The Grianan of Aileach is a 2000 year old stone fort on top of a hill, near a town called Burt.
The views from here are amazing, across loughs to the sea and mountains.
Even better is that it is free to get in, and when we went we were the only people there!
It is truely a magical place - don't miss it.
The Rosguill Peninsula is renowned as being the most beautiful peninsula in County Donegal.
To see this spectacular scenery, you can drive around the 15km Atlantic Drive.
The drive commences from just outside the small town of Carrigart, just follow the signs.
It is a slow drive, on a narrow road that winds around the peninsula, offering one amazing view after another as each corner is turned.
It was raining when we were there, so not many photos, but still a great experience.
The Slieve League (Grey Mountain) cliffs are about 600 metres high and are said to be the highest in Europe. In any case they are higher than the famous Cliffs of Moher! As it was windy and raining much, we unfortunately haven’t seen too much of the cliffs, but they are impressive! I cannot say which cliffs are more spectacular, I liked both. The Slieve League cliffs have the advantage that they are more out of the way, already driving there is an adventure! The way to Cliffs of Moher has been so boring compared to it!
To go there, turn left in Carrick (An Charraig) and follow the signs to Bunglas and Slieve League. You’ll come through the village Teelin and will reach a farm gate. Just open it and make sure you close it behind you! There’s a little parking (which might be occupied by sheep...), but if you aren’t already scared you should continue to the parking on the top. The street is small, steep and winding, and the sheer drops might make you nervous. But don’t be anxious, even I drove there although I’m afraid of heights! And imagine that was raining! However I was happy that nobody was driving towards me!
The highest cliffs in Europe at around 800 feet are situated at Slieve League in Co Donegal. Forget the Cliffs of Moher if you want to expereince real cliffs then come here. In fact one of the scariest drive's you can imagine is the drive from the main road to the car park at the cliffs. At points the road overlooks a sheer drop of hundreds of feet into the sea and as the road is really only built for one car when you meet on coming traffic one of you has to reverse. This is like "reverse chicken" becasue you will both be afraid to reverse with a drop of hundreds of feet waiting for you with one slip of the wheel or a gear !! You may have to reverse as much as 100 metres if you are unfortunate enough to meet and on coming car that won't or can't reverse. At one point as you near the car park the road rises steeply ahead of you over a hump in the road. At this point car is pointing skyward and you cannot see the road in front of you over the hump...this is the most scary piece. The road actually goes to your right as you come of the rise and if you keep going straight you will end up in the Atlantic a few hundred feet below....this is a first gear 5 mph manoevre. This is definitely not for the faint hearted but when you get to the car park and walk to the top of the cliffs you will be rewarded with fantastic views. The journey back to the main road is not so scary ....unless you meet an uncoming car and have to reverse ! Seriously don't let the drive put you off its worth it.
The photo show the view looking back towrad the car park (yes that dot on the head land) from the top of the cliff walk and you can see the foam of the sea to the right 800 ft below !
I love stones........any kind of stone....anywhere, and I especially love stone walls and stone houses.....but to see a Dolmen is the ultimate experience for a rock nut. Ancient and so old one cannot even understand the vastness of it all. To comprehend and be aware of it's age is almost inconceivable. The Kilclooney Dolmens were close to each other and sit casually in a farmer's field.
As you drive along N56 past Ardara and you happen to look to your right there on the horizon is a big lazy Dolmen. Once you figure out how to park and find an entrance, which ended up behind a farmer's house, and whose black and white dog accompanied us for our walk out to the field, you can finally reach the Dolmens by foot.
Take the time to stop, it is a nice break and the experience will never leave you.
The little town Donegal is found in the south of county Donegal, where river Eske flows into the Dongeal Bay. It has been the main seat of the O'Donnells who build Donegal Castle in the 15th century. The castle situated in the centre of the town and not really big. It’s mainly a tower house which has been restored so that you can visit three big rooms there. The side building is ruined and not much to see there. I’ve been to more impressive castles, but perhaps it’s worth joining a guided tour, we only saw the rest of one.
Generally you don’t do anything wrong if you drive along the coast, it’s almost always scenic there! A nice route is the coast at The Rosses where is also an airport. Even better is Bloody Foreland Head - the beaches, the sea and the waves are great! I’ve read that everything looks red there at sunset and that’s why it’s called like this. Interesting was also Horn Head with its 200 m high cliffs, that you can reach from Dunfanaghy. Although it was raining we went some steps up the hill, we rather were pushed to the top by the wind! It was such a heavy wind that we feared that we were blown away if we didn’t go down soon, so we only get a glimpse of some nice cliffs.
Downings Beach is a curved, sandy shoreline on the calm, sheltered waters of the Sheephaven Bay. During the summer season, it is very popular with swimmers, boaters, and windsurfers. This EU Blue Flag beach is ideal for children as the water is very shallow for a long way out.
During my visit in November, I walked to the beach with some others from the workshop. At low tide, there is plenty of sand on which to walk; at high tide, there is considerably less. There are also spots along one side of the beach that are quite rocky.
