Beautiful Donegal! One of Irelands most Northernly counties that is jammed packed with history, out of this world scenery, some of the worlds most beautiful beaches and Glenveagh National Park. Situated in the northern half of the county, in between Gweedore and Letterkenny, this beautiful National park spans 16,000 hectares of countryside. The Park takes in the Derryveagh mountains, the poisoned glen and part of Mount Errigal- Donegals highest peak.
On a misty Tuesday Morning myself, Mam and Kate left Gweedore and drove the short 25 minute drive to the entrance of the park. On arrival into the park there is a car park over to the left and from here it is well signposted to the visitor center. This is where you should start your visit of the park. The visitor center will give you all the information you need about the extensive walking trails around the park, the history of the park and some pretty amazing audio visual displays on the surrounding landscape. This is also where you can buy your tickets for the shuttle bus over to Glenveagh Castle, our main reason for visiting the park. You can walk over to the castle, but it was raining quite heavily on the day we visited. The Bus is only €3 return and goes every 15 minutes from the visitor center.
The three kilometre journey over to the visitor center only took a few minutes (there is a seperate walking trail for the not so lazy visitor) and the scenery along the way past Lough Veagh was beautiful- even on a rainy day. At the end of the road we were greeted by the magnificent Glenveagh castle, in all its historic glory. We went straight into the main reception to book our tickets for the next available tour. Tickets for the tour are €7 per person. Entrance around the interior of the castle is by tour only.
The next tour wasn’t for another 20 minutes so we used the time to take a walk around the walled garden. The wall garden was developed around the castle by the wife of the man who originally built the castle. The castle was built by Captain John George Adair in 1870. Captain Adair was known as a cruel man who evicted tenants off their land in order to have a better view from the castle. A curse was put on the Castle which resulted in none of the subsequent owners being able to bear heirs to the family name. After his death Cornelia (his wife) took over running the estate. She was regarded in a much better light from her husband in the area. Subsequent owners have continued to add to the gardens and the result is a fabulous array of trees, shrubs, the gothic orangery, the Tuscan garden and lots more. From here we made our way back down the the main reception to start our tour of the castle.
We were shown first into a room where we watched a 10 minute video about the castle, its history and the conservation work. It was here that we were told that no photography was allowed AT ALL! So you will just have to visit the castle yourself to see all the amazing rooms. We were shown around the ground floor rooms first and all the different works that were done on the rooms by the different owners. After Cornelia Adair’s death in 1921 the estate fell into disrepair and was occupied for a time by free state army forces. It was bought in 1929 by Professor Arthur Kingsley Porter of Harvard university. He was studying Irish archaeology and culture at the time but he mysteriously disappeared from Innisboffin Island in 1933. Henry McIIhenny bought the estate in 1937. He was an Irish American who’s grandfather was a local man. McIIhenny invited many stars including musicans and actors to the castle when he resided there. Once such notable visitor was Ella Fitzgerald. In 1983 McIIhenny donated his estate to the Irish state on the condition that all his employee’s retained their jobs. The park was officially opened in 1984 and the rest as they say, is history. The tour was so interesting and gave you a fantastic glimpse into the lives of the people who once lived there. I would say the tour is a must do on your visit.
Before we headed back to the car we made our way down to the lakeside to check out the outdoor swimming pool- which apparently takes nearly a full day to heat! The scenery down here is out of this world. I will definitely be making a trip back up to Glenveagh National Park soon to discover all the walking trails. The walks range in lenght from 1km to 8km and promise stunning views of the lake, castle and mountains. We grabbed our compulsory cup of tea and a cake in the castle tearooms (which are also a must visit) before jumping back on the shuttle bus. We revisited the visitor center to grab a few souvenirs before we took our leave of beautiful Glenveagh.
I have attached a few links for you to have a look at if you thinking of taking the trip- as always- Happy Galavanting! xxx