Donegal is covered with pre-Christian tombs and other prehistoric titbits dating back as much as 9000 years. The arrival of the Celts and their fort-building endeavours provided the origins of the county’s Irish name, Dun na nGall (Fort of the Foreigner). Christianity is also a strong suit in the county’s history, thanks to St Colmcille, a local man who not only spread the good word here, but exported it across the sea to Scotland too.
Until the early 17th century, the county was roughly divided between two clans, the O’Donnells and the O’Neills, but the Plantation of Ulster that followed their defeat and flight from Ireland reduced the county to a subservient misery. The partition of Ireland in 1921 compounded Donegal’s isolation, as it was cut off from Derry, which it served as a natural hinterland. Many locals along the coast have benefited from rising real-estate values, and pockets feel like an affluent vacationland. While inland communities remain largely rural, the growth of Letterkenny, near the border of Northern Ireland, indicates the Republic’s economic upturn has reached this far-flung region.