Smith's Self Catering Holiday Cottage, Donegal Ireland

Places to visit in Donegal

Glenveagh Castle and National Park

Glenveagh was owned by Henry McIlhenny until the early eighties. He was the Curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Philadelphia and spent his Summer Holidays at Glenveagh. He left Glenveagh to the State and it is now open to the public. There is a magnificent Victorian castle on the edge of Lough Veagh with gardens going up behind. There are guided tours of the castle (which last about 40 minutes), you can walk round the spectacular gardens with their range of exotic plants from places like South America, Tasmania and China or go for longer walks over the estate.

In the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains at Glenveagh National Park, Golden Eagles were reintroduced in 2000. The Golden Eagle became extinct 100 years ago, largely due to over hunting by both farmers and game keepers. Wildlife in the park includes badgers, foxes, the native Irish Hare and stoats. Glenveagh National Park has the largest herd of red deer in Ireland if not in Europe. The deer spend the Summer in the Derryveagh Mountains, coming down hill in winter. The most frequently sighted birds in the park are the meadow pipit, stonechats, grouse, ravens, siskins, tree-creepers, redstarts, wood warblers and occasionally peregrine and merlins. Holiday near wildlife in Donegal at our self catering holiday cottages.

The Glebe Gallery, Churchill (Summer only)

The Glebe House and Gallery was the home of the artist Derek Hill who sadly died in 2001. He left his house and gallery to the State and it is now open to the Public. The gallery has exhibitions of his work and also his extensive collection including Picasso, Matisse and many more local artists. Derek Hill had a studio on Tory Island to the west of Donegal where he encourage the local islanders to paint. They set up their own school of painting, known as the Tory Island School. The original painters of the Tory School painted in a naïve style and their work is now much sought after.

Doe Castle

Doe Castle is situated on the shores of Sheephaven Bay. It is in the process of being restored and will be opened to the public. It is the ancient home of the family.

Arranmore (Árainn Mhór)

A short, pleasant ferry ride from Burtonport will take you to one of Ireland's largest inhabited islands – Arranmore. Once there you can visit the famous Arranmore Lighthouse, the Old Mill & Courthouse and the Cave of Slaughter or use the opportunity to do some bird watching along the breathtaking cliffs.

Port Famine Village Donegal

Port is an abandoned "Famine Village" located on the coast. It is about 14km north west from Glencolmcille. It is believed that the majority of the village's population left during and in the immediate aftermath of the Irish Famine. Fields of peat dominate the rugged landscape as one approaches the eerie village. The only inhabitants nowadays are sheep. You can also visit the nearby Glencolmcille Folk Village to get an idea of how life would have been at the time.

Beautiful beaches in Donegal


You drive to the Friary at Ards and then walk out to the end of the peninsula. The first beach you come to is very pretty, good rock pools for shrimping but dangerous currents so no swimming. If you carry on round the headland through a kissing gate there are a few tiny sandy coves which if you get there first you will have to yourself or if you go through the kissing gate and turn left up the hill and over to a fabulous beach the other side. Great for swimming - bucket and spade paradise weather permitting!


A very long beach the north side of Sheephaven Bay – great for a beach walk. Perfect for children to swim as it takes a long time for it to get deep. As long as you walk a short way along it you will have plenty of space to yourselves. Most people sit within 10 yards of the entrance!! Good for wind surfing.

If you go further round the Atlantic drive you will find other lovely beaches and if you are prepared for a bit of a walk you will find wonderful deserted beaches. Ballymastocker Bay and Portsalon beach are also breathtakingly beautiful and definitely worth a visit. There are endless lovely beaches, in Donegal if you want to be intrepid take the map and explore!

Recommended Sighseeing Routes in Donegal

Wild Atlantic Way

It is "wild, rugged, unspoiled" and 2,400km long – stretching the entire western coastline of Ireland from Malin Head in Co. Donegal to Mizen Head in Co. Cork. This awe inspiring coastal route will leave you breathless as you make your way along dramatic headlands and beautiful beaches to secluded villages and towns while immersing you in the history, heritage and tradition of this unforgettable coastline.

A suggested sightseeing of North Donegal by car

Starting out from Cottian, self catering cottage turn left going through Kilmacrennan and on to Ramelton, a pretty Georgian town where the River Lennon flows out into Lough Swilly. You can fill your picnic basket at Whoriskeys Spar Store in Ramelton and head up the coast towards Rathmullan. If you stop at Rathmullen Pier and have a walk either along the pier or along the beach. It is worth a look in at the Flight of the Earls Visitor Centre before carrying on along the coast road which has dramatic views over Lough Swilly. On towards Portsalon you drive down a very steep windy road with Ballymastocker Beach stretching out in front of you.

Dramatic views all round. Drive on to Portsalon passing the golf course on your right and drop down to Rita's pub for a drink. It is a wonderful pub, stood still in time, with blazing fire and old fashioned grocery overlooking the pier and beach. If the sun is shining take your drinks out to the lawn going down to the beach. Either eat your picnic here or go into the Restaurant for fish and chips. Again, very old fashioned and basic but full of character.

