceanfront Golf & Spa Hotel 

Another beautiful 4 star hotel in Donegal, the Redcastle Oceanfront Golf & Spa Hotel is the perfect base for a few days in the north of the county. The resort overlooks the shores of Lough Foyle in the Inishowen Peninsula. The hotel is the perfect base for furthering exploring the Peninsula, the “wild coastline, tiny fishing villages” and the county’s natural charm. Not forgetting the hotel’s private 9 hole golf course and luxury spa.

Find out more information at http://www.redcastlehoteldonegal.com/

The Inishowen Peninsula - Photo Credit, Andrew McCoubrey (Flickr)
The Inishowen Peninsula – Photo Credit, Andrew McCoubrey (Flickr)

6. Grianan of Aileach  

Grianan of Aileach, the stone fort in Inishown dates back to 1700 BC. Today, though, the views from the Aileach are breathtaking, overlooking Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle. A windy and exposed place, the Grianan is a hidden gem along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Grianan of Aileach - Photo Credit, Jim Grey (Flickr)
Grianan of Aileach – Photo Credit, Jim Grey (Flickr)

7. Horn Head Drive 

One of the most dramatic and beautiful Donegal peninsulas. Horn Head offers breathtaking viewpoints of the Atlantic Ocean to the north of the headland, whilst the south overlooks Dunfanaghy with Muckish and the Derryveagh mountains in the background. Drive around the peninsula to appreciate the ruggedness and beauty of the natural landscape, or leave your car and walk around the headland to truly enjoy the splendid views.

Horn Head Drive - Photo Credit, James Stringer (Flickr)
Horn Head Drive – Photo Credit, James Stringer (Flickr)

8. Nairn Beach

Nestled in South Donegal, Nairn Beach is amid a designated natural heritage area of both coastal and terrestrial habitats. Recently voted no. 9 in Trip Advisor’s 2017 Traveller’s Choice, Nairn Beach is set in a cove with the welcome protection of Dunmore Head. The beach was also awarded the International Blue Flag award in 2016.

Driftwood, Nairn Beach - Photo Credit, Joanna Paterson (Flickr)
Driftwood, Nairn Beach – Photo Credit, Joanna Paterson (Flickr)

 

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Tara McHugh