Donegal sits on the Atlantic-washed northwest coast of Ireland, straddling the Eske River in lush, green County Donegal. Nestled between the Barnesmore Mountains and the Eske as it flows into Donegal Bay, this charm-laden town serves up pastel-painted houses, a quaint harbourside and narrow lanes edged with welcoming restaurants, shops, pubs and bars. Any walk around Donegalwill bring you to The Diamond, the pedestrianised square at the heart of the town, with its stone obelisk, and imposing Donegal Castle, dating from the 15th century.
Best of DonegalDonegal is small enough to feel at home in right away, and there’s no shortage of things to do in this welcoming town. There’s something for history and culture buffs, keen walkers, foodies and night owls.
Explore the harbourside to enjoy the postcard-perfect views of the Eske and Donegal Bay; admire enchanting St Patrick’s Church; and view the Four Masters Obelisk at The Diamond, which honours the four monks who penned the ‘The Annuals of the Four Masters’, a historical account of Gaelic Ireland.
Take a guided tour of Donegal Castle, once home to the O’ Donnell family who ruled the area, to see its grandiose rooms and furnishings, and roam the atmospheric ruins of Donegal’s 15th century Franciscan Friary, set against beautiful bay views.
Other must-sees include the Railway Heritage Centre, a museum commemorating the long-gone local railways, and a cruise on the Donegal Bay Waterbus, a journey around the unspoilt islands, seal-inhabited crags and green hills that bound the bay, all backed by views of the Bluestack Mountains.
History of DonegalThe site of prehistoric forts, Donegal town was settled by the Vikings in the 9th century, becoming known as Dún na nGall, which translates as ‘Fort of the Foreigners’. After the Vikings were forced out by the Gaelic family of the O’Donnell clan, the town became the capital of the O’Donnells’ Tir Chonaill territories, before being seized by the English crown and developing into the town it is today between the 17th and 20th centuries.
Sights around DonegalDonegal is an excellent gateway for the sandy beaches, craggy coastlines, mountains and untouched countryside. Head for the nearby lake of Lough Eske for scenic walks along its banks, go hiking in the Bluestack Mountains, relax on the Blue Flag beaches of Murvagh, Rossnowlagh and Bundoran, or hit the Wild Atlantic Way touring route to ogle Donegal’s magnificent coastline, including the Slieve League cliffs. You’ll find plenty of opportunities for angling, horse riding and golf, and Donegal town is a perfect base for those who love the outdoors.
Enjoying DonegalDonegal bursts with shops, restaurants and pubs to keep you busy day and night. Stroll around Main Street and The Diamond to discover a great choice of traditional stores, including clothing, arts, crafts and book shops — all perfect for souvenir-hunting.
When you’re peckish, visit any of Donegal’s restaurants in the town centre or edging Donegal Bay. With everything from seafood, pasta and Chinese to fish and chips and fine dining on the menu, there’s something for everyone.
Later, sample the Irish craic at Donegal’s cosy pubs and inns. Along with a famously warm Irish welcome, traditional Irish music is a draw at most drinking spots, making Donegal great for nightlife.