Places to visit and stay in County Donegal, Ulster

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

The province of Ulster contains counties Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone.

For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

€€ – up to approx €250 per night for two;

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Places to visit in County Donegal:

1. Cavanacor House, Ballindrait, Lifford, Co. Donegalsection 482

2. Doe Castle, County Donegal – OPW

3. Donegal Castle, County Donegal – OPW

4. Glebe Art Museum, County Donegal – OPW

5. Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal

6. Oakfield Park Garden, Oakfield Demesne, Raphoe, Co. Donegal – section 482, garden only

7. Salthill Garden, Salthill House, Mountcharles, Co. Donegal – section 482, garden only

Places to Stay, County Donegal

1. Bruckless House Gate Lodge, Bruckless, County Donegal

2. Castle Grove, County Donegal – hotel €€

3. Cavangarden, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal – B&B

4. Dunmore, Carrigans, Co Donegal – weddings and accommodation

5. Frewin, Ramelton, Co Donegal – B&B and self-catering €

6. Lough Eske Castle, near Donegal, Co Donegal – hotel €€€

7. Rathmullan House, Co Donegal – hotel €€

8. Railway Crossing Cottage near Donegal town: Irish Landmark property €€

9. Rock Hill, Letterkenny, Co Donegal – hotel €€€

10. St. Columb’s, St Mary’s Road, Buncrana, Co Donegal

11. St John’s Point Lighthouse cottage, Dunkineely, County Donegal € for 3-4

12. Termon House, Dungloe, County Donegal, whole house rental: € for 3-6 

13. Woodhill House, Ardara, County Donegal

Whole House Rental, County Donegal:

1. Drumhalla House, Rathmullen, County Donegalwhole house rental and wedding venue

2. Dunmore, Carrigans, Co Donegal – weddings and accommodation

Places to visit in County Donegal:

1. Cavanacor House, Ballindrait, Lifford, Co. Donegal – section 482

Cavanacor House, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Joanna O’Kane
Tel: 074-9141143, 085-8165428
www.cavanacorgallery.ie
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 14-22, 1pm-5pm 

Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €6 

2. Doe Castle, County Donegal – OPW

Doe Castle, Sheephaven Bay, Co Donegal, Gareth Wray Photography for Failte Ireland 2021.

see OPW entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/18/office-of-public-works-properties-ulster/

3. Donegal Castle, County Donegal – OPW

Donegal Castle, Feb 2014.

see OPW entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/18/office-of-public-works-properties-ulster/

4. Glebe Art Museum, County Donegal – OPW

see OPW entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/18/office-of-public-works-properties-ulster/

5. Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal

www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie

You can take a virtual tour online on the website.

Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool

Mark Bence-Jones writes in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 139. “(Adair/LG1863