Donegal: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dún na nGall
Coat of arms of Donegal
Location of Donegal
centerMap highlighting Donegal
Irish grid reference
Province: Ulster
County: County Donegal
Dáil Éireann: Donegal South West
European Parliament: North–West
Dialling code: +353 74
Elevation: 32 m
Population (2006) 2,339[1]

Donegal, usually referred to as Donegal Town (pronounced /ˈdɒnɨɡɔːl, ˌdɒnɨˈɡɔːl/; Irish: Dún na nGall)[2] is a town in County Donegal, Ireland. Its name, which was historically written as Dunnagall or Dunagall, translates from Irish as "stronghold of the foreigners" (i.e. the Vikings).

Donegal gave its name to County Donegal, although Lifford is the county town. Until the early 1600s Donegal was the "capital" of Tír Chonaill, a túath controlled by the Cenél Conaill. Donegal town sits at the mouth of the River Eske and Donegal Bay, which is overshadowed by the Bluestack Mountains. The town is bypassed by the N15 and N56 roads.



There is evidence for settlements around the town dating back to prehistoric times including the remains of round forts and other earth works.

It is generally accepted by historians that St Patrick was captured by raiders from the Clans governed by Niall of the Nine Hostages and that this region is that to which St Patrick returned; being familiar with the people, language, customs and lands. The first Clan to convert to Catholicism as the result of St Patrick's efforts was the Clan Connaill (also known at one time as Clan Dalaigh: in English, this is pronounced Daley and it translates as "one in a leadership role"). Connaill was a son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. As a result on their acceptance of Christianity, St Patrick bless the clan members and the sign of the Cross appeared on the chieftains shield and this became not only the colat of arms for the clan but also for County Donegal.

There is a record of an early fortress being destroyed by Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn, High King of Ireland in 1159. This Viking settlement is possibly the origin of the town's name though ancient traditions have the O'Donnells being descended from the line of King Miles of Spain whose descendants were also invaders. Interestingly enough, the blood type of the people traditionally from this area is significantly different from anywhere else in Ireland

Donegal castle showing keep built by the O'Donnell clan and wing added by Basil Brooke who seized the property after the subjugation of the clans.

Donegal Town itself is famous for being the former center of government of the dynasty of O'Donnell of Tyrconnell, who played a pivotal role in Irish history, and whose original homeland lay further to the north in the area of Kilmacrenan. From the 15th to the 17th century, they were an important part of the opposition to the colonisation of Ireland by England. The town itself contains Donegal castle, on the banks of the River Eske and the remains of a Franciscan abbey which dates back to the 15th century on the Southern shore of the Bay. The Annals of the Four Masters written in the abbey in the early 17th century. The story of Aodh Rua Ó Domhnaill (Red Hugh O'Donnell), Lord of Tyrconnell, was the inspiration behind many books and films, not least, Disney's The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966).

After the Flight of the Earls in 1607 the castle and its lands were given to an English captain, Basil Brooke, as part of the Plantation of Ulster. Brooke carried out major reconstruction work and added a wing to the castle in the Jacobean style. The current plan of the town was also laid out including an attractive town square or Diamond. From the late 17th until the early 20th centuries, Donegal Town formed part of the vast estates of the Gore family (from 1762 Earls of Arran) and it while in their ownership that the town took on its present appearance.[citation needed] Donegal Borough returned two members to the Parliament of Ireland until the Act of Union 1800. Evidence of the Irish Famine still exists including a workhouse, whose buildings are now part of the local hospital, and many famine graves.

Industry and tourism

Part of the Diamond in Donegal

There are many sandy beaches in the area of Donegal boasting good surfing conditions. Donegal is also used as a base for hill-walking in the nearby Bluestack Mountains. Despite the town's many hotels catering for visitors, it suffers from a lack of social amenities for its local population. Many have to travel to nearby towns such as Letterkenny for facilities like public swimming pools, cinemas and large shopping centres.[3]

Traditionally the largest employer in the town has been Magee of Donegal, who are manufacturers of tweed garments, some of which could, in the past, be seen being woven by hand on small looms in the company's department store.[citation needed] Like most clothing manufacturers in Ireland, the size of the workforce has been in decline for many years. Donegal also has a long tradition of weaving carpets. Donegal Carpets have been made in Killybegs for over one hundred years and have been found in Áras an Uachtaráin, Dublin Castle, the University of Notre Dame and the US White House.


