What it's like
It’s hard to pick the best feature of Donegal’s landscape. There are mountain peaks in the Derryveagh range that are deeply satisfying to conquer even though they aren’t that high; the cliffs around Slieve League and Glencolmcille are spectacular; the Blue Stacks to the south are as rugged and wild as you could ask for.
Wherever you walk in Donegal, you need good waterproof boots. It’s wet all over, so not for thos afraid of a little bog wallowing. But you’re rewarded with some wonderful views and crystal clear skyscapes. Unfortunately, the bungalow blitz of unrestricted development of second homes for many years means that some wonderful viewpoints have been spoiled.
There are, however, some marvellous beach walks (including Portsalon, voted by readers of the Observer as the second most beautiful beach in the world). Sweeping white-golden sands, secluded bays, wild weather and the ever-present driving power of the Atlantic. The air doesn’t get much fresher than this… it’s like sand-blasting the soul.
If you’re stuck with a soft day when the cloud level is round your knees and the wetness is insinuating itself through even your super-duper goretex, there’s plenty to do in Donegal. There are ruined castles, artists’ workshops museums.
You could spend a fortnight exploring the Inishowen peninsula alone. But to really get to grips with this place, you have to explore one or two of the county’s islands. Tory, Gola, and Arranmore are all fabulous in different ways - and all have their own little way-marked routes.
- Muckish to Errigal Route of the sadly defunct Glover Challenge Walk, this takes in the best of the northern Donegal highlands.
- Slieve League Totter across One Man's Pass above what calim to be Europe's highest sea cliffs: impressive and a little scary.
- Malin Head The northernmost point of Ireland, worthy of a pleasant circular walk. There's nothing but sea between here and America.
Must see and do
- Art and music on Tory Island Take the ferry to Tory from Bunbeg or Magheraroarty and experience firsthand the wonderful music in this bleak and isolated setting. Meet some of the Irish-speaking locals and enjoy the works of the naive painting school.
- Take a tour of Glenveagh Castle Looks a bit like a Scottish Glen; the estate produces an astounding one million midges per acre, so visit outside insect season.
- Visit Glebe House Once owned by Derek Hill, who founded the Tory Island painting school. Home to his collection of Picassos, original William Morris wallpaper and paintings by Jack B Yeats, amongst others.
Destination County : Ireland North West