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Destination Spotlight: Donegal

By Millie Earle-Wright
More by Millie

Wonderful, Wild and Unexpected – Why Donegal?

From the rocky mountains, pristine lakes and tumbling waterfalls of Glenveagh National Park to the many miles of stunning North Atlantic coastline – Donegal, Ireland’s northernmost county, is a place of rugged natural beauty. Less visited than its more southerly counterparts, this often forgotten county is the perfect destination for intrepid travellers looking for something special. With a diverse landscape providing an incredible tapestry for extraordinary experiences and a small number of elegant, luxury accommodations tucked away in its wilderness, Donegal is an exciting inclusion to any bespoke Irish adventure.


For Adventure

Donegal’s landscape is one of iridescent lakes, wind-whipped heaths and rock-scattered summits. The rainbow outside the window may warn you of the weather’s fickle nature, but the wilderness beyond begs to be explored. The coastline is equally enchanting – from secluded beaches and turquoise inlets to isolated sea stacks and seaweed-strewn harbours. From the remote Malin Head (Ireland’s northernmost point) to the county’s highest peak (Errigal Mountain) – if you’re coming here for spectacular hiking and views to take your breath away, you won’t be disappointed.

Bike tour

Glenveagh National Park

One of Ireland’s six national parks (and the second largest of them all), Glenveagh is the beating heart of Donegal. At its centre, the majestic Glenveagh Castle offers a striking symbol of 19th-century architecture, and a visit to its gothic orangery, Italian terrace and Tuscan garden is not to be missed. Beyond the manicured gardens of this romantic castellated mansion, adventurous hikers can traverse ancient trails amidst cloud-snagged summits and wind through valleys where shimmering waters reflect the surrounding landscape. With its rich history, wild scenery, and many opportunities to explore, Glenveagh National Park invites travellers to discover the untamed beauty of Ireland’s northwest.

Slieve League

Where the unrelenting power of the sea is a constant, rhythmic roar, Sliabh Liag lays claim to some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. Rising dramatically above the crashing waves of the North Atlantic, these towering cliffs climb over 600 metres into the salt-flecked sky. Bunglass Viewpoint offers the perfect stop for a mindful moment, and there’s also the option to hop on a small boat and enjoy the views from below. As well as Sliabh Liag, Donegal’s 1,133 km of wild coastline encompasses wailing sea caves, expansive estuaries, sandy beaches and hidden coves.

Maghera Beach & Assaranca Waterfall

Found near Ardara, the long golden strand of Maghera beach is flanked by Slievetooey Mountain and tall, grassy dunes. Its picturesque location invites leisurely strolls along the shoreline and picnics looking out at the rolling, deep blue waves. It also hides an impressive system of caves which can be explored at low tide. Nearby, Assaranca Waterfall cascades gracefully down a rugged hillside into a dark pool below, offering a lovely destination for photographers, families, and explorers alike.

For Flora and Fauna


With a diverse tapestry of habitat, including heavily wooded regions, unsheltered coastlines, sparse upper lands and expansive blanket bogs, Donegal supports a wide variety of flora and fauna. In the summer months, the region’s coastal cliffs are busy with seabirds such as fulmars, kittiwakes, peregrines and puffins. Seals lounge on warm rocks, and dolphins are sometimes spotted from the beaches.

Inland, the most common wildlife resident is wild deer. One species, the Irish red deer, was reintroduced to Ireland in 1890 following extinction 30 years prior. The woods harbour red squirrels and secretive pine martens, while the open moors provide habitat for ground nesting birds such as grouse and curlew.

Blanket bogs support an important number of plants, including sphagnum mosses and carnivorous sundew plants. With the opportunity to join a local ranger or an expert guide for a wildlife walk, clients can gain a privileged insight into Ireland’s biodiversity.

For Food And Drink

The food and drink scene of Donegal is a vibrant reflection of its rich cultural heritage and bountiful natural larder. Characterful pubs serve hearty traditional food, often accompanied by live music and local beer, while light-flooded restaurants blend seasonal local ingredients with contemporary and innovative flair. From fresh seafood caught off the rugged Atlantic coast to tender, grass-fed beef sourced from local farms – the county’s cuisine celebrates the bounty of both land and sea. Visitors to Donegal can also look forward to a pint or two of craft beer from one of the county’s microbreweries or a dram of whiskey from one of Donegal’s two distilleries.