The town is a stop on the three bus companies that operate in the county: the Bus Éireann service number 64 Derry/Galway route which makes several other stops including Letterkenny and Sligo (which allows for rail connections) and the number 30 Donegal/Dublin route which makes stops at other key towns such as Enniskillen (which provides connections to Belfast via Ulster Bus).[4] Two private companies operate the other routes: 'McGeehan Bus' operate a regular service from West Donegal to Dublin Airport and the Busaras which passes through the town[5]; while Feda O'Donnell Coaches (also known as Bus Feda) operates a regular Glenties/Galway service that stops in Donegal.[6]

Donegal railway station opened on 16 September 1889 and finally closed on 1 January 1960.[7] The site of the old station is now used by CIE as a bus depot while the actual building is the home of the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre.[8]

Donegal has a small airport, Donegal Airport, for regional services offering flights to Dublin and Glasgow-Prestwick.[9]


Donegal town centre at night.

Donegal town is home to many amateur sports clubs. The most popular sport in the area is Gaelic football and the local Gaelic Athletic Association club is The Four Masters.[10] The club also has been developing hurling. Other popular sports include soccer, rugby union, basketball and athletics.

Donegal Town was host to the final stage of the World Rally Championship on Feb 1st 2009 and viewed to 68 million people worldwide.

Everton F.C. full-back Séamus Coleman was born in Donegal.


The town is home to the regional newspapers Donegal Democrat and Donegal Post and the local Donegal Times[11] newspaper. Ocean FM, an independent regional radio station, has one of its three studios in the town, which broadcasts to most of south County Donegal.

Donegal Town was host to the final stage of the World Rally Championship on Feb 1st 2009 and viewed by 68 million people worldwide.

Donegal is mentioned in the song 'It's Long Way Home To Donegal' by the indie band Larrikin Love.

See also

Further reading

Aldwell, B. 2003. A survey of local resident butterflies in County Donegal. "Bull. Ir. biogeog. Soc." No. 27. 202 - 226.


External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to County Donegal article)

From Wikitravel

County Donegal [1], is in Northwest Ireland and Lakelands and is the northernmost county in Ireland, stretching further to the north than any part of Northern Ireland.


Donegal has a number of regions, defined on traditional grounds going back hundreds of years, and often overlapping.

  • Fanad Peninsula boasts a world-class beach at Portsalon, which can be almost deserted at times, even in high season. There are a maze of small, country roads in the pennisula, often poorly signposted. It is also home to Portsalon golf course, with Kerrykeel and Milford being it's main villages.
  • The Finn Valley is the area around the River Finn and includes the towns of Ballybofey and Stranorlar.
  • Inishowen Peninsula has Buncrana as its main town. The Inishowen 100 is a day-long, one hundred kilometre trip around the coastline of the eponymous peninsula, including the most northerly point of the island of Ireland, Malin Head.
  • The Laggan Valley is the area around the River Laggan, lying east of Letterkenny. It includes the villages of Raphoe and St. Johnston.
  • The Rosses is probably the best defined region, encompassing much of the Irish speaking areas of the county to the north west, including Gweedore, Arranmore Island and Cruit Island.
  • Southwest Donegal is the most remote region, boasting the highest cliffs in Europe at Slieve League, Irelands largest fishing port Killybegs, numerous unspoilt beaches at Portnoo, Dooey and Kilcar, the cultural village of Glencolumbkille and heritage towns Ardara and Glenties.

In recent times, the county has been seen as being divided into a number of areas both on an economic and physical basis - the north western area ( which includes The Rosses and Fanad Peninsula) is lightly populated with generally mountainous terrain, with the south of the county (around Bundoran and Ballyshannon) being densely populated and relatively flat. The east of the county, particularly around Letterkenny and the Lagan Valley, is the most densely populated area of all, and is economically significantly richer than the rest of the county.

