Adventure awaits you in Donegal..
DOE CASTLE (DISTANCE & DRIVE-TIME FROM RESORT : 3.4MILES ; 6MINS)
Doe Castle, ancient seat of the Mac Sweeney Chiefs of Doe, is beautifully situated on an inlet of Sheephaven Bay in north-west Donegal. The castle stands on a small peninsula called Cannon Point and is protected on three sides by the sea and on the fourth side by a trench hewn from solid rock. This castle was a stronghold of the local McSwyne (Sweeney) clan and where the young Red Hugh O’Donnell, Prince of Donegal was sent to perfect his skills of warfare and poetry prior to his capture by the English.
Ards Forest Park covers approximately 1200 acres and includes a variety of habitats, among them sand dunes, beaches, salt marshes, salt water lakes, rock face and, of course, coniferous and deciduous woodlands. There are a large number of trails in this park giving the walker the opportunity to explore a variety of habitats from foreshore and sand dunes to semi natural oak woodlands on rock outcrops. By “stitching together” a number of trails, it is possible to hike for 5/6 hours on forest tracks and trails, taking in the full circuit of the park. For those interested in human history, there are a number of historical and archaeological features. There are the remains of four ring forts together with a holy well and a mass rock.
The church and friary were built in 1966 on the site of the old Ards House. This very peaceful place is set in mature woodland near the north-eastern tip of Ards peninsula and has an interesting selection of exotic trees. It was to the small pier south of the friary that coal and other goods used to be delivered, and silica sand exported, which was mined on nearby Muckish Mountain.There is a wonderful footpath immediately south of the friary, which follows the shore among oak, beech and elm trees, passing Isabella’s Bay, a sandy beach and exits on to the point of Ards. Public toilets and coffee shop are also located on the 200-acre grounds of Ards Friary. Toilets and a coffee shop are also conveniently located on the grounds.
DOON WELL & ROCK (12.2MILES ; 29MINS)
This Holy Well, famous since Penal days for its cures is the most frequented and famous Holy Well in Co. Donegal. Doon Rock is the spot that 25 great chieftains of Tír Chonaill were inaugurated.The last O’Donnell to be elected at Doon Rock was Niall Garbh in 1603. He was the last Celtic Lord of the Finn Valley, and a cousin of Red Hugh. It was here too that Sir Cahir O’Doherty, just out of his teens – and the last Chieftain of Inishowen – was slain in battle in 1608.
GLEBE HOUSE GALLERY (13.7MILES ; 27MINS)
Glebe House, set in woodland gardens, decorated with William Morris textiles, Islamic and Japanese art etc. The Derek Hill collection includes 300 works by leading 20th century artists; Picasso, Kokoshka as well as Irish and Italian artists. Exhibitions are shown in the adjoining gallery.
DUNTALLY WOOD NATURE RESERVE (4MILES ; 6MINS)
Set on 15.3 ha Duntally Wood is rich in plant species with alder woodland on the valley floor and hazel-ash woodland on the valley sides. There is a variety of bird-life in the wood with Tits feeding on insects among the branches while Robins and Wrens feed closer to the ground. Otters live in the river, eating eels, trout and other fish.
Glenveagh National Park lies in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains in the north-west of Co. Donegal. It is a remote and hauntingly beautiful wilderness of rugged mountains and pristine lakes. The Park consists of 16,540 hectares (40,873 acres) of mountains, lakes, glens and woods, with a herd of red deer. A Scottish style castle is surrounded by one of the finest gardens in Ireland, which contrast with the rugged surroundings. The Visitor Centre houses exhibitions and an audio-visual show.
ATLANTIC DRIVE (9.2MILES ; 20MINS)
The Atlantic Drive is a short but very spectacular road around the rosguill Peninsula , which encapsulates the dramatic marriage of two natural elements-the ageless land of Donegal and the timeless courtship of the Atlantic , which has forged a glorious alliance of great beauty. As it is only about 12km around, you will best appreciate it if you walk or cycle. The walk can be comfortably accomplished in half a day. The views are spectacular, first across Sheephaven Bay , with its beautiful beach forming a golden link between two headlands. Further on is Melmore Head, which commands views across to Fanad Head. The road winds above Mulroy Bay with its many inlets, islands and peninsulas.
GARTAN ROCK (14.8MILES ; 23MINS)
Widely considered the birthplace of St. Columba, the area around Gartan Lough encompasses some of the most beautiful mountain country in Ireland. A large cross alongside the footpath that leads to Glenveagh National Park commemorates St. Columba’s birth in 521 A.D. Other powerful relics of the Saint include the Stone of Loneliness, where St.Columba Columba is believed to have slept, and the Natal Stone, where he supposedly first opened his eyes and gazed upon the world.
