We’re all looking a bit closer to home for our getaways this year, and we might be bias, but Donegal really does have it all. Voted ‘Coolest Place on the Planet’ by National Geographic in 2017, whether you’re looking for adventurous outdoor pursuits, a bit of luxury or breathtaking scenery, there is something here for you.
Here are some of our family’s top tips for things to see and do on a three-day staycation in Donegal.
Base yourself at the Lough Eske Castle Hotel, this 5-star award winning hotel and spa is nestled at the foot of the Blue Stack Mountains just five miles from Donegal Town. From Cedars Restaurant you can take in sweeping views of the castle gardens and surrounding woodland while enjoying simple, exquisitely fresh ingredients prepared to perfection.
After you get settled at the hotel, take the short, 10-minute drive into Donegal Town – a lively spot all year round. The epic Donegal Castle, built in 1474 sits on the banks of the River Eske and was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan, one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland. Pop over the bridge and you’ll find the start of the Donegal Bank Trail, a pleasant scenic stroll along the river that takes you out to Donegal Bay and back.
The Diamond is the main hub of Donegal Town, surrounded by café’s and restaurants and our Magee of Donegal shop, which stands on the site of the original drapers shop, founded in 1866. Here we specialise in Magee men’s and women’s wear and accessories – designed and made in Ireland. Other brands include – Barbour, Dubarry, Seasalt and luxury Irish made gifts including Newbridge Silver. Call ahead to arrange a weaving demonstration in our heritage room or take a break at the Weaver’s Loft café where we focus on a seasonal menu and home baking.
Time to explore the Wild Atlantic Way. Just up the coast is Mountcharles Pier, stop for a coffee at the small café there, and have a splash in the ocean if you feel up for it. After enjoying the views across the bay, head to Salthill Gardens, built within old stone walls, this contemporary garden is bursting with flowers, shrubs and vegetables. Wander the paths, peer through rod iron garden gates, and feel as if you’ve stepped into the pages of The Secret Garden. (Open 1 May to 30 September 2020).
Continuing along the coast you will find Killybegs, Ireland’s largest fishing port. Just in time for lunch, The Seafood Shack will not disappoint. Famous for their seafood chowder (winner of Ireland’s Best Chowder at the 9th All Ireland Chowder Cook Off in Kinsale in 2019) the rest of their offering is delicious too, freshly prepared local seafood all to be enjoyed al fresco accompanied by views of the sea and busy fishing boats.
Onward to Sliabh Liag , the highest sea cliffs in Europe. Stretching to over 600m above sea level, the views are unmissable. Drive to the top of the cliffs, or park and enjoy the hike.
Take the loop back through the winding Glengesh Pass to the heritage town of Ardara, a must for fans of traditional Irish music and also a town steeped in the wool trade. A busy market town, in the late 19th century our founder John Magee would visit the market in Ardara to buy and sell handwoven tweeds. On your return, treat yourself to a delicious dinner at the Lakeside Restaurant at Harvey’s Point Hotel on Lough Eske. Their seven-course tasting dinner is the perfect way to enjoy the best of Irish produce.
Head north to Glenveagh National Park, the second largest national park in Ireland covering 170 square kilometres of hillside above Glenveagh Castle on the shore of Lough Veagh. The park hosts a variety of walking trails to suit everyone from the novice to experienced hiker. The fresh air and stunning views are guaranteed to blow away all your cobwebs. If hiking isn’t your thing, cycling and fishing are also on offer as well as a relaxed stroll through the castle’s walled Victorian gardens.
We hope you enjoy your trip through our home county and the landscapes that have inspired our talented weavers and designers for more than 150 years.