  • Glenties (Na Gleanntaí) is renowned as one of Ireland's tidiest towns.
  • Grianan of Aileach is an ancient fort site.
  • Gweedore (Gaoth Dobhair) is a heavily populated area in The Rosses, with a fine beach and some hotels.
  • Mountcharles is a village on the road between Killybegs and Donegal Town.
  • Slieve League [2] (Sliabh Liath) is a popular tourist destination in the county, with the second highest seacliffs in Europe.
  • Tory Island (Oileán Toraigh) [3] is a island off the northern coast, with a 14-bed hotel.


Donegal is the English translation of "Dún na nGall", literally "Fort of the Foreigners", the county taking its official name from the town of Donegal, where this fort was located. It was also known as Tír Conaill, which translates to "Land of Conal", a more ancient name, referring to its links with the Uí Neill clan who ruled the region. Irish language speakers tend to refer to the county by its older name of Tír Chonaill.

There are very deep connections between the people of Donegal and Scotland, Glasgow in particular, due to the economic need for emigration in the past and the strong ties forged over the generations as a result.


The Donegal mainland coastline is the longest in the country at 1,134km and constitutes over 17% of the total national coastline. The main inlet is Lough Swilly which extends 30km inland from the north coast to Letterkenny.

The county consists chiefly of low mountains, with a deeply indented coastline forming natural loughs. The mountains (more famously known as the "Hills of Donegal") consist of two main ranges, the Derryveagh Mountains in the north and the Bluestack Mountains in the south. Mount Errigal, at some 750 metres, is the highest peak. The Slieve League cliffs are the highest sea cliffs in Europe and Malin Head, in the Inishowen Peninsula, is the most northernly point on the island of Ireland.


The climate is temperate and dominated by the Gulf Stream, with cool damp summers and mild wet winters. Average air temperatures are between 4°C and 6°C in winter and are between 14°C and 16°C in the summer. Temperatures in winter can be as low as minus 5°C and tmeperatures in summer can reach as high as 30°C.The average annual rainfall in Donegal is between 1,000 and 2,000mm adn rain is common even during the summer months.


Donegal natives often say that Donegal is the forgotten county of Ireland as they feel that it is cut off from the rest of the Republic of Ireland, both economically and geographically. Its proximity to Northern Ireland means that it suffered from a lack of tourist numbers during the recent troubles there and has been heavily influenced by that province's economic fortunes. Much of its border is shared with Northern Ireland, with only about 20 km of land connecting it to the Republic, on the Bundoran to Sligo road.

Thus, Donegal is not as accessible as other tourist-oriented places in the Republic of Ireland, such as County Galway or County Kerry and this means it is not as commercialised in the tourist sense. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your expectations. If you are looking to get away from over-commercialised tourism, Donegal can offer unspoilt scenery (apart from over-building of holiday homes and chalets in areas like Dunfanaghy and Downings) and cheaper prices. To combat the overdevelopment of holiday homes, Donegal county council has adapted a plan whereas only one in five houses will be developed as holiday homes in the future.

The downside of not being as commercialised as other Irish counties is that facilities and amenities are not as readily available in Donegal and travelling out-of season will restrict your options. On the other hand, if you are into fishing, walking, rock-climbing,water sports or golfing, and you are prepared to "rough it" at times in the less developed and populated areas of the county, then Donegal has a lot to offer the more adventurous visitor. Donegal's rugged landscape lends itself to active sports like climbing, hillwalking and surfing. Many people travel to Donegal for the superb golf courses - long sandy beaches and extensive dune systems are a feature of the county, and many links courses have been developed.

The pastime of rock climbing is of very high quality and still under-developed in the county. The complete Donegal climbing guidebook [4] is available at the Colmcille Climbers [5] website. There is a wealth of good quality climbs in the county from granite rocks in the south to the quartzite and dolerite-based landscape in the north. There are long mountain routes in the Poisoned Glen and boulder challenges of excellent quality in the west of the county and in the Inishowen Peninsula.

Surfing on Donegal's Atlantic coast [6] is considered to be as good as any in Ireland. Donegal has hotel facilities as good as any other in Ireland in its major towns, as well as top class restaurants.


