Fodor's Expert Review Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh National Park Park (National/State/Provincial) Fodor's Choice

Bordered by the Derryveagh Mountains (Derryveagh means "forest of oak and birch"), Glenveagh National Park encompasses 24,000 acres of wilderness—mountain, moorland, lakes, and woods—that has been called the largest and most dramatic tract in the wildest part of Donegal. Within its borders, a thick carpet of russet-color heath and dense woodland rolls down the Derryveagh slopes into the broad open valley of the River Veagh (or Owenbeagh), which opens out into Glenveagh's spine: the long and narrow, dark and clear Lough Beagh.

The lands of Glenveagh (pronounced "glen-vay") have long been recognized as a remote and beautiful region. Between 1857 and 1859, John George Adair, a ruthless gentleman farmer, assembled the estate that now makes up the park. In 1861 he evicted the estate's hundreds of poor tenants without compensation and destroyed their cottages. Nine years later Adair began to build Glenveagh Castle on the eastern shore of Lough Veagh, but he soon departed... READ MORE

Bordered by the Derryveagh Mountains (Derryveagh means "forest of oak and birch"), Glenveagh National Park encompasses 24,000 acres of wilderness—mountain, moorland, lakes, and woods—that has been called the largest and most dramatic tract in the wildest part of Donegal. Within its borders, a thick carpet of russet-color heath and dense woodland rolls down the Derryveagh slopes into the broad open valley of the River Veagh (or Owenbeagh), which opens out into Glenveagh's spine: the long and narrow, dark and clear Lough Beagh.

The lands of Glenveagh (pronounced "glen-vay") have long been recognized as a remote and beautiful region. Between 1857 and 1859, John George Adair, a ruthless gentleman farmer, assembled the estate that now makes up the park. In 1861 he evicted the estate's hundreds of poor tenants without compensation and destroyed their cottages. Nine years later Adair began to build Glenveagh Castle on the eastern shore of Lough Veagh, but he soon departed for Texas. He died in 1885 without returning to Ireland, but his widow, Cornelia, moved back to make Glenveagh her home. She created four gardens, covering 27 acres; planted luxuriant rhododendrons; and began the job of making this turret-and-battlement-laden 19th-century folly livable. The castle gardens in particular— known as "Genius Loci Glenveaghensis"—are regarded as one of Ireland's outstanding horticultural masterpieces. At the end of a dramatic 3-km-long (2-mile-long) entryway, perched over the lake waters, this is a true fairy-tale castle. Like a dollhouse Balmoral, its castellated, rectangular keep, battlemented ramparts, and a Round Tower enchantingly conjure up all the Victorian fantasies of a medieval redoubt.

Beyond the castle, footpaths lead into more remote sections of the park, including the Derrylahan Nature Trail, a 1½-km (1-mile) signposted trail where you may suddenly catch sight of a soaring golden eagle or chance upon a shy red deer. More than 400 deer are spread out around the moorland and mountains. Take time to visit the 2½-acre Pleasure Grounds, a sunken garden at the heart of the estate with a sinuous lawn and Japanese maples.

A shuttle bus runs from the visitor center to the castle, and on weekends a bus service drops you off at the start of a 90-minute walking route. One of the highlights for hikers is the Lough Inshagh Path, (not a looped walk) a quiet stony dirt track, which will take 2½ hours to walk one way. Keep your eyes peeled and you may see a wheatear or meadow pipits in the summer.

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Park (National/State/Provincial) Fodor's Choice Trail

Quick Facts

Church Hill, Co. Donegal  Ireland

076-100–2551

www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: Castle tour €7, shuttle bus €3, weekend bus €3

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