Just outside Donegal town on the road heading towards Killybegs you will find a scenic drive called the Blue Stack scenic drive (brown signs - these are tourist interest sign posts in Ireland).
This drive takes you through some of the rugged landscape of Donegal and is absolutely beautiful on a clear day....on any kind of wet day forget it becasue you won't see anything.
The road is tarmac but be warned it gets very narrow and I always have a saying that 'once you start seeing grass growing in the middle of the road you know you are in for an interesting drive ! You don't need a 4x4 to negotiate it however and an ordinary hire saloon will see you through with ease but you get of a sense of adventure as you negotiate the narrow winding roads, work out how you and the on-coming car will let each other get past and avoid bumping into any local inhabitants ie. the sheep !
The drive takes about 2 hours at a leisurely pace allowing for a few photo stops - local inhabitants (as above), scenery, old abandoned farm dwellings etc.
From the end of the drive follow the road on to Killybegs and then out to Glencolumbcille.
A useful tourist resource for the area is Donegal Town tourist information
On one day during my stay, I went with someone else from the workshop on the scenic Atlantic Drive which is a short, but very spectacular road around the Rosguill Peninsula. Just about everywhere on this drive, the views are impressive!
The drive up to Horn Head in north West Donegal takes you out to a really scenic point overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There is car park at the bottom of the hill and a short walk up to Horn Head itself. On tope there is an old lookout / watch tower that was used by the lifeguard and military in the past. On a clear summer's day this is just one of the most amazing places to be.
"Lough" is a Hiberno-English form of the Old Irish word loch, which means lake, or bay. Lough Salt is a lough on a side road between the villages of Glen and Termon in County Donegal. Along the lough, there are viewing areas. The lough itself is over 245 feet deep -- and is used as a natural reservoir by the Donegal County Council.
The two most recognisable landmarks in Glenveagh National Park are the quartz cone of Mount Errigal (at 752m Donegal’s highest mountain) and Muckish Mountain with its very distinctive square shape.
The Park is very well signposted from Letterkenny and the visitor centre is at the start of the park. Here you can buy tickets for a tour of the castle and for the shuttle bus taking you there. Alternatively, you can save the money for the bus and walk the 4km or so along the lake. The tour of the castle takes about 45mins and is very interesting. The last private owner of the estate (Irish-American Henry McIlhenny) used it as a summer residence until 1983 and then donated it to the Irish State. Nothing has been changed in the rooms since Henry McIlhenny left. Busses regularly go back to the visitor centre, so you will have time to wander around in the gardens for a while. There is also a 2 km long walk up into the mountains that brings you to a viewpoint from where you a fantastic view down onto the castle and the lake. I did not have enough time to go all the way up and only made it halfway there, but even from there the view was gorgeous.
After visiting the castle you can go on with your tour through the park. For the best photo opportunities of Mount Errigal first turn off in Dunlewey, following the signpost for “Poisoned Glen” down towards the lake. The next photo stop is a few miles after Dunlewey at the end of Lough Nacung near Gweedore. You can also climb Mount Errigal, and leave your car in a carpark at the foot of the mountain.
Apparently if you go to Glenveagh National Park during the summer you get eaten alive by midges. We went there at around Easter and lucky for us the “midge season” had not yet started in spite of the beautiful weather.
For more pictures see the Glenveagh travelogue.
With my fascination for any kind of old stones I had of course to stop at the Grianan Ailigh near Letterkenny. The Grianan is an ancient stone ringfort dating back to around 1700 BC. It is a rather steep walk up the hill, but you can also drive up with the car – the gate at the bottom of the hill is open from 10am – 7pm in summer and 12am – 5pm in winter. Inside the fort the walls rise up in three levels, and you can climb up the stairs to walk around the walls of the fort and enjoy the view over Lough Swilly below.
And, as is usually the case in Ireland, if there is a tourist attraction somewhere you do not need to look long for an interpretative centre in the vicinity. This one is signposted when you go back down the hill into the village. We went there on Easter Sunday at around 11am and the visitor centre was closed, but it looks interesting in the brochure. Well, that’s what’s brochures are there for, I guess. Apparently there is also a shuttle bus included in the price which will take you from the centre up to the ringfort.
The Doagh Visitor Centre tells about life on Inishowen in the 1800s and 1900s. Old houses have been restored, complete with thatched roofs, and a guide will tell you how people lived in these houses. Some of them have been inhabited until as late as 1983. Wax figures depict the scene of a wake in another house, and we learned such interesting trivia like where the expression “saved by the bell” comes from. Apparently a bell was hung over a coffin during the two-day wake, so that if the person about to be buried was not actually dead and woke up they could ring the bell. The tour goes on to take you back in time to the 1800s and the famine years. Again wax figures illustrate some scenes, like an eviction or a hedge school, and little replicas of dwellings of that time. I particularly like the signs under the roof that you see on the way back and which make references to today, and you all of a sudden realize how good a life you actually have compared to millions of other people on this planet.
Admission is €5 and includes tea or coffee and a scone.
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Lough Eske, Donegal, Ireland
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