As with the rest of the Republic of Ireland, Irish/Gaeilge is the official first language, and is used as such by many in the north and west of the county, unlike most of the rest of the island. Donegal is home to the largest Gaeltacht area in Ireland. However, English is spoken fluently by the entire native population.

The form of Irish spoken in the area is noticeably different to that in the rest of the country, although it is an accepted dialect, and is used on the Irish language television and radio services.

Locals refer to Donegal as part of "the South", distinguishing it from "the North" (i.e. Northern Ireland), even though it is geographically north in relation to the rest of the island. This is because it is indeed politically part of "Southern Ireland" (i.e. the Republic of Ireland), even though it only shares a few miles of its county border with "the South"!

Get in

There is no rail link into the county, the nearest rail stations being Sligo and Derry.

By car

The county is not served by any motorways. There are three primary routes into Donegal, depending on where you are travelling from. The N15 links the county with Sligo via Bundoran and Ballyshannon. The N2 from Dublin, via Monaghan, links with the N14 to Lifford and Letterkenny while the N13 links with Derry.

By bus

Bus Éireann [7] run regular daily services from Dublin, Derry, Galway and Sligo to Letterkenny and Donegal Town.

A number of private bus operators, most notably McGeehan [8] and McGinley [9], operate services from Donegal Town and Letterkenny to Dublin also.

Gallagher's Coaches [10] operate a twice daily service between Letterkenny, Derry and Belfast.

Lough Swilly Bus Company [11] runs routes in the north of the county, particularly in the Inishowen area. These include routes between Letterkenny, Buncrana, Malin and Carndonagh to Derry.

Feda O'Donnell Coaches [12] run regular daily services between Galway and Donegal, which service most of the county.

By plane

Daily flights from Dublin and Glasgow operate to Donegal International Airport, at Carrickfinn, in the northwest of the county. These flights are operated by Aer Arann [13]


The nearest ferryport is Larne, north of Belfast, connecting to Stranraer and Troon in Scotland. There are buses [14] [15] that run from Scotland to County Donegal, using this ferry route.

Get around

By car

The road network within Donegal is notably poor, even compared to the rest of Ireland, with only the national primary and national secondary routes between major towns being of what most people expect as acceptable quality. Some of the towns are bypassed, such as Donegal Town, Ballyshannon and Bundoran. In rural areas, roads are often one lane with passing places, or barely two lane. Meeting a wider vehicle, such as a 4x4, truck or bus on these roads can lead to reversing into the nearest gateway to clear the carriageway. Cycling on these roads is best left to the fit and the courageous, as narrow roads over mountains are often the only way from one place to another.

Road signs in the Irish speaking, or Gaeltacht regions of the country are in the Irish language solely, however, even when directing to places outside the region. Due to this, place names in this article are listed bilingually, as often no obvious connection exists between the English and Irish forms. Road signage in Donegal is often extremely poor, so a recent map of the county is advisable. Distances on road signs are officially in kilometres, but a mix of old signage and poor conversions have left distances often in miles, or completely inaccurate.

Allow plenty of travel time when planning itinaries and don't underestimate the distance you need to travel. Remember that the roads are poorer and travelling will be slower than expected. A tour of the Fanad Pennisula takes at least half a day, and the Inishowen Peninsula is best experienced over a full day if you are driving. Similarly, touring the Rosses region, taking in Glenveagh National Park and Mount Errigal, will take a full day.

By bus

A private bus operator, Lough Swilly Bus [16], operates services daily to the Northern half of the county from Derry City and Letterkenny, albeit infrequently, with services to Malin head on Saturdays. The Dungloe route passes through Kilmacrennan, Dunfanaghy, Creeslough, Falcarragh, Gweedore and Burtonport, among others. There are also daily services to Fanad, passing through Ramelton.

Gallagher's Coaches [17] also offer a local service in the North of the county, covering Annagry, Gweedore, Falcarragh, Dunfanaghy and Creeslough on the route between Annagry and Letterkenny.

Feda O'Donnell Coaches [18] have a twice daily service between Crolly and Letterkenny, which passes through the same route as Gallagher's. This bus continues to Galway via Ballybofey and Donegal Town.

