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Explore the coastline of Ireland’s coolest town

County Donegal in Ireland has long been overshadowed by larger regions like Dublin and Cork, but travellers are now discovering it as one of the country’s best-kept secrets

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Donegal Town is the perfect place from which to explore the Wild Atlantic Way, which crosses nine counties from the top of Donegal to the bottom of Cork
Donegal Town is the perfect place from which to explore the Wild Atlantic Way, which crosses nine counties from the top of Donegal to the bottom of Cork 

Tucked in the mouth of Donegal Bay in the north-western corner of Ireland is the charming harbour town of Donegal. County Donegal is home to the best of Ireland’s natural beauty, with its sprawling wilderness and rugged coastline, including the renowned Wild Atlantic Way coastal route along the west side of the country.

Throughout the county, travellers will find serene beaches, dramatic views and remains of centuries past, including those of the 15th-century Donegal Abbey and Donegal Castle on the banks of the River Eske. But the former market town also has a lively, friendly buzz; you can often catch locals sharing their stories in the pub.

Both the Abbey and Central Hotels offer lively bars with nightly entertainment, ranging from traditional Irish folk music to modern country tunes

Despite its many charms, tourists have long overlooked this remote slice of Ireland, but it is safe to say the secret of County Donegal is now out. In fact, National Geographic named Donegal the coolest place to visit on the planet in 2017.

Coastal views
Donegal Town is the perfect place from which to explore the coastline of the Wild Atlantic Way, which crosses nine counties from the top of Donegal to the bottom of Cork. While the full route stretches 2,500km, Donegal alone is home to 26 discovery points and three iconic visitor attractions along 1,134km of coast, including some of the most remote areas in the country.

Adventure enthusiasts should not miss the towering granite walls of the Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) – one of the highest sea cliff edges in Europe – or the famous Killybegs fishing port, which is among the most prolific in Ireland. Take some time to explore the Gaeltacht area of Kilcar, a traditional Irish town and the country’s largest Gaelic-speaking location.

The Abbey and Central Hotels in Donegal Town make great bases for experiencing all the area has to offer. Both hotels enjoy panoramic views overlooking Donegal Bay, where visitors can hop on the water bus to discover the area, including the Bluestack Mountains and a seal colony that lives on nearby Seal Island.

Travellers can also hear all about the Great Famine and the families who departed the country for pastures new. The town centre is home to a variety of beautiful signature goods, including hand-woven Donegal tweed from Irish House and Magee of Donegal. A visit to the iconic Hanna Hats factory is essential.

Guaranteed good craic
As expected from a coastal town, locally sourced seafood is a speciality, and the town’s hotels will spoil visitors with culinary options.

The Market House Restaurant at the Abbey Hotel is famous for its fresh fish and ‘steak on the stone’ – an 8oz Irish prime fillet steak served with a trio of sauces and a side order of twice-cooked homemade chips and onion rings. Chapman’s Restaurant at the Central Hotel is also a must-visit; its afternoon tea is served overlooking the main square in Donegal Town, the Diamond.

Both the Abbey and Central Hotels offer lively bars with nightly entertainment, ranging from traditional Irish folk music to modern country tunes, which draw crowds from far and wide. These and other bars and pubs in the Diamond offer a lively atmosphere and guaranteed good craic.

At the end of a day of sightseeing, take a stroll around the Bank Walk, a flat trail along the west bank of the River Eske and Donegal Bay, or enjoy a hot Irish whiskey and a massage in Central Hotel’s Sabai Treatment Room. Whether you end the day in the bar or the leisure centre, your stay in Donegal is sure to be packed with adventure and comfort.

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