In the northwest corner of Ireland, about 110 mi/175 km northwest of Dublin, the Donegal area is less visited by tourists—and that's one of the reasons we like it. Spend three or four days in this region of friendly, good-humored people. Although other parts of Ireland might be more spectacular, Donegal is both beautiful and relaxing. The landscape, rougher than in counties to the south, often is covered in gorse or heather. Take a drive to Malin Head to see Ireland's most northerly point—on a stormy day, the boiling sea and jagged cliffs will seem like the end of the earth.
The city of Donegal is not bristling with sites, but it does have the ruins of a castle and a cathedral (where The Annuals of the Four Masters, a complete history of the Celts, was written in 1618). The surrounding region offers a number of diversions: Shoppers should head to Kilcar for tweed, knitting and embroidery (http://www.kilcaronline.com), the fishing port of Killybegs for hand-tied carpets (http://www.killybegs.ie), and Ardara for tweed and hand-loomed sweaters (http://www.ardara.ie).
In Glenveagh National Park, nature lovers will find moors, mountains, lakes, wildflowers and Ireland's largest herd of red deer (http://www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie); and fishermen in Finn Valley and Mountcharles can try their luck with salmon and trout fishing (permits required). If the fish aren't biting in July, there's good fun at the Mountcharles storytelling festival. Highly recommended is a visit to the remote coastal village of Glencolmcille (http://www.gleanncholmcille.ie), which is surrounded by stunning scenery. There, Father McDyer's Folk Village Museum preserves the traditional buildings and culture of rural Donegal (http://www.glenfolkvillage.com).
Although most people don't travel to Ireland to visit crowded seaside resorts, Bundoran (http://discoverbundoran.com) does offer a wonderful glimpse of Irish life. During the summer months, the town on the coast northwest of Donegal becomes a carnival of penny arcades and food stalls. Surfers are drawn to its mighty waves and wide, sandy beaches, and sprawling bars have sprung up to slake the thirst worked up by those who quest to master the perfect monster wave. There's also excellent golfing, walks and fishing.
Set on a dramatic cliff-lined coast northwest of the city of Donegal, Dunfanaghy is a popular place to relax. It's also a good base for visits to nice beaches in the towns of Marble Hill and Portnablagh. There are several interesting things to see in the area, including the Cloghaneely Stone (in Gortahork) and the Doe Castle (in Creeslough). There's also a beautiful 12-mi/20-km Atlantic Ocean-side drive around Tranarossan Bay, beginning in nearby Carrigart. The Gaeltacht isle called Tory Island, reached via ferry from Portnablagh (http://www.toryislandferry.com), supports colonies of puffins and has its own indigenous school of artists. We suggest a two-day visit to this area.
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