Mount Errigal is situated in the north-west of Donegal between Dunlewy, Gweedore, Gortahock and Glenveagh. An exciting mountain standing at over 752 metres (2,467 ft). Errigal dominates the landscape and provides a dramatic backdrop to the shallow peat valley, subdivided by low dry stone walls, which follow you to Dunlewy. Errigal is steep and needs great care, particularly on descent, but the views are really breathtaking on every side. Access to the uppermost peak is via a narrow goat track where the ground falls away sharply on either side. If you have a poor head for heights be content with the lower ridge. The summit ridge offers views over Glenveagh National Park, the Poison Glen, and on a clear day Tory Island, off the north west coast.
POISONED GLEN (17.4MILES ; 29MINS)
The Poisoned Glen is one of the most beautiful spots in Donegal, Ireland – it’s a small glacial valley sandwiched between Errigal, Lake Dunlewy, and the Glenveagh National Park. It is lush, green and boggy, with gorgeous views in every direction, particularly of Errigal’s quartzite slopes. There are no roads, no birds and only one headstone in the parish graveyard. The church, built of locally quarried white marble, was abandoned decades ago because no one lives near it any more.Herds of red deer roam wild in the Poisoned Glen, and apparently it had a breeding population of golden eagles until 1910, when the last recorded sighting occurred.
MUCKISH MOUNTAIN (9.8MILES ; 22MINS)
Muckish (Irish: An Mhucais, meaning “pig’s back”) is a distinctive flat-topped mountain in the Derryveagh Mountains of Donegal, Ireland. At 666 metres, it is the third-highest peak in the Derryveagh Mountains, with Errigal being the highest. The mountain, with its characteristic outline, is a dominant feature of the north Donegal scenery. Muckish is also the most northern and second highest of the mountain chain, called the ‘Seven Sisters’ by locals.
LOUGH NA TOOHEY (4.5MILES ; 9MINS)
Lough na Toohey, situated just outside Creeslough, is now open for fishing. This is a fly and boat fishing only venue and has been stocked since the Autumn with hard fighting fish in the 2-6lb range. The fish have over-wintered well in the alkaline water and are in great condition.
Glen Lough is now noted for sea trout, with an average weight of approximately 1½lbs. Dapping results in a slightly bigger fish with an average weight of around 2lb. The lough has a healthy population of brown trout that can weigh up to 3 to 4lb. (A brown trout weighing 9lb was recorded in the late 80?s). Recommended flies are the Peter Ross, Teal Blue and Silver, Wickham’s Fancy, Butcher and Connemara Black. Bank fishing is not allowed on the lough shores.
The Lackagh is a short river of only 2 miles flowing from Glen Lough to Sheephaven Bay, which is noted for its good runs of spring salmon, grilse and sea trout. The spring run starts in January and continues to March. Grilse start to run at the end of June and continue all though July whilst a small run of autumn salmon appears in September. Sea trout are at their best from July. Any spinning method works well. Fly fishers prefer a ½ inch Willie Gunn tube fly for the spring salmon and the Badger or a shrimp fly for the rest of the season. Sea trout fish best at night on a size 10-12 fly with the best patterns being Mallard and Claret, Donegal Blue, Connemara Black or a Peter Ross.
LOUGH BEAGH (12MILES ; 29MINS)
Lough Beagh is located in the heart of the Glenveagh National Park. It is primarily a trout fishery but can produce the occasional salmon. Sea trout tend to run late with the best fishing from August onwards. The average weight for sea trout is 3 to 4lbs. Recommended flies are much the same as Glen Lough but the Fiery Brown and the Alexandra are also worth trying. The resident brown trout population tends to be fairly small, running from ½lb to 1lb, but 2lb and 3lb fish are regularly taken every season. The lough also has a resident population of Arctic Char but these are not fished for. Fishing only starts on Lough Beagh when its resident birds have finished breeding (usually around mid-July). Bank fishing is not permitted and two boats are available on the lough.
MCSWINES GUN (14.2MILES ; 29MINS)
On the western side of Horn Head is a perforation of the rock, known as Mc Swine’s Gun: when the wind sets in from the north-west, the sea is driven into this cavern with such violence as to rise through an opening of the rock above in lofty jets to a height of between 200 and 300 feet, with so great a noise as to be heard for 10 miles.
