Welcome to Donegal!
Until recently, Donegal, Ireland, had remained pretty undiscovered. Since being named “The Coolest Place on the Planet, by National Geographic in 2017, its popularity with tourists has increased, but there are still a wealth of hidden gems and secret spots in this wild, verdant, and windswept corner of Ireland.
Tourists know the well-known attractions, but a worldwide local knows how to experience them best. This is an insider’s guide of some of Donegal’s finest spots.
Where to Begin
Donegal Town is a charming place, with some lovely spots, and small enough to be eminently manageable. It is the perfect base to explore the wilder nooks and crannies of County Donegal, and it has got a few hits of its own tucked up its sleeve. Donegal Castle was the 15th century seat of the O’Donnell chieftains and has been magnificently restored to its former grandeur and glory. A short walk down the River Eske will bring you to the ruins of Donegal Friary, which is a picturesque and peaceful spot, with lovely views over the water.
Worldwide Local Tip: A short distance from town, Lough Eske is one of the loveliest lakes in Ireland, and a magical spot for a walk or a boat ride. There is also some pretty exceptional trout and salmon fishing, in both the lough and the river, if that takes your fancy. If you’re looking for a way to appreciate the weather, Donegal offers opportunities to immerse yourself in nature.
Donegal After Dark
Despite its relatively small size, Donegal Town has no shortage of classic Irish craic, and as the sun goes down, the town can get quite lively. Around the corner from the main hotels in Donegal, there are a few excellent bars and restaurants on the River Eske with fantastic views, like Dom’s Pier, or Harvey’s Point, a little further from town on the banks of Lough Eske.
Worldwide Local Tip: For a true flavor of the Donegal spirit, head to the Reel Inn, which boasts live Irish music every night of the week. Even the shyest travelers will find their toes tapping, and will be up on their feet!
For the Nature Lover
County Donegal is defined by its otherworldly natural beauties, its rugged coastline, and its deserted, windswept beaches. Some of the best adventures can be found along the Wild Atlantic Way. This trail hugs the coastline and cliffs, squeezing you up as close as possible to the bleak beauty of the Atlantic waves, and is a truly magnificent drive, walk, or cycle. Take in the view and enjoy the crisp Donegal weather.
Worldwide Local Tip: Don’t miss Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula. This remarkable spot, Ireland’s most northerly spot, a filming location for Star Wars (The Last Jedi). In addition, it’s home to an array of interesting ruins, including a tower built during the Napoleonic Wars, and several World War Two lookout posts. If you get lucky with the weather, you can see Scotland across the water, and even sometimes catch a glimpse of Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights!
Enjoy Your Visit!
Donegal is a corner of Ireland that is stunning, dramatic, and surreal, even by the high standards set by the rest of the country. As a worldwide local you’ll be able to find the best adventures, have the most authentic experiences, and truly get under the skin of this amazing part of the world.