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Donegal Town Heritage Guide

Take a trip back in time as we guide you around historic Donegal Town, situated at the mouth of Donegal bay.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.4 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly

Overview :  Donegal Town is County Donegal's gateway town. Its name translates from the Irish Dún na nGall as 'fort of the foreigners', the... more »

Tips:  If accessing this guide via Trip Advisor, we'd suggest you go to http://www.everytrail.com/guide/donegal-town-guides where you will... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Start of walk

We start this pleasant one hour+ walk around the town from the quay. There is helpful signage located here which tells of the history of the abbey as well as tourist information and details of the sort of fish you can expect to catch around the county.

The quay is a good place to park, but please note that you'll need to get a ticket from the... More

2. Donegal pier

As you can imagine, shipping played an important part in the commercial development of the town. If you have walked the twenty or so metres from the starting point of the guide, you should now be at what is known as the Old Pier. It should be noted that the car park you've just crossed formed part of the bay area before being reclaimed.

This pier... More

You really should sample the delights of Donegal bay on the water and the waterbus is the perfect vessel for such a voyage. The 80 minute cruise explores the history, environment and wildlife of this unique estuary, which is renowned for its vistas of mountains and sea. The boat is weatherproof, comfortable and completely safe. The trip costs e15 ... More

4. Red Hugh memorial

It seems appropriate that the founder of the town's historic castle, Red Hugh O'Donnell should have a statue with such a fine view of the town and be located beside the abbey. In 1474, with his wife, Lady Nuala, he invited the Franciscan monks to town and work commenced on the abbey's construction.

The O'Donnell clan ruled over most of Donegal,... More

5. Old abbey

Ensure you take note of the inscription on the left just before you enter the old abbey. From this tranquil and picturesque location, the greater part of the finest book to chronicle Ireland's history was written, known as The Annals of the Four Masters. One commentator called it 'the most remarkable collection of national tradition in all... More

6. The Glebe

Having made your way up the path at the end of the graveyard, you'll be taking a left back into town. Before you turn left, look right towards the hill in the distance on your side of the road. This is Tullycullion, which was the site of the original Donegal Golf Club. Closer it may have been, but not for the high handicapper with every shot... More

7. Quay brae

After the Glebe, you'll be making your way back down the gentle brae. Take note of the wonderful vista of the Bluestack mountains from the top of Quay brae. There are a whole host of walks around these hills and there are plenty of guides on offer to help you along the way and tell you the wonderful history.

We'd recommend Donegal Walkers... More

8. Tourist office

The official Failte Ireland tourist office is located at the foot of Quay brae and is open all year around. It is the best source of information from which to base your trip around the north west and beyond.

Open July & August, Monday to Saturday 9-5.30. September to June, Monday to Saturday 9-5. Disabled access.

The Quay, Donegal Town,
... More

9. Old anchor

Located at the bottom of Quay Brae on the left, near our starting point, is the old anchor which belonged to the French vessel La Romaine which took part in the rebellion of 1798. The boat put into Donegal bay when it learned from locals of General Humbert's defeat, but cut off its anchor and fled to France when it saw English troops nearby. The... More

10. The Diamond

The Diamond is the rather fanciful name that squares in the northwest are called - you'll see Diamonds in Ardara, Raphoe and Derry as well. Donegal Town served as the market town for the surrounding villages and hinterland as far over as Ballintra to the west, Barnesmore to the north and Killybegs to the east. For centuries, it has been the hub of... More

11. Courthouse/Church of Ireland

As you round the corner of the Olde Castle Bar, you'll come into view of the iconic Church of Ireland and indeed Donegal Castle. The church was built between 1825 and 1828 from a design by local architect William Graham in the late Gothic style church and has an impressive cut stone ashlar tower and spire with a three bay hall. It is floodlit at... More

For most of the last two hundred years, the majority of Donegal Castle lay sadly in ruins, but was almost fully restored in the late 1990s due to an unwavering local campaign by the likes of legendary Mary B. 'Dee' Crossan & audio guide, Paddy Meehan (amongst others).

