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Donegal: the unmissable stops to visit
Visit the wildest Donegal it was mandatory.
I managed to create a one-day itinerary that showed me the best places in Donegal, fully savoring all the beauty of nature. Here's what to see in Donegal!
Malin Head, the northernmost point in Ireland
The northernmost point of Ireland, this is how Malin Head is presented… and this alone would be enough to give it a great charm.
Yet, Mailin Head seen out of season it is something more. Feel the void, the force of nature that, on the one hand continues to crash against the northern coasts of Ireland and on the other, with the icy wind pushes impetuously behind you. In the distance scattered houses, pastures, cows and the silence of a place that certainly does not remember the classic ones of mass tourism, at least in March.
Getting to Malin Head on the Inishowen peninsula is very simple and, given the desolation of the country roads of this section of Donegal, you don't even need to have read about my advice on how to drive on the left. There is no real left.
Malin Head is considered the starting point (or even the arrival) of the Wild Atlantic Way, the fantastic road of over 2500 km that runs along the entire west coast of Ireland. You will find a small parking lot (by small I mean 5 or 6 cars) and a short climb that will lead to the "Banba's Crown" tower which owes its name to an Irish mythical deity. Here you will also see WWII lookouts protecting the Irish coast.
From Malin Head there are paths that will lead you to discover the lower part of the coast. To tell the truth, due to the bitter cold, I gave up on going to explore them, but if the day allows it, try to see where they will take you.
Malin Head is a place that you absolutely must visit if you go for a tour in Donegal.
Glenveagh National Park, Donegal's fascinating solitude
A wonderful stop in Donegal, there are no other words to describe this place out of this world. A spectacular, almost lunar context, where the color of the water is so intense that it doesn't seem real.
Il Glenveagh National Park (official website) and its castle were a pleasant, unscheduled detour, but it turned out to be the most beautiful place visited in Donegal.
I hadn't heard of it much before I left.
Thinking that Donegal was more a territory of Ireland to be discovered by car and from which to admire its landscapes, I could not think there was such a beautiful castle on the shores of a lake and no one had spoken or written about it before (at least as regards the my research).
The park: the characteristics
The park has an extension of 170 square km and inside is the castle and the lake: Lough Veagh. It is considered the perfect destination for those who love walking and taking pictures. There are many paths that wind through the various valleys, hills and mountains of the park; one of these is the “Glen Walk” of about 20 km.
The park was founded in 1985. Ten years earlier, the National Park and Monument Service had acquired this large slice of wild Donegal. Here nature reigns supreme and the stress of everyday life is far from it.
How to visit the Glenveagh
To get to this remote part of Donegal you have to cross wastelands with a lunar aspect. A pleasant journey by car discovering incredible landscapes.
The park is located about 20km from Letterkenny. To visit it you can proceed on foot from the parking lot or you can use a comfortable shuttle that runs between the castle and the visitor center. The cost is 3 euros round trip. The castle can be visited internally and the price is 7 euros for an adult, more information on discounts and / or groups can be found directly on the site that I linked to at the beginning of the paragraph.
Even if you do not want to visit the interior of the castle, you can easily stroll through the external gardens and take a thousand photographs of the beautiful panorama that can be seen from its small walls.
Slieve league, the cliffs of 600 meters
You know the famous Cliffs of Moher south of Galway? They are much praised, known and spectacular, but they are not as tall as the Slieve League cliffs. The Cliffs of Moher, with their 200 meters or so, would seem tiny if placed side by side with 601 (or 609 depending on the sources) meters of the Slieve League.
This alone would be enough to convince you to visit this stretch of southern Donegal.
It must be added that they are not "accompanied" by all that casino and tourism that characterizes the Cliffs of Moher. At the moment the Slieve Leagues are still little visited and this is a huge plus for them. No large car parks or visitor centers, on the contrary, the road to reach them is not even that easy.
A secondary road narrow and impervious leads to a gate that you will have to go through (and close behind you) to reach the top and the small parking lot. The alternative is to leave the car at the first parking lot and then walk the last few kilometers.
By panoramic points on the Slieve League you have breathtaking views of the sea and the cliffs on the horizon. Here the only noise you hear is that of the wind and nature.
Bundoran, two faces of a city
And then there is Bundoran, that town on the edge of Donegal overlooking the county of Leitrim. He knows little about Donegal, but still leaves him amazed.
Or rather, Bundoran is not a city. It is a small village crossed by the Wild Atlantic Way that empties completely out of season, while in summer it fills with young surfers.
I happened upon Bundoran on a humid early March evening. Few restaurants open, a few pubs and a wide range of choice of ...game rooms. It may sound strange, but Bundoran gave me the feeling of being the gambling capital of Ireland. Giant (and empty) rooms full of slots and little else. The reign of Irish temptation.
Seriously, it seemed to me a quiet tourist spot which, like any off-season summer resort, becomes unwelcoming, even if, I must say, I had one of the best dinners of my entire trip to Ireland. A restaurant where we ate very well and we felt like "grandma's house" from how much they pampered us.
Donegal is one of those Irish regions not to be missed. Visit it with all the calm you can and try to dedicate more than one day to it because there would be many mini-excursions or even short treks that you can do that would give that extra touch to your trip.