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Top 10 things to do in County Donegal

By Jane Hardy

There are many fantastic things to do in County Donegal, but here are the top 10. 

Visit an island paradise

Take an off-the-beaten-track trip to Gola Island, atmospheric and two-kilometre from the mainland. Ferries run from Magheragallan, the place was uninhabited but is now being repopulated. And as well as the lovely beaches, there’s incredible birdlife with everything feathered including razorbills.

Gola Island

Leave the beaten track and discover the beautiful Gola Island

Get to a Gaelic football GAA match

These affairs are in the words of a recent star player “clannish”. That is, fiercely fought, and if you are lucky enough to attend the All Ireland final or a county match between rivals, very exciting. Donegal Senior Football team were Ulster champions in 2018, and are worth following.

Take A fabulous walk

Take a walk to Glenevin Waterfall in Clonmany on the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s amazingly beautiful and is located at the top of a short two-kilometre hike through the woods there. The water cascades down around 10 metres and the Irish name Pohl-an-eas refers to the foam on the water.

Experience a full Irish breakfast

Start your day with a full Irish and make sure you include soda bread, potato farls (a rich potato bread, yummy when fried) and spicy black pudding.

Kill time at a beautiful beach

Melmore Head, known as Ireland’s most mysterious, secluded beach. It can be reached at low tide. You follow the Wild Atlantic Way until you get beyond Downings, cross some fields where you may meet friendly donkeys, then climb to an opening between two small hills. Then stare at the glorious beach loved by adventurous sun worshippers.

Beach County Donegal

There are many stunning beaches in County Donegal

Follow a pilgrim trail

Tourism started in a way via pilgrimage so go back to the beginning with a visit to a key spiritual Donegal site, St Patrick’s Purgatory. It’s an ancient pilgrimage site on Station Island, Lough Derg, made famous by poet Seamus Heaney. It’s actually a cave where the saint who chased away the snakes and Christianised Ireland was reputedly shown the entrance to purgatory by Jesus Christ. Whatever you believe, it’s special.

Raise a glass

Take a Kinnegar Brewery tour. Named after Kinnegar Beach, it’s just north of Rathmullan. This independent Irish craft beer producer, part of a flourishing industry, produces great beers that are not filtered or pasteurised and rely on natural yeast fermentation. Tours which show you the whole process (and no doubt enable you to sample the end product!) run from June to August on Wednesdays and cost 10 euros.

Cook Donegal style

Contact your inner MasterChef at Brian McDermott’s Cookery School that’s moved from the Redcastle Hotel to the chef’s new establishment, the Foyle Hotel in Moville. McDermott, known as the “no salt chef” after he changed his approach to his take on Irish cooking following heart problems, teaches you how to achieve a great result using fresh ingredients. You can take classes in cooking the perfect Christmas dinner, try the Men’s Steak and Beer Night and pasta cooking or go for a masterclass with a guest celebrity chef.

Steak dinner

Cook up a storm during a cookery lesson on your trip

Absorb some folk history

Visit Fr McDyer’s Folk Village Museum, aka Glencolmcille Folk Village in the Gaeltacht or Irish speaking region. Here you can enter thatched roof replicas of an Irish “clachan”, the collective term for small cottages. Dating from the 18-20th centuries, you’ll discover the real texture of life then, its hardships and pleasures. There are guided tours and the village overlooks the beautiful Glen Bay Beach.

1Get totally Tweedy

Buy something in tweed, possibly from the granddaddy of tweed shops, Magee of Donegal in Milltown near Donegal Town founded in 1866. With a cap, jacket or whatever (and their jackets are covetable), you’ll look and feel the part.

Read more about County Donegal

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Image credits: ©Chris Marquardt/Unsplash; Martin Fleming/Fáilte Ireland/Tourism Ireland/Ireland's Content;

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