Donegal – Episode One

Until recently, I’ve harboured a dark and shameful secret. Whenever the topic came up, I would avert my eyes or try to change the subject. You might say it was nothing to be ashamed of, and there are others like me still, but it was nothing to be proud of either. You see, I’ve lived in Ireland for most of my life but, until recently, I’d never been to Donegal. Please don’t judge me.

But now I have been (yayyy!) and I want to tell everyone it’s awesome. And while I missed out big time by not going in the past, I’m kind of glad I saved it until now.

From the beginning, I regarded my trip as ‘Donegal: Episode One’. We spent four days there – two in pretty Ramelton near Glenveagh, and two in the glorious, heart-stopping, breath-taking Kilcar region (where Sarah-Jessica Parker has a holiday home). Am not sure if words can describe the kind of beauty that awaits you on every bend in the road, and the photos definitely can’t capture it, so I’ll just list the must-sees and implore you to go there.

And don’t forget: there is no train to Donegal, which is a blessing. Miraculously and bizarrely, it still has a hidden gem quality to it and the locals behave like they are actually glad to see you. And they’re not acting; they loved me.

Highlights of my trip: the drive from Ardara to Glenties and on to Glencolmcille; Slieve League, Kilcar, and phenomenal beaches like Muckross Head and Fintra; Derek Hill’s house at Glebe Gallery; Brian O’Doherty’s gallery at Dunfanaghy; casual dining at the Tap Room at Rathmullan House; cakes from Brown Sugar Bakery in Bundoran.

Dunfanaghy, Silver Strand and Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh National Park is just lovely and charming. but if I was short on time, I would limit myself to Glencolmcille and Kilcar. Dunfanaghy Beach and Silver Strand beach are beautiful – horse riding and surfing opportunities abound.

Rathmullan House

Cultural absolute must-see:

Derek Hill’s house at Glebe Gallery. Hill’s personal collection is a treasure trove of art works ranging from Hokusai prints to William Morris wallpapers and William De Morgan tiles. Glebe Gallery is also excellent but do NOT bypass the tour of Hill’s house.

Brian O’Doherty’s wonderful gallery of paintings and block prints at Dunfanaghy. I bought a piece from his ‘Pagan Warriors’ collection and I love it.

So that’s my first glorious impression of Donegal. Next time, I hope to spend a good week working on my Irish at Oideas Gael in Glencolmcille.


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