History of Donegal Railways
In the late 19th century, Donegal had a network of small railways which transformed the life of the community. Journeys which had taken several days to complete by horse drawn carriage were undertaken in a few hours, in what was regarded as the height of comfort. Goods could also be moved speedily resulting in greater trading activity. Rail excursions attracted thousands of visitors, offering trips to the beach at Rossnowlagh (where I grew up) and the spa baths in Donegal Town. The Stanorlar / Glenties railway ran through Barnesmore, even when Lough Eske froze over in 1947. My old neighbour, Willy Simms, who lived to the ripe old age of 93, used to tell me stories about life in Donegal in ‘the olden days’. He had fond memories of the railway years and he was among the many locals who mourned the end of the railway era. For almost a century, the Donegal Railway was the heartbeat of the community, opening a door for visitors, enabling access to the bogs or gathering people together for pilgrimages or celebrations. Sadly that heart stopped beating when the railways were closed in 1960.
The Old Donegal Station House has been renovated and given a new lease of life by Co Donegal Railway Restoration Limited. It is now known as the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre and comprises a museum, information centre and a shop. It is certainly worth a visit. In recent years, there have been various attempts at restoring a section of the old Donegal Railway as a visitor attraction. Given the great sentiment about the old railways and the potential to boost tourist numbers to our region, perhaps it is time to open that chapter again and bring history back to the Hills of Donegal.
Press Fam Trip in association with Railtours Ireland
Bringing Dublin to Donegal
We recently hosted a Press Fam Trip in association with Railtours Ireland and it was deemed a great success from start to finish. Having travelled by train from Dublin to Belfast with a visit to Titanic, the group then took the train to Derry, from where they were whisked by luxury coach to Harvey’s Point. Upon arrival, the sun shone as they heard the sound of bagpipes playing “The Homes of Donegal” and they saw Team Harvey’s Point line-up along the red carpet for the grand welcome. Shortly afterwards, we hosted a pre-dinner drinks reception with canapés, and local family ‘The Byrne Brothers’ entertained until our guests were escorted to dinner in our Lake-side Restaurant. Following a delicious seven course Tasting Menu, everyone went to Harvey’s Bar for a most enjoyable soirée of cocktails, singing and dancing until the wee hours. The next morning, our guests gathered for a hearty breakfast and later we took a walk around the hotel, showing off our new Garden Suite, the Boathouse and Lovers Bridge. There were hugs and kisses as we bade farewell to our lovely group. I smiled to myself as I thought of one of our sayings at Harvey’s Point.
“Come as a visitor and leave as a friend”.