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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.