After lunch turn back along your tracks and head for Kerrykeel rather than back down the coast road. This road takes you down the other side of the peninsula along the shores of Mulroy Bay. It is full of islands and great views. Turn right in Kerrykeel and head on down to Milford at the southern end of Mulroy Bay. Turn left as you come into Milford and take the road up the other side of Mulroy through Cranford and round the northern part of the peninsular to Carrigart where you can stop for an icecream at one of the grocery shops. Go through Carrigart and turn left to Downings and the Atlantic Drive. Drive round the Atlantic drive and see fantastic rocky coast line and golden beaches, hopefully with a view of Tory Island to the North West.

As you drive round and back into Downings turn right down to the pier and go to McNutts shop which sells tweed, pottery and Irish gifts. After leaving here it is probably time to head for home! Go back towards Carrigart and turn right up to Church and turn right again. After about half a mile turn left at fork in road towards Glen, if you want to stop for a quick drink on the way home stop in at the Glen Bar, full of atmosphere and a cosy pub. There is now a restaurant at the rear where I have not eaten but is said to be very good. The only drawback is that you cannot book. Otherwise head over Lough Salt Mountain to Kilmacrennan and turn right at the crossroads back to your luxury self catering accommodation with hot bath and cosy turf fire!!

Suggested sightseeing trip to North West Donegal, Ireland

Turn left out of Smith's cottage, self catering cottage and turn left at the crossroads in Kilmacrennan. Take this main road through Barnes Gap and turn right just before Creeslough to Doe Castle, this was a ruined castle that has recently been restored and will soon be open to the public. Well worth going to see in its beautiful situation in the Lackagh estuary as it flows into Sheep Haven Bay. Return to Creeslough, go through Creeslough stopping at the Catholic Church and taking a look, it is a modern church designed by a prominent Irish architect.

Then go on through Creeslough and turn right to Ards Friary, and drive out to the friary on the Ards Peninsula where there are pretty beaches to walk to and a pier to fish off. The road is a one way system which will take you back to the main Creeslough - Dunfanaghy Road. Turn right towards Dunfanaghy. You will see Muckish Mountain on your left (Muckish means Hogs Back in Gaelic). Follow this road all the way to Dunfanaghy meeting the coast at Port-na-Blagh where you will see the high dramatic cliffs of Horn Head.

Drive on through Dunfanaghy down the west coast to Falcarragh. From Falcarragh head down the coast and then inland towards Mount Errigal, the highest mountain in Donegal. Drive through Dunlewey into the heart of the Derryveagh mountains with the Poisoned Glen on your right and Errigal on your left.

Keep going turning into Glenveagh National Park on the right at the northern end of Lough Veagh. There is a visitors centre and car park where you can catch a bus down the side of Lough Veagh to Glenveagh Castle which is open to the public and has lovely rhodedendron gardens to walk in. Glenveagh was owned by Henry McIlhenny, the Curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Philadelphia until the early 80's when he left the whole estate to the State. Leaving Glenveagh National Park turn right across barren boglands. Turn right to Churchill and Lough Gartan. A few pretty old cottages and small farms around you come to the top of Lough Gartan. Turn right to The Glebe Gallery which is a Gallery housing a collection of paintings belonging to the artist Derek Hill who lived at the Glebe House, the collection contains works by famous artists such as Picasso, George Braque and Matisse, as well as some of Derek Hill's own paintings. He had a studio on Tory Island where he encouraged the Islanders to paint and they formed their own school of painting whose works are now very much sought after.

After leaving the gallery and driving back along the north shore of Lough Gartan over Gartan Bridge up the road to Churchill, where it is definitely time to stop in one of the three pubs for a drink! If the sun is out McLaffertys has a pretty garden with views down the Lennon valley. If you ask nicely they will probably be able to make you a plate of delicious sandwiches! Then it is time to head on home turning left at the end of the street in Churchill. Carry on down the hill to a crossroads. Turn left through Trentagh and on along the road back to Cottian holiday cottage.

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Not to be missed...

  • Wild Atlantic Way – Okay so you probably won't get time to take in the entire 2,400km but there is plenty in the Donegal section to keep you busy! The official start point is Malin Head and from March 2014 onwards the Wild Atlantic Way signage (below) will help you navigate the country roads. Three of the designated Discovery Points on the route are here in Donegal – Malin Head, Fanad Head and the Sliabh Liag Cliffs. So pack a picnic and get your camera out for a roadtrip to remember! Wild Atlantic Way Branding
  • Glenveagh National Park – In the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains sits Glenveagh National Park. The majestic Glenveagh Castle sits along the peaceful shore of Lough Veagh. Wildlife in the park includes badgers, foxes, the native Irish Hare and stoats. Glenveagh National Park has the largest herd of red deer in Ireland if not in Europe. Escape from everyday life as you wander through this Glassier Valley with its high mountainside, winding rocky rivers and beautiful waterfalls. Golden Eagles were reintroduced in the park in 2000 so make sure to look up, you may just be lucky enough to get a glimpse of one.

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