Leaving the Slieve League Cliffs and heading east, we found our way back around River Glen and on to a place that still maintains the old art of hand-weaving.
Studio Donegal was our next stop in the little town of Kilcar. Preserving the old traditions, here you’ll be able to find authentic hand woven wool sweaters, shawls, blankets, hats, mittens and more. The color choices are legendary and very Irish. They are known for their Aran Tweed knitting wool and the oh-so soft Merino Donegal knitting wool.
If you can arrange a tour of facility, by all means go. The quality of their craftsmanship is even more amazing when you see the old-school methods they continue to use.
Pushing on further east, we encountered a really picturesque harbor town called Killybegs. Turns out this is the largest fishing town in all of Ireland. If you are a fisherman and want some good fishing, this area around Donegal Bay is supposed to be among the best.
Other water sports including kayaking, scuba diving and paddle boarding are popular as well.
Castle Murray House
Close-by is the Castle Murray House Hotel & Restaurant, a boutique 10-room hotel with a fabulous restaurant overlooking McSwyne’s Bay and the ruins of McSwyne’s castle. The restaurant’s menu changes seasonally as they try to source as much local produce as possible. A wide variety of wines will pair with whatever you select.
We enjoyed lunch here and then relaxing on their patio with a cup of tea. The expansive view is amazing.
Dozens of activities are available close-by. Check their website for details under the “Activities” tab.
The historic town of Donegal can trace its roots to a Danish fort built here in 1159. Much more recently, like another 300 years or so, the O’Donnell Castle was built. You can read about its history, but suffice it to say the owners were usually at odds with Lady Luck for most of its history. Now it has been partially restored and interesting tours tell the whole story, including why the circular stairwell to the tower goes up and to the left.
If you haven’t found enough places to buy souvenirs yet, you might want to stop by Donegal Craft Village. Unfortunately most of the crafts are too big or too heavy to take back home on the plane, but if you really like them, they’ll be happy to ship. A few of the shops do make interesting jewelry and woven goods that would be perfect for tucking in those few unfilled corners of your valise.
For some great dinner, you’ll want to try the Olde Castle Bar and Red Hugh Restaurant on Castle Street. From 5-7 p.m. they offer a special value menu, so come early or be prepared to wait. (Hey, that’s what bars are for aren’t they?)
The place is easy to find, sitting right next to the tall-steepled, 19th century Church of Ireland. Once you’ve found it, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best steaks and seafood to be found. The seafood chowder was one of the best I can recall, and the little fish cracker floating on top was adorable, but I ate him too.
Ready to turn in after a long day of hiking cliffs and castles, we retired to the Mill Park Hotel. They offer a wide variety of room accommodations from singles, to twins to executive doubles as well as two bedroom apartments. They also feature a leisure center with steam room, large pool, fitness room and hot tub. A wellness center offers spa treatments, therapies and massages.
The whole campus is very park-like and they are located just five to ten minutes walk from town. I’d have been very comfortable here for a much longer stay than just the one evening we spent here.
Along the southern tip of Donegal’s coast, if you’re looking for a place to escape, to relax, to do some contemplative thinking; you’ll do well to check out the Creevy Cottages. Self-catering cottages let you live as comfortably as at home, but they are situated in a wonderfully rural atmosphere, where the highlight of the day may be watching your neighbor walk by.
These traditional stone cottages are equipped with modern conveniences and are great for two or three couple getaways. Golf at Europe’s longest course in Murvagh is not far away, and the 18 hole championship course at Bundoran isn’t that far either.
Major draw will be for the walkers. The Creevy Cliff Walk takes you along 10 miles of breath taking views of the wild Atlantic.
Bonus: All cottages are 100% wheelchair accessible and EU Flower Ecolabel accredited.
For location of all the County Donegal sites discussed so far, check this Google Map.
Next article in the Wild Atlantic Way series: County Sligo
Doug Bardwell, based in Cleveland, OH, writes about travel destinations, photography and tech topics across the country and around the world at DougBardwell.com. Feel free to drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions for future stories. To get his stories delivered to your inbox, click the RSS feed or the "Subscribe" button above or follow him on Facebook , Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. To read Doug’s disclosure notice, click here. For travel ideas in Cleveland and around the world, check his Calendar of Events. To see his travel photo collection, see BardwellPhotography.com.