You could spend weeks losing yourself in wild and woolly Donegal. The county’s stark beauty captivates you and, over time, seeps down to your core. Tortuous country roads skirt stark mountains, rugged sea cliffs, craggy peninsulas, remote Gaeltacht communities, sheep-studded pastures, pristine strands, icy streams and horizons carpeted with bog and heather. Reaching up to the island’s northernmost point, the county seems eternally braced to hold its own on its own. For although political and economic turmoil have eased off, the county endures its fair share of Atlantic squalls to stave off complacency.
Due to its isolation, Ireland’s second-largest county (only Cork is larger) feels like its own country. It was severed from its traditional province when most of Ulster became Northern Ireland, and it is cut off from the rest of the Republic by the extended finger of County Fermanagh. Donegal was always a stubbornly independent land, largely ignored by those in Dublin’s distant driving seat.
The Donegal experience is largely about weather, for here there’s no need to set sail to brave the sea – the sea charges ashore and its mists ride stiff winds over fields and into the towns. Storms arrive unannounced, and just as abruptly break into brilliant sunshine, transforming the blue and grey into sparkling greenery. When the weather is kind, Donegal’s better beach resorts can rival any in Europe, and make perfect destinations for a summer getaway. Once you’ve attained the proper come-what-may attitude, you’ll know you’ve been tamed by this uncompromising land.