Driving in Donegal’s Mountains

Ireland is blessed with an abundance of dramatic scenery, some of the very best – I think – is found in Donegal. We spent a couple of days exploring this, the most northerly peninsula of Ireland beginning our trip in the mountains. Such a variety of wild landscapes, breath-taking views on every turn (plenty of those too), we started in the north, crossed the border to Letterkenny and then just followed signs for Glenveagh National Park and the mountains. Just as easy as it sounds, driving was incredibly pleasant, hardly another car on the road it really felt like we were the only people, never mind tourists in this remote corner of the island. The scenery changed from urban to rugged, wild and gorgeous in the blink of an eye. I just loved it.

07.15.17 - Donegal Mountains

Glenveagh is one of six national parks in Ireland and takes up 16,000 hectares in the Derryveagh Mountains. The lands were a private deer forest before becoming a national park in 1975. Shortly after entering the national park area, with a very fidgety Son in the back, we saw signs for a visitor centre and decided a stop might be a good thing. Experience has taught us key to a successful scenic drive is as many stops as possible, this tends to keep boyish grumbling and twisty road nausea to a minimum. Always a good thing. We found a car park with a wealth of empty picnic tables, had our lunch and then set off to explore on foot.

07.15.01 - Glenveagh National Park

A fabulous walk and a stunning location, on the northern end of Lough Veagh there were trails, cliffs, waterfalls and Glenveagh Castle. We walked an easy couple of miles and got some stunning views of the Valley of Glenveagh.

07.15.06 - Glenveagh National Park

We didn’t go quite so far as the castle but took the scenic trail close to the lough. Lots of trees at the beginning, holly, rowan and birch, we found quaint little beaches, a wooden boathouse and crossed a bridge over a river.

07.15.07 - Glenveagh National Park

07.15.08 - Glenveagh National Park

07.15.10 -  Glenveagh National Park

The landscape changed to become more open and treeless, peatland here which Son found fascinating. Views of the peatland on one side and the glen and lake on the other – just stunning. We saw no other people, truly a remote and peaceful Irish wilderness. Islets, hillsides and so much to take in – even Son was impressed and loved running free.

07.15.09 - Glenveagh National Park

07.15.12 - Glenveagh National Park

07.15.14 - Glenveagh National Park

Leaving the park behind we carried on with our drive through the mountains, progress continuously hampered by those wonderful views which begged for yet another picture stop. Son carried on with his peat fascination pointing out the endless bags all over the hillside waiting to be collected.

07.15.19 - Donegal Mountains

07.15.20 - Donegal Mountains

Through the heritage town of Ardara then we dropped down to sea-level again and left those lovely mountains behind, ready to explore and experience a different side to Donegal – the coast.

52 thoughts on “Driving in Donegal’s Mountains

  1. Just beautiful, Joy. I love these little towns or villages that seem play down in the middle of this gorgeous scenery. We don’t see that very much here in the states, which is something I love about Europe. Thanks again.

    • I love those kind of places too George – just a few houses and a little church in the middle of the mountains in the middle of nowhere. It was such a gorgeous place, we just could have done with more time to explore a bit more. Still, a good excuse to go back…..

  2. OMG, that’s a dream. This view down to the church and the lake… wow, stunning! You have such a big repertoire of beautiful sights around the globe. Thank you, for sharing this all with us!

  3. Looks gorgeous! I’ve lived in Ireland for nearly three years but have never ventured out of Dublin much, partly because I’m terrified of driving. How were the roads? If they’re not too narrow and full of cars or coaches I might give it a go and explore this beauty!

    • The roads were great – not narrow at all and for most of the day we didn’t see another car never mind a coach – I think you would be absolutely fine. We did this drive late July as well, so probably peak tourist time!

  4. We spent quite a bit of time in Donegal when we toured Ireland last year and we quite enjoyed the hike we did in this park. Unfortunately, it did rain quite a bit while we were in Donegal though we managed to do most of what we had planned to do. Beautiful region indeed. Nice pics to bring back some nice memories of our trip. (Suzanne)

    • I had been to Donegal once before this Suzanne and the weather was awful – pouring rain and windy. We were lucky on this trip, it was dry and (mostly) sunny – it definitely makes for a better experience!!

  5. I spent five months in Ireland and there was just so much to see that I didn’t make it to Donegal. Looks gorgeous, I’ll have to put it on my list for next time!

  6. How beautiful Joy – the scenery is stunning ( and so green and lush!). When it’s fine I can imagine you could walk for hours – can’t believe there are so few people here you must have felt completely away from it all! 🙂

    • We loved the fact we had the whole place to ourselves Rosemary – so unspoilt and just gorgeous. This was just a bit of a taster for us though, would love to go back with more time and explore properly!

  7. Amazing beauty! The mountains and lakes are so picturesque with a castle to top it off. I wanted to get to County Donegal but there just wasn’t enough time. After planning our trip I saw so many references to scenic beauty along the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal. I can’t wait to see your photos along the coast.

    • It’s hard having to pick and choose – we did have the same problem with this trip, not enough time to explore as much as I would have liked. We visit Ireland to see family and then try and fit another trip in as well – this was a bit of a rushed expedition but has definitely left me intent to go back to Donegal and do it justice!

  8. Wow and wow. Donegal looks stunning – your photos are wonderful. I think I’ve mentioned we’ve always wanted to drive around Ireland, and your trip sounds perfect – particularly the part about it being easy and quiet. Think that would suit us down to the ground.

  9. Wonderful post. My husband’s mother’s family is from Donegal, not far from Glen Veagh. His auntie used to cut her peats nearby, bless her. We haven’t been back for a few years – would love to be there just now.

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