Mount Errigal, Donegal’s highest peak (751metres) had been on my to-do list for a while so I made the 5-hour journey up and as with all trips to the North-West, it did not disappoint. The view as I rounded the road into Gweedore and there Errigal stood before me, appearing perfectly symmetrical and really jaw-droppingly awesome was a real wow moment!!
Having now climbed it twice, I can say the first time was a lot easier (if that is even the correct word!) as I seem to remember it as being quite a straightforward walk; park in the car park and follow the path to the top. The second time, to avoid the wet boggy bit at the start I trundled up among the moor grass and heather and although remained dry, it was a very, very, very steep incline all the way up and once I began to make the descent down, it suddenly became scarily clear just how steep it was and vertigo wanted to get the better of me. No way was it going to beat me!!!
The views from the top of Errigal are really worth the slog up and serve as something of an inspiring taster of what else to explore in the area. From reaching Errigal’s summit that I caught a glimpse across to Tory Island and over towards Bloody Foreland. I also saw spotted glistening sandy beaches at Magheroarty and Falcarragh and closer to the mountain, the Glenveagh valley (I think our geography teachers would say that it is a prime example of a U-shaped valley), the Poisoned Glen and across to Slieve Sneacht.
As you drive from Errigal towards Letterkenny you will be driving through stunning Glenveagh National Park. 16,000 hectares of bog, mountains, lakes and woods are home to one of the largest herds of Red Deer in the country and also birds of prey such as Peregrines and the Golden Eagle. When you see a sign that says Glenveagh Park 200metres, do not be fooled that it is just pointing you to more scenery…. no, no, no…if you do follow this sign you will be brought to one of the most exquisite castles & gardens in the country!
Dating from about 1870 a Laois man, John Adair (along with his well-liked wife, Cornelia) was the original owner and did not serve as a very nice ambassador for Laois when he evicted more than 200 tenants with many making the trip Down Under or more sadly into the local workhouse. With a number of owners each adding their own stamp to the property, it was probably the last private owner, Mr Henry McIlhenney that treated the house with such tender loving care that can still be seen today. For example, the swimming pool… or the Murano chandeliers in the bathroom… or the gorgeous Donegal Tweed curtains… or the specially commissioned china on display throughout the house… It really is a surprise hidden away!
Glenveagh does not just have the castle; there is a beautiful walled garden (developed by Mrs Adair) and a choice of looped walks from buggy friendly smaller loops to more adventurous excursions deeper into the estate. There is also a really cute tearoom located in the Castle courtyard and of course the obligatory gift shop.
If this encourages you to visit Donegal, you may like to read these stories too: