The translation of ‘Dún na nGall’ means ‘fort of the foreigners’ and it seems that Donegal is well positioned to attract and welcome record numbers of tourists this year. I have chosen my top five reasons to visit Donegal from my favourite personal collection. It’s true to say that there could be 50 or more reasons to explore the entire county of Donegal in all its mystic beauty but I have limited my selection in terms of using Harvey’s Point as a base over a period of a five day trip.
1. SLIEVE LEAGUE
The drama of the Donegal coastline is best captured when you stand at the recently upgraded viewing point at Slieve League, and see the sheer drop of 600m – nearly 2,000 feet down to the sea. Rated as among the highest and most spectacular sea-cliffs in Europe, the view and sometimes the wind will take your breath away. You can choose to just look and enjoy or take a short stroll along the cliff path. For the brave-hearted, ‘One Man’s Pass’ is a ‘must’ although it is strongly recommended to go with an experienced guide and to venture there only when the weather is favourable. The majesty of the cliffs can also be experienced by taking a boat trip on the ‘Nuala Star’ led by local character Paddy Byrne. You can get close to the shore and it’s not unusual for a pod of dolphins to appear and tempt you to jump in the water to swim with them. On the way home, drive by Glengesh Pass and call into ‘Nancy’s of Ardara’, a charming Irish pub serving great Guinness, chowder and home-made brown bread.
Slieve League – On the top of the World at Slieve League ‘One Man’s Pass’ with Christina Gysling
Two years ago, we hosted the Annual Hospitality Charity Climb at Harvey’s Point. On a sunny day in April, a group of crazy hoteliers headed for Slieve League and on completion of the climb, there was a wee dram of whiskey for everyone. On the way to Nancy’s, the singing started in the bus when we picked up a hitch-hiker with a guitar (honestly it wasn’t planned). The merriment continued back at the hotel until the wee hours. J
2. GLENVEAGH CASTLE & NATIONAL PARK
Deep in the Deryveagh Mountains, Glenveagh Castle stands proud amidst the amazing rugged beauty of its surrounds. You could easily spend an entire day here, marvelling at the memories of the lavish parties held by its owner, Henry McIlhenny and imagining the presence of the film stars who came to visit all those years ago. Hollywood royalty included Marilyn Munroe, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo and Clark Gable, to name but a few. There is a delightful tea shop and some great walking in the exotic themed gardens.
Glenveagh is the second largest national park in Ireland. Home to the largest herd of red deer in the country, the park covers 170 kilometres of mountains, lakes , glens and woods. The once extinct golden eagle was also reintroduced into Glenveagh in 2000.
In the early years of Harvey’s Point, the former owner of Glenveagh Castle and Estate, Henry McIlhenny was often a guest with us at the hotel. He was an old man and quite the gentleman, albeit a bit eccentric. He chatted often about his family’s connection as creators of Tabassco sauce.
I have fond memories of spending a day at Glenveagh with Marc, walking for miles and miles and enjoying each other’s company in the hills of Donegal.
“Where the mountains arise to the oft-changing skies,
And the Castle stands stately and grey;
Where the calm lake lies still ‘neath that wild rugged hill,
In the valley of lovely Glenveagh…”
(Herbert W.K. Sterritt)
3. DONEGAL‘S BLUE FLAG BEACHES
Donegal has 13 Blue Flag Beaches. This is the highest number of Blue Flag beaches of any county in the country. The Donegal mainland coastline is the longest in Ireland and constitutes over 17% of the total national coastline.
I was priviliged to grow up close to Rossnowlagh beach – aptly named as ‘The Heavenly Cove’. Endless childhood summer days were spent dipping in and out of the water, building sandcastles and licking salty ice-cream cones. In later years, the attraction was sipping a cool pint on the steps outside the Sandhouse Hotel, watching the sun go down of an evening and of course, observing the surfing dudes do their balancing dance on the water.
Surfing is a growing market and the towering waves can often stretch up to 7 metres. Best of all is that you can walk and walk and if the tide is right, keep walking from Rossnowlagh to Murvagh (Donegal Golf Club) and Donegal Bay.