Fisk Restaurant in Downings

Fisk Restaurant, nestled in the picturesque village of Downings, is known for its locally caught, fresh seafood. From succulent crab to silky oysters, the hearty cod and chips to the spicy buttermilk batter fish tacos – you’ll look at the menu and be hard-pressed not to order one of everything. The restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere, smiley service, a crackling woodstove and stunning views across the bay provide the perfect ingredients for a delicious, memorable meal.

Kinnegar Brewery

Kinnegar Brewery, found in the vibrant town of Letterkenny, is known for its exceptional craft beers inspired by northeast Donegal’s hilly fields and farms. Kinnegar crafts flavourful brews ranging from crisp pale ales to rich stouts. Visitors can enjoy guided tours and tastings, learning about the brewery’s commitment to quality and innovation. With a taproom that serves an eclectic line-up of beers on tap, including several that pour exclusively onsite, it’s no surprise that Kinnegar Brewery is a standout in Donegal’s thriving craft beer scene.

Distillery Tour

The Crolly Distillery

Crolly Distillery, in the Gaeltacht of West Donegal, is just a stone’s throw from the Wild Atlantic Way. Here, visitors can learn about the craft of whiskey making from expert distillers – learning about the distillery’s history and distilling process while also enjoying some of their signature tipples. With a grain-to-grass approach to distilling, discover the secrets behind Crolly’s prized single malt and how their whiskies embody the spontaneous hospitality of the Gaelic spirit.

For Luxury

Lough Eske Castle Hotel & Spa

Nestled amidst 40 acres of mature woodland and gardens, Lough Eske Castle offers a serene retreat steeped in history and surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Guests can immerse themselves in the castle’s rich past with a complimentary history tour, exploring how the famous O’Donnell family constructed the castle in the late 1400s and discovering intriguing tales of Donegal’s heritage. The attentive and accommodating staff ensure a memorable stay, with connecting rooms available for families seeking comfort and convenience. From the inviting open fires to the genuine warmth of Irish hospitality, Lough Eske Castle exudes charm and relaxation. Indulge in the excellent spa, which offers modern amenities and tranquil views of the hotel gardens, or venture outdoors to partake in various activities, from surfing on the nearby coast to fishing in the lake’s pristine waters. With its idyllic setting and abundance of amenities, Lough Eske Castle provides the perfect escape for those seeking tranquillity and adventure amidst the stunning landscapes of Donegal.

Breac House

Breac House epitomises the seamless fusion of contemporary design and traditional craftsmanship, offering unparalleled comfort amidst the rugged beauty of Horn Head – one of Ireland’s most breathtaking headlands. Perched on a slope overlooking Sheephaven Bay and the majestic Muckish Mountain, Breac House commands panoramic views from every room, seamlessly blending the wilderness of the outdoors with indoor luxury. Clients can embrace the enchanting surroundings by embarking on a variety of adventures – whether on foot, by bike, or on horseback. Later, wind down at cocktail hour by savouring the unique flavours of local Sliabh Liag Gin infused with seaweed harvested under the full moon. There’s a vibrant, year-round scene in the surrounding area, with Dunfanaghy Village just a short drive down the road. Breac House also runs one-off gourmet weekends, where a noteworthy chef comes and cooks each night. The perfect peaceful retreat, Breac House is a jewel in the county’s crown.

Ready to Shine a Spotlight on Donegal?

Whether your clients wish for an adventurous escape to some of Ireland’s most beautiful and wild landscapes or a luxury retreat well off the beaten path, we can work with you to exceed their expectations.

With a wealth of knowledge about Donegal’s secret spots, ungoogleable experiences, and most sought-after accommodations, we take pride in providing perfect, bespoke adventures in Ireland’s wildest places.

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Meet the Author: Millie Earle-Wright

I grew up and studied in the UK. Itchy feet led to time spent in New Zealand embracing the seasonaire lifestyle and travelling in South East Asia. The last couple of years I’ve spent in British Columbia, an amazing place to chase adrenaline.

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