Built in 1474, the castle consists of a 15th century rectangular keep with ... More

13. Bridge street

Bridge street is another old fashioned street with some businesses worth visiting including Timony's News which has all of the major international newspapers and of course the Reel Inn, where you will find proper traditional music played seven nights a week. Dancing often occurs and if you have a 'party piece' well then, get some Dutch courage and... More

14. Stone bridge

The bridge you are crossing is dedicated to Reverend John Boyce D.D which may not mean much to you. However, Boyce had a nom de plume of Paul Peppergrass and as a writer, he may be known to some of our elder American cousins. One of Peppergrass's best known works was called 'Shandy McGuire'. The book was so popular with the Irish in America that... More

15. Bank walk/Methodist church

After you cross the bridge, you'll see a pale building on a hill in front of you. This was the secondary school for the town, opening in 1955. It greatly underestimated the surge in population and so by the seventies, there was a somewhat comical situation of pupils having to zig zag back and forward across town to get to ancillary buildings for... More

16. Meetinghouse street

A Meeting House is a reference to a Presbyterian church and at the end of Meetinghouse street, you'll find such a church which was built in 1884. The street is a also where you'll find the Forge, albeit a charming pub these days, (unusal for an Irish pub, it only has a six day licence). Dan McBrearty had a forge at this location and after him,... More

17. Waterloo place

Waterloo Place is a fine place to observe where the Eske river becomes the sea on its final bend and to see the majesty of Donegal Castle on the other side of the river bank. For years, this tranquility was somewhat spoilt by a sewerage pipe going across the river no less, but this has thankfully been removed. These days, a more graceful... More

18. Tirchonaill street

Tirchonaill street by virtue of its famous inhabitants in the castle is the oldest street in town. It was only united with the coming of the iron bridge in 1895. These days, it still has an old fashioned quality about it - neighbours are very close and courteous to each other. Look out for Mullans's shop and be transported back in time. Near it,... More

19. Railway heritage centre

One of the great shames in the county is that such wonderful terrain no longer has so much as an inch of railway track for daily commercial travel. It all stopped on the last days of the 1950s as roads had effectively taken over as the main source of getting from A to B and trains, often seen by the Fianna Fail government as the last vestige of... More

20. Magee factory

A key passage in Brian Friel's masterpiece 'Dancing at Lughnasa' refers to a factory opening up in Donegal Town that signaled the end to the two sisters home weaving. That factory was Magee of Donegal. John Magee had started a draper's shop in the town in 1866 and soon his enterprising cousin Robert Temple had joined the business, buying it from... More

21. Eske river

After the Magee factory, you'll cross the Peter Kennedy bridge. Take time to savour the flow of the highly regarded Eske river as it comes near the end of its journey. Fancy a spot of fishing on the river? Help is very close to hand; at the top of Water Street just after the bridge, you'll find Doherty's Fishing Tackle shop. Here, Charlie Doherty ... More

22. Main street/St. Patrick's church

Making your way up Water street, you'll come to a T junction for Main street. You'll be turning left by the Ulster bank. Further on up the street, you'll see the Coachman's pub - well worth a visit with a very nice cavern.

If you continue some 40 metres up Main street, you'll see a sign for the Famine graveyard, burial site of locals who died in ... More

23. Merchants and victuallers

And so we make our way back to the Diamond, which may have gotten rid of the serious sights and smells of yesteryear's commercial activity, but still retains a proud tradition of selling. Besides a visit to Magee of Donegal, there are some very impressive shops to visit in the vicinity - Britton's jewelry shop is just before Magee's, across the... More

24. The Four Masters obelisk

The impressive Mountcharles sandstone monument in the centre of the town was erected in 1935 from the funding by local solicitor P.M. Gallagher. It honours the four men who helped write the celebrated Annals of the Four Masters, Brother Michael O'Cleary and laymen Peregrine O'Clery, Peregrine O'Duignan and Fearfeasa O'Maolconry.

It serves as a... More