Donegal Self Catering, Attractions & Activities
Nature and Wildlife
Glenevin Waterfall is wedge shaped and cascades fresh mountain water over black rock from a height of 30ft. The basin at the foot of the waterfall is called Pohl-an-eas – this comes from the foam which lies on the surface of the pool. Pohl – an – eas translates as the ‘ ferment pool ‘. The walk up Glenevein Valley to the waterfall takes the rambler on a safe, well sign -posted route. Newly installed picnic areas blend easily into the natural landscape. Footbridges are dotted along the track as you criss cross the stream using the stepping stones.
Tropical World is a 1,000 square metre paradise, in which you can walk through a stunning selection of tropical butterflies in free flight, see reptiles and tortoises from many different countries and marvel at the colourful array of birds including cockateils, conures, rosellas, lovebirds and many species of parrots.
You can also learn about the environment and conservation as you enjoy your walk through our tropical world. Tropical World aims to engross children and adults alike, all the while educating them of the beautiful world we live in. This area is fully covered and ideal for family, youth and school trips, come rain or shine.
Historic Houses and Castles
Glenveagh National Park and Castle
Set in some 16,500 hectares of County Donegal mountains, lakes, glens and woods, with a large herd of red deer, Glenveagh Castle is a 19th century, castellated mansion built between 1867 and 1873.
Surrounded by the famous Glenveagh Gardens, its construction in a remote mountain setting was inspired by the Victorian idyll of a romantic highland retreat. John Townsend Trench, a cousin of its builder and first owner, John George Adair, designed it.
Access to the castle is by guided tour only.
The Workhouse Famine & Heritage Centre
The Workshouse is on the outskirts of Dunfanaghy overlooking Sheephaven Bay and within easy walking distance of Horn Head and the fabulous Tramore Beach. Hear and see the true story of wee Hannah, a child of the famine and typical inmate. Visit our exhibition on the new lake and the ecology of this unique area.
We run a schools programme, adult craft courses and weekend workshops as well as heritage events and walks. We have a Fair Trade coffee shop serving lunches and snacks; an art gallery; a well stocked craft and book shop and a wild-life garden.
Built by the O’Donnell chieftains in the 15th Century, beside the river Eske in Donegal Town, Donegal Castle was rebuilt in Jacobean style in the 16th century by Sir Basil Brooke, after Hugh O’Donnell burnt it to the ground rather than let it fall into enemy hands.
Information panels chronicle the history of the castle and guided tours are available.
Teach Mhici Mac Gabhann
This is the birth place of Mickey McGowan, the author of Rotha Mor an tSaoil (The Hard Road to Klondike). A 17th century thatched cottage situated on the main route from Gortahork to Bloody Foreland, it is close too to the ferry point for Tory Island. There are guided tours available, a 15 minute film, toilets and a small cafe which serves snacks only.
It is situated in the Gaeltacht in the parish of cloughaneely. Mici MacGabhann was the author of Rotha Mor an tSaoil, a book that describes his lifestory, giving details of past famine years, his school days, his search for work on the farms of east Donegal and Scotland. Later on he describes his travels in America, especially in the Yukon in Alaska.
Lifford Old Courthouse
Built in 1746 and described as “”one of the oldest and finest courthouses in Ireland””, you will have a chance to witness the re-enactments of famous trials held in this building including the Napper Tandy Trial and the Lord Leitrim murder and the severity of the sentences meted out to the unfortunate victims.
Downstairs in the original dungeons you can hear the jailer;s keys clanking, the shutting and banging of doors and the discussions between prisoners and the visitors. You will also have an opportunity to experience first hand the feeling of being treated like a real prisoner when you are charged and fingerprinted by our tour guides and prison warders.
After your prison experience you can relax in our historic courthouse restaurant which is open to the public 6 days a week serving meals all day from our extensive menu with an exclusive Sunday carvery our speciality.
Museums and Attractions
Glencolmcille Folk Village
If you are staying in our self catering home in Glencolmcille, then The Glencolmcille Folk Village Museum, in Glencolmcille County Donegal, is a cluster of six small cottages, called a “”clachan,”” perched on a hillside overlooking a sandy curve of nearby Glenbay beach. In 2011 we look forward to opening two new exhibition houses – a traditional thatched shop/pub with a shoemakers in the lower room, and a Fisherman’s cottage dedicated to our history concerning the local fishermen and the sea.
Each cottage recreates a different era of Irish history – from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
The Tea House provides a variety of home made foods, which are second to none. We pride ourselves in the fact that all foods are made in our very own bakery on a daily bases to ensure freshness.