In the Southwest of the county, McGeehan Coaches [19], in conjunction with Bus Eireann [20] have a twice daily service between Letterkenny and Glencolumbkille, stopping at Fintown, Glenties, Ardara, Killybegs and Kilcar. Another service travels between Dungloe and Donegal Town, stopping at Glenties, Ardara, Killybegs, Bruckless, Dunkineely, Frosses and Mountcharles. Feda O'Donnell [21] also has a weekly service between Annagry and Galway, passing through Dungloe, Glenties, Ardara, Killybegs and Donegal Town.

Bus Éireann [22] have regular buses between Letterkenny, Stranorlar, Ballybofey, Donegal Town, Ballyshannon, and Bundoran, which continue on to Sligo and Galway. There are also bus links between Strabane and Lifford, Letterkenny and Ballybofey, as well as local routes linking Raphoe and Convoy with Lifford and Letterkenny. There is a nightbus service at weekends between Letterkenny and Ballybofey.

By Bike

Donegal, with its many quiet country backroads provides excellent opportunities for cycling. It's hilly geography and sometimes potholed roads can be a challenge. A good map [23] is essential, as road signs can be confusing. Bike hire is available in Letterkenny, Donegal Town and Ardara [24].

Some popular routes include the Inishowen 100 [25], the Northwest Trail [26], and others [27] [28]. Sustrans [29] also has information about cycling in Donegal.

Slieve League
Slieve League

Pretty much the entire county is scenic, with stunning sights to be observed along the coast, and in the mountain ranges. Mount Errigal, is a quartzite-topped mountain is in the Derryveagh mountains to the north of the county, with the Bluestack mountains to the south.

The Slieve League cliffs in the county are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe. Ireland's most northerly point, at Malin Head, is in the county.

A preserved railway [30], with an operative original railcar open for public journeys, is located at Fintown in the centre of the county; when restoration is complete this will link to Glenties in the west of the county. In addition, a separate museum [31] for a separate part of Donegal's now-gone but formerly extensive narrow gauge railway network is in Donegal Town, located in the towns former station house.

An operative corn and flax mill [32] is preserved at Newmills, outside Letterkenny, with the county museum [33] being located in the towns former workhouse. Another former workhouse, at Dunfanaghy, has been partially restored as workhouse museum.

The county's two main offshore islands are both still inhabited, and both worth a visit. In addition, some of the smaller islands are worth seeing, if you have the means to get to them. Most of these are uninhabited during the winter and lack power, water, or any other means of life for anybody but temporary visitors.

Arranmore [34], the larger and closer inland of the two, has two hotels, 7 pubs, some watersports activities and mountain trails for hikers; and is accessible by a regular, multiple times daily car ferry service. A pre-Christian hill fort as well as ruins of a coastguard station, 1700's lighthouse and World War Two lookout post are all visible on the island. The countries only off-shore football team is based here, with a pitch built on sand dunes on the south of the island.

Tory Island [35], is smaller, less populous, and further offshore, and is accessible only by a passenger-only ferry; which runs multiple times daily during the summer, dropping to 5 times a week in winter. The island has a 14-bedroom hotel. Tory's history is lived out to this very day with an elected "king" who attempts to greet all tourists, and a round tower with famed "cursing stones" and Celtic cross.


Letterkenny is home to hundreds of high street shops, including branches of many international fashion boutiques. Ballybofey, in the centre of the county, also features a large contingent of shops, including a large indigenious local department store, McElhinney's.

Letterkenny also features a multiplex cinema, and a theatre, An Grianán [36]. Nightclubs of varying size and quality are dotted throughout the counties tourist resorts, including Letterkenny, Glenties and Bundoran. Bundoran is Ireland's answer to Blackpool, and features large amusement arcades as well as a Waterpark, not to mention being a good base for surfers, beside some of the best surfing sites in Ireland.

The Ionad Cois Locha [37] in Dunlewey, part of the Poisoned Glen, is a tourist attraction, originally built by the countries main power company, the ESB, to employ workers it was laying off from a nearby power plant. Based around a restored two storey farm house, it features a museum of weaving equipment and weaving demonstrations; boat tours of a man-made lake caused by an ESB hydro electric power station (the station itself is an eyesore, really, on the landscape), and often hosts concerts or art exhibitions.