HORN HEAD (14.2MILES ; 29MINS)
Horn Head (Irish: Corran Binne, “Hollow in the Hills”) is a peninsula with a range of beetling mountains projecting into the Atlantic. Temple Arch is a natural stone formation in one of them. Numerous remains of Neolithic stone circles and tombs can be found in the Horn Head area.
Ionad Cois Locha or the Dunlewey Lakeside Centre is situated on the shores of Dunlewey Lough in the shadow of the haunting and mysterious Poison Glen and at the foot of Mount Errigal, the highest mountain in the county. There are demonstrations in carding, spinning and weaving wool as well as guided tours to the restored house and farm, storytelling and boat trips on Dunlewey lake. There is also an adventure play area, pet animals, tea room, restaurant and craft shop.
RATHMULLAN (FLIGHT OF THE EARLS) (20.3MILES ; 35MINS)
Rathmullan is a small seaside village situated on the western shore of Lough Swilly and was the scene of the Flight of the Earls in 1607.There are also the ruins of a medieval Carmelite Friary in Rathmullan which was built by Eoghan Rua MacSweeney in 1516. In 1607, Rathmullan was also said to have seen the last of the Gaelic Order, most notably the Ó Neills, during the Flight of the Earls to the continent. In 1617 the Friary was occupied by the Protestant Bishop of Raphoe, Andrew Knox, who turned it into a stronghold during the colonisation of Donegal. In the 18th century Rathmullan was the location of the capture of Wolfe Tone, a leader of the 1798 Rising. In the 19th century there was an English battery situated near the pier to defend Lough Swilly from a possible invasion of France during the Napoleonic Wars. This battery still stands and today serves as a heritage centre. During the summer months a car ferry service runs every 30mins to Buncrana.
SLIEVE LEAGUE (83MILES ; 105MINS)
Slieve League will take your breath away, that is a promise – the cliffs of Slieve League in Donegal are the highest sea cliffs in Europe. A nearly sheer drop of roughly 2,000 feet separates the Atlantic Ocean from the highest point of the cliffs. Less famous than the Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare, Slieve League reaches almost three times higher than Clare’s famous attraction. A tall mountain of nearly 2000 feet, precipitous on its northern side, has been devoured by the sea till the southern face forms a precipice likewise, descending on this side right into the Atlantic from the long knife-edge which forms the summit. The traverse of this ridge, the “One Man’s Path”, is one of the most remarkable walks to be found in Ireland – not actually dangerous, but needing a good head and careful progress on a stormy day. ( Belfast naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger.)
For centuries countless visitors have marvelled at the majesty and mystery of the Giants Causeway. At the heart of one of Europe’s most magnificent coastlines its unique rock formations have, for millions of years, stood as a natural rampart against the unbridled ferocity of Atlantic storms. The rugged symmetry of the columns never fails to intrigue and inspire our visitors. To stroll on the Giants Causeway is to voyage back in time.Your imagination will travel along stepping stones that lead to either the creative turbulence of a bygone volcanic age or into the mists and legends of the past. In 1986 the Giants Causeway Visitors centre opened, coinciding with the World Heritage Conventions addition of the Causeway to its coveted list of sites, which are of exceptional interest and universal value. The facilities at the Causeway Centre now include Tourist Information offices, Bureau De Change, Accommodation Booking Service, an Interpretive Audio-Visual Presentation and a Souvenir Shop. The National Trust are the custodians of the Causeway and provide the National Trust Shop and Tea Rooms. The centre caters for the interest and enjoyment of the half a million tourists that visit the Giants Causeway each year.
On the top of the Greenan mountain, not far from the border of Northern Ireland, lies Grianan of Aileach, one of the finest stone forts in Ireland. The massive stone wall is 3.9m (13ft) thick and encloses an area 23.4m (77ft) in diameter. In the walls are small chambers; a series of stairs at regular intervals inside the walls gave access to the wall-walk. The entrance is very long and lintelled. Legend says it was built by the ancient gods; the ring fort was known as the Sun Palace and was held sacred. Traces of ancient earthworks, dating to the early Iron Age, surround the fort, enclosing an area of about 5 acres (0.02 km2). The fort itself was probably built in the early centuries of the Christian era. From the 5th to the 12th century AD it served as the royal seat of the O Neill sept of Aileach; it was destroyed by Murtogh O Brien, king of Munster in 1101. To make the demolition complete, the king ordered each of his soldiers to take away a stone from the fort. Grianan of Aileach was reconstructed by Dr Bernard of Derry in 1870, but archaeologists are doubtful about the inner restoration