The Craft Shop is ideal when shopping for those special gifts to bring back home. We stock a large selection of Irish made products and a high percentage of local arts and crafts.
Colmcille Heritage Centre
The Colmcille Heritage Centre, in County Donegal, endeavours to give an appreciation of a period in Irish and European history at the end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Medieval period.
Europe had been overrun by pagan tribes from the east and was Christianised again by a resurgent Irish church. Saint Colmcille was the pre-eminent figure in this period, not just in Ireland but in all of Christendom. The story is told with beautifully reproduced artefacts and panels. There are also minor displays of artwork from local artists as well as a picture display of a local eviction in the 1860s.
There is an audiovisual display with a choice of four languages. A light lunch can be obtained if booked in advance. A tearoom, coach parking and toilets are also on site.
Donegal County Museum
Donegal County Museum is based in a fine old Stone building, which was once part of the Letterkenny workhouse.
The museum houses a fascinating range of artefacts covering all aspects of life in Donegal. The first floor exhibition charts the history of Donegal from the Stone Age to the twentieth century.
A series of Temporary exhibitions are also held in the Museum throughout the year. These exhibitions cover a wide variety of topics to suit all ages and interests.
Isaac Butt Heritage Centre
The Isaac Butt Heritage Centre opened its doors to the public for the first time in August 1998 and was officially opened in July 1999 by Dr. James McDaid, in Ballyfofey in County Donegal.
The Centre is dedicated displays detailing the lives of Isaac Butt and Dr Nancy McGlinchey, who was renowned for her service to the local community
Along with a detailed history of Isaac Butt, there is an exhibition on the History of the Glenfinn Parish from the 5th century onwards. There is also an exhibition on the educational system in Glenfin, which gives an account on the development of the different schools in the Parish and includes numerous photographs of students and pupils at these schools long ago.
Come and see some of the tools and instruments used by our skilled craftsmen in bygone days or have a look at the ever increasing collection of old horse drawn agriculture machinery outside the centre.
Inishowen Maritime Museum and Planetarium
The Inishowen Maritime Museum and Planetarium is located in the old Coast Guard Station, only 100 yards from the Lough Foyle Ferry landing at Greencastle Harbour, County Donegal. Attractions include extensive nautical exhibits, memorabilia, photographs, models, modern and ancient maritime equipment and Irish boats from six to fifty feet.
The state of the art planetarium features accurate depictions of our night skies and multi media presentations depicting fantastic educational voyages through the universe. Ireland’s only Laser Light Concerts take place here and feature a powerful laser system choreographed to a wide range of music, from traditional and modern Irish music in the daily Full Irish Laser Show to Pink Floyd and other rock artists on selected nights.
The Stone Fort of Grianán of Aileach is sits on a hilltop in Inishowen County Donegal. 250m above sea level, the stone fort was probably first built on an earthen rath.
The view from Aileach is breathtaking. The glistening waters of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly are clear, as is the form of the entire peninsula. A windy and exposed place, Grianán has been a silent witness to the history of Ireland.
The origins of the Grianán of Aileach fort are dated back to 1700 BC. It is linked to the Tuatha de Danann who invaded Ireland before the Celts and built stone forts on top of strategic hills. They worshipped Dagda (the Good God) and he too is associated with the origins of Aileach. It was he who ordered the building of a stone fort to act as a burial monument to his dead son.
The round fort is built largely without mortar. The interior has three terraces and wooden structures were built against the terraces to provide accommodation. The outline of Bronze Age or Iron Age ramparts can be seen below the fort. Legend states that the giants of Inishowen are lying sleeping but when the sacred sword is removed they will spring to life reclaiming their ancient lands.
Mr Walter Bernard of Derry restored the stone fort or cashel in the 1870’s. It is the centrepiece of the site, 23m in internal diameter with walls measuring 5m in height and approximately 4m in thickness. The dry stonewalls contain two passages within them as well as terraces along their interior which would have allowed access to their summit.
It is thought that St Patrick visited the site in the 5th century and baptised the local chieftain, Eoghan (from whom Inis Eoghan gets its name), here.
Fort Dunree Military Museum
Fort Dunree was first opened to the public in 1986 and has attracted tourists from all over the world ever since, using the latest DVD and interactive technology.
The unique history of Fort Dunree is fully explained and recreated in vibrant and colourful displays.
In its spectacular natural location Fort Dunree is rich in wildlife some of it unique for the area. This is detailed in a beautiful wildlife exhibition, the Wildlife Discovery Room, in the Old Fort Hospital.
There is also numerous scenic walks to explore and a cafe to relax in.
All in all Fort Dunree is a must for every visitor to the Inishowen Peninsula.
Newmills Corn and Flax Mills
One of the few monuments of industrial archaeology in state care in the Republic is the complex of mills at Newmills, three miles west of Letterkenny in County Donegal.
The oldest surviving building here is said to be 400 years old. Indeed, the whole complex is an interesting reminder of a stage in the industrial development of this country which has now given way to a more sophisticated but usually far less fascinating technology.
The complex of industrial buildings includes both corn and flax mills powered by the river Swilly. The visitor to Newmills can experience the pleasure of seeing one of the largest waterwheels in Ireland in action.
Donegal Railway Heritage Centre
Stretching from Derry and Strabane to Glenties and Ballyshannon, the narrow gauge County Donegal Railway provided the essential transport for farmers and fishermen, businessmen and schoolchildren, everyone that needed to get about.
The Donegal Railway Heritage Centre, which includes an historical presentation of artefacts and a gift shop is dedicated to re-awakening an interest in Donegal’s railway past.
National and Forest Parks
Ards Forest Park
Situated on the N56, between Creeslough and Dunfanaghy, Ards Forest Park is probably the most beautiful and certainly the most varied of Ireland’s forest parks. It is 480 hectares in extent and contains a large diversity of plant and wildlife forms. Sandy beaches, rivers, viewing points, nature walks, picnic and play areas. Hours can be spent here in complete relaxation, be it on the many nature walks or on its golden beaches. It is a place for everyone to get away for a while.
Ards Forest Park has many features of historical and archaeological interest. The remains of four ring forts are to be seen in the park as well as a number of megalithic tombs. On the same walk there is a Mass Rock where mass was celebrated in defiance of the penal laws. There are numerous viewing points on the walks and trails with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
Horn Head Pet Sanctuary
Horn Head Pet Sanctuary was set up in 2006 by Annette Hunter. It’s funded soley by Annette who specialises in animal and landscape photography and to fund the running costs of the Sanctuary, she sells her photos via her website. The Sanctuary is set on 65 acres of land and the outhouses are the original stone buildings built by Annette’s Uncle Charlie, who was a stonemason. Annette renovated the cottage on the farm and it is a rare gem as it is one of the few traditional Irish cottages in the area.
If you like Irish cottages, animals and beautiful scenery, then Horn Head Pet Santuary is truly worth a visit however, this must be pre-arranged.
Lurgybrack Open Farm
This new open Farm is idealy located on the outskirts of Letterkenny on the main Ballybofey road (N 13).
It offers an extensive range of activities for all the family.
Its very child and parent friendly.
There are a large variety of animals to see and enjoy, baby kids and lambs can be bottle fed. The rabbits can be handled and cuddled in the pet corner.
Kids will enjoy the large playground and sandpit area,have fun on the barrel train run, and feed the ducks.
Enjoy the great outdoors with our lovely riverside walk and woods that extend for a mile.
Ionad Cois Locha
Dunlewey in Gweedore is the location of Ionad Cois Locha Visitor Centre, a restored two-story farmhouse with a farm museum and a large variety of animals.
It offers something to all the family, with guided storytelling boat trips on the lake. Children can enjoy the adventure play area that includes an artificial lake for safe, supervised water activities. This also included an all covered supervised play area. There are many animals to observe and feed, including Red Deer. Visitors can enjoy guided tours of the weaver’s Cottage. There is also traditional music sessions every Tuesday during July and August and every Sunday from 2.30pm – 4pm.
Come on a Boat Trip! Story telling trips in our 50- seater boat view the double-peaked summit of Errigal and the glimmering granite of the Poison Glen from new angles. You Will pass near the site of a prehistoric Crannog, the first ‘Dunlewey’ which now lies beneath the water.
Rossnowlagh Blue Flag Beach 2011
Rossnowlagh beach is a very popular beach attracting thousands of visitors in the summer time. It is located about 8km south of Donegal Town. The beach is overlooked by the Sand House Hotel. The beach is famous for its rolling waves that bring surfers flocking from both near and far.
The Blue Flag for Beaches is only valid during the bathing season which runs from June until the end of August.
Narin/Portnoo Blue Flag Beach 2011
Award wining Blue Flag Beach.
The Blue Flag for Beaches is only valid during the bathing season which runs from June until the end of August.
Bundoran Blue Flag Beach 2011
Award winning Blue Flag Beach. The Blue Flag for Beaches, is only valid during the bathing season which runs from June until the end of August.
Wherever you book your self catering holiday home in Donegal, there is plenty to do and see in this magnificent corner of Ireland.