Golf is a major pastime for tourists in the region, with many 9 and 18 hole courses dotted around the county. Due to the lack of flat land in many areas, many of the courses are superb links courses formed by nature offering scenic views as well as world-class golf. Serious golfers should include Ballyliffen, Murvagh (outside Donegal Town) and Portsalon in their itinerary as they are three of the best courses in the county. Green fees will vary from €30 upwards, depending on the season and day of the week.


Music is an important part of the regions culture, and its tourist industry. Music tours often head to Kincasslagh, home of Daniel O'Donnell, a favourite with elderly ladies across the UK and Ireland; or to Gweedore to Leo's Tavern, run by the brother of Enya and her siblings' band, Clannad. Traditional Irish music is more prevalent in places like Glencolumcille, Ardara and Glenties, where a traditional fiddlers' festival is held every year. In addition, in recent years Letterkenny has been home to the national Fleadh Cheoil, Ireland's largest traditional music festival.

Walking and Climbing

The cliffs at Slieve League [38] are a "must-see", but only in fair weather, and a visit to Glencolumcille could be included in this outing. Similarly, a visit to Grianan of Aileach could be included in a trip to the Inishowen Peninsula.

Weather will dictate whether one should climb Mount Errigal. Always leave details of time of departure and expected time of return with your local contacts when undertaking walking, climbing and boating activities, as bad weather can descend without warning.

Glenveagh National Park is a haven for nature lovers, with its scenic walks and climbs, together with its gardens adn castle grounds. Plan to spend at least half a day here.

Glenties is a good hillwalking base, situated at the meeting of two glens on the edge of the Bluestack Mountains.

  • Sea angling from Portnablagh (near Dunfanaghy) and Downings is a good day out. The trip takes in a stop at Tory Island [39]. Rods and tackle are supplied and you can fish for mackerel, cod and pollock.
  • Deep sea fishing is also available from many of the towns and villages located on the coast
  • Surfing is a popular sport in the southern part of the county, around Bundoran and Donegal Town especially, as well as Lettermacaward and the Fanad Peninsula


All major towns in the area will have both restaurants and fast food outlets, with some of the latter being from the county's indigenous Four Lanterns chain. Rural areas will often have no eateries whatsoever, beyond takeaway chip shops, although many pubs offer meals, especially at lunch time. If all else fails, the supermarkets often have hot food to take away, such as roast chicken and potato wedges. Ethnic tastes are well catered for in the major towns in Donegal, with Chinese, Indian and Italian food outlets widely available. Given the seaside location and vast coastline of County Donegal, seafood is in abundance. The port of Killybegs is one of the major fishing ports of Ireland.


Every town in the county features at least one pub - usually more. In smaller towns and villages, pubs may not open until late in the afternoon. Prices are significantly lower than in Dublin, with a pint of stout usually averaging €3.70 in rural areas. Many pubs have live traditional music during the summer, and at other times such as Christmas. Prices of drink in hotel bars are usually dearer than the pubs.

Wine is becoming increasingly available in pubs, where you can order a quarter bottle of red or white, which several brand choices, at most pubs for around €4 to €5. Don't expect to get a top of the range wine unless you are in a good restaurant. The question is, do you really want to drink wine in the land of guinness...

Get out

Depending on where you are in the county, trips to Derry and Sligo are easily accomplished. Enniskillen is accessible from the south of the county. From the east of the county, a day trip to Belfast is not out of the question.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

There is more than one meaning of Donegal discussed in the 1911 Encyclopedia. We are planning to let all links go to the correct meaning directly, but for now you will have to search it out from the list below by yourself. If you want to change the link that led you here yourself, it would be appreciated.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun




  1. County in the Republic of Ireland.
  2. Town in the county of Donegal


  • Irish: Dún na nGall

Simple English

Donegal is a town in County Donegal, Republic of Ireland. Despite its name being the namesake of the county that it stands in, the county town is Lifford and the largest town is Letterkenny.Donegal has a very broken costline and has a large fish industry.


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