An Irish Postcard – Donegal Town

Donegal one of those towns that you might just drive through, assuming there’s nothing really worth stopping for (except maybe lunch and the loo!). Needless to say – as with millions of such places worldwide – its full of little gems when you actually get out of the car and wander.

As part of the Wild Atlantic Way, it is rightly being marketed as a destination in itself and not just a base and gateway to southwest Donegal. You could easily idle away a day here. There’s a lot of history to absorb as well as river walks, boat trips and shopping.

The town developed where the River Eske flows into Donegal Bay.

The strategic importance of the site is reflected in the location of Donegal Castle, built on the banks of the river in 1474 by the famous Red Hugh O’Donnell whose clan ruled the region from 1200. It remained their stronghold and main residence until 1601. Restored in the 1990’s, its worth a visit if you have time….

There isn’t much left of the original Franciscan Friary which looks out over the bay. It was built by Red Hugh around the same time as the castle. There was supposedly a tunnel linking the two buildings.

The centre of town is dominated by the Diamond, a pedestrian space surrounded by hotels, restaurants, pubs and shops.

Franciscan monk Michael O’Cleary was working on the lives of Irish saints when he got the idea of compiling the Annals of Irish history. From 1632 -1636, O’Cleary and three assistants worked on what was to become known as the Annals of the Masters. The manuscript covers Irish history from 2242BC to 1616AD. He took off around Ireland every summer and came back to the friary in Donegal armed with historical and mythical data and stories. The four of them then spent the winter writing up the information gathered. This is still one of our most important historical manuscripts.

The Obelisk in the Diamond commemorates the Four Masters.

The 2.5km Town Bank Walk brings you along by the river and out towards the bay….

Donegal Harbour served as a commercial port from the Viking invasion in the 8th century right up until the 1960’s. Nowadays, activity centres around rowing clubs, pleasure craft and tours.

Trivia Moment:

The Vikings built a garrison here after the invasion. The name Donegal comes from that era – Dún na nGall means Fort of the Foreigners

Red Hugh strutting his stuff on the pier……

The 75 minute Waterbus tour offers commentary on local history and geography. You might spot some seals and you can dance to live music on the way back!

Head to the Craft Village for jewellery, crafts, paintings, textiles or just a coffee…

The Magee name has been associated with Donegal Tweed since 1866. They still employ hand weavers but most fabric today is woven on powerlooms.

Located a few kms outside town, Lough Eske is a great spot for salmon and trout fishing but is probably best known for its luxury hotels – Harvey’s Point and Lough Eske Castle.

Food and Drink – there are lots of options in and around town:

Coffee Break

Something more substantial – The Olde Castle Bar and Red Hugh Restaurant is one of our family favourites….

…and there are plenty of pubs for ceol agus craic!


We’ve stayed a few times at the Central Hotel which is right on the Diamond. Parking is in the town car park, 2 minutes walk and at about €2 per day it won’t break the bank. The staff are renowned for their warmth and friendliness and the whole establishment is very Covid aware.

Small Stuff

Getting There:

Donegal Town is about a 3 hour drive from Dublin and 2 hours from Belfast. Bus Eireann connects the town with Dublin, Derry, Belfast….

Getting Around:

Just park and walk – most attractions are within easy distance of the main car park. The Craft Village is about 2km out of town and Lough Eske is a 10 minute drive.

Before you go……

Have a look at this South West Donegal Drive which makes for a perfect day out from Donegal Town.

24 thoughts on “An Irish Postcard – Donegal Town

  1. Nice post about the city of Donegal, I haven’t seen everything. It’s true that when you come to this region you think of the rugged coastlines or the deserted inland, you don’t necessarily expect a sophisticated town like Donegal.

  2. Before reading this I thought I’d let you know that Wikipedia has a competition running at the moment (closing on Sept. 30th) called Wikipedia likes Monuments. I think that’s the title but you can find it on Wikipedia. Monuments seems to have a very wide interpretation and I’m sure some of your photographs would do well there. Look at last year’s winners in the Ireland section – many of yours would easily beat this. Will read your post later today, now off back to bed, can’t sleep tonight.

    1. I had a look Mari and uploaded 6 pics. They weren’t great but were the only ones I had for the categories that are left. I’ve a few nice photos of local monuments but they weren’t listed. I enjoyed going through the stuff so thanks again for this. XXM

      1. Your patron saint…. I’ve STILL never heard of him but seems he’s Irish all right – sure we’re everywhere!!!!
        Nearly the weekend ….. enjoy XXM

      2. I have to do a better post on it, Saint Guigner son of an Irish king named Clyton who was made Christian by St Patrick,and came here to evangelize the area in around 406AD. the town is from Plu or Plo or parish and guigner from St Guigner therefore Pluvigner is the French form. Cheers

      3. Gosh I can’t find anything on Clyton either…. must have another look…. I love these little threads that pop up abroad…


  3. Sadly I never saw the best of Donegal Town (also staying at the Central) in my short time there. There was a distinct suspicious atmosphere as I strolled around the pubs that one evening. I had better return soon to put the record straight.

  4. My sister holiday here every year and scorns my love of ‘far-away’ travel, so I’ve seen most of the scenes you show. I know it’s a wonderful place and I really must visit next time I’m in the country. I shall have to drop hints to family members that I’d like a tour please, to Donegal. I’ve got a Magee Donegal Tweed cape which just won’t wear out and it comes out for the really cold weather.

    1. The very first curtains in this house were of Donegal tweed…. A lovely taupe colour. Made by my aunt. They hung for at least 20 years but were practically rotten when I dumped them. I’ve never had anything so good since. There was always tweed at home. My dad was from Kilcar and there was a wool and tweed factory there. My mum’s coats and skirts in particular were always made from the local fabric and we used to hand knit a lot with Kilcar wool…

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