Although County Donegal is best known for its fabulous coast and beautiful beaches, the region has much more to offer. Whether it’s political, maritime or ecclesiastical, it is a part of Ireland steeped in rich history and, thanks to the excellent range of accommodation on offer, it’s easy to find somewhere to stay while you make the most of it.
Abbey Assaroe is one of Donegal’s most captivating historic attractions and is located in a beautiful spot close to Ballyshannon and Bundoran, two towns offering very different holiday experiences. Both, however, have plenty of choice when it comes to affordable, comfortable hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, holiday homes and hostels.
Hotels on the Doorstep of History
Standing alongside the River Erne, Abbey Assaroe is a delightful place to spend a couple of hours. It was built in 1184 by Cistercian monks who had moved into the area from Boyle in County Roscommon. The monks moved quickly to harness the power of the river by creating a watermill, which has been expertly restored. The story of the restoration project is chronicled in an interpretative centre, which also sheds light on the progressive monks who lived at Assaroe.
Two artificial caves also form an integral part of the site. One, known as the Catsby, served as a secret chapel during the Penal times that saw the persecution of Ireland’s Roman Catholics. The other, now about 90 feet deep, once extended for two miles towards Rossnowlagh.
The monastery was damaged by fire in 1377 and was attacked on numerous occasions over the next 20 years, ending with it being plundered by the King of Tyrone in 1398. The abbey estates were eventually granted to English lords but the monks continued to live on-site until they were eventually driven out after the Flight of the Earls in 1607.
The abbey then fell into decline and, today, all that remains is the west end of the church, part of the west gable and a section of the south wall. A graveyard was added which, along with an adjoining farm, formed part of the grounds and the last abbot of Assaroe, Abbot Quinn, is buried there.
Hotels Close to Abbey Assaroe
Bundoran is the busiest seaside resort in the county and is home to a world-famous surfing beach and, in the summer, lots of people. There are plenty of hotels close to the seafront, which is home to a colourful mix of amusement arcades, fairground rides and takeaways as well a water park and adventure centre. As well as surfers, it’s also popular with golfers attracted by one of the best courses in Donegal.
Tucked away on an incline above the River Erne, picturesque Ballyshannon is a much more tranquil proposition than its louder, family-oriented neighbour. Reportedly the oldest town in the country, with its roots dating back to Neolithic times, it is popular with visitors who want to enjoy a peaceful retreat after a hard day’s sightseeing.