It has been said that in Donegal, there is a beach for every day of the year. Regularly featured in the top most beautiful beaches in the world, Ballymastocker Beach is breath-taking and on many occasions there is just you, the beach and a few sheep or cows for company.
4. FANAD HEAD LIGHTHOUSE & MALIN HEAD
There was great excitement in the region when Failte Ireland launched the innovative marketing idea called the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’. Donegal is proud to have three ‘Signature Points’ – Slieve League, Fanad Head Lighthouse and Malin Head mapped along this soon-to-be-world-famous driving route.
Fanad Head Lighthouse
Fanad Lighthouse looks like it is perched on the edge of the world and it sits resolutely overlooking the crashing waves of the Atlantic. Recently voted the world’s 2nd most beautiful lighthouse by German magazine, ‘Metal Floss’, the people of Donegal are justifiably proud of this iconic attraction and locals say that Fanad Head Lighthouse is slightly higher than the Eiffel Tower, but it depends on which way the wind is blowing!
Malin Head has all the drama of Donegal scenery where the wild Atlantic has carved deep crevices in the rugged headland and the light as well as the weather can change the scene in an instant. This top of the Inishowen Pennisula is mainland Ireland’s farthest northerly point.
5. THE BLUESTACK MOUNTAINS & LOUGH ESKE
Blessed with a magical location at the foot of the Blue Stack Mountains and on the shores of Lough Eske, Harvey’s Point enjoys some of the most wonderful scenic views in Ireland. I am so happy to live here. There is a lovely story about our old neighbour, Willy Simms who sadly passed away last year at the age of 94. During all those years, he lived in a small dark cottage overlooking Lough Eske and when asked why he didn’t put more windows in the house, he replied “Sure the view never bought me a pint”!
The Bluestack Way was formed in 1999 and is a 65km long walking route from Donegal Town to Ardara. The Bluestacks are wild, rough and magnificent. You don’t have to be a hardy hillwalker to enjoy their beauty. The Bluestack Drive is a most enjoyable 16km by car, bicycle or on foot.
Lough Eske & Bluestack Mountains
Lough Eske – (from Irish Loch Iascaigh or Loch Iasc, translated as ‘Lake of the Fish’) is such a special place. It is home to spring salmon, sea tout and char. There is a rich history linked to Lough Eske dating back to the 1400’s when the O’ Donnell clan lived there until their reign came to an end with the ‘Flight of the Earls’ in 1607. Remains of their ‘island prison’ are still on O’ Donnells island which can be seen from our restaurant. Our lovely neighbour, Lough Eske Castle, originally the home of the O’Donnell clan, is well worth a visit to see the grandeur of the building and the way in which is was lovingly restored by Donegal business man, Pat Doherty.
Thankfully the lake is not used for noisy watersports and it is widely regarded as an area of outstanding natural beauty. There are lots of forest paths along the shores of Lough Eske. My personal favourite is the newly reconstructed path in Ardnamona wood – a great place for playing ‘hide and seek’ with the kids or mushroom hunting in the autumn.
I hope that this gives you a flavour of what Donegal has to offer. Have a look at ‘Home-made Holidays @ Harvey’s Point’ for details on our special five-night packages. We can also tailor-make a three or four-night short break for you with recommended day trips and local iconic attractions.
We would love to welcome you to Donegal – to experience the true spirit of Ireland and Harvey’s Point.
5th May 2015
Your Home-made Holiday Package Includes:
5 relaxing nights in a palatial suite including full Irish breakfast
2 gourmet dinners in our award winning Lakeside Restaurant
Dinner Cabaret on Wednesday night (June 24th – October 28th) or dinner in the restaurant (April – June 24th)
Complimentary wine tasting & cooking demonstration
From €579 pps in an Executive or Lakeshore Suite
We can tailor make a three or four night short break for you featuring recommended trips and must see attractions.
Click here to Book Online
Guided chauffeur tour ~€120 per day for driver & Mercedes or similar car
Hill walking guide ~€75 per day
Ticket to Donegal Bay Waterbus €15
Admittance to Glenveagh Castle €5, Donegal Castle €4
Picnic Basket per person €18
Terms & Conditions
All beverages and extra meals to be paid direct
The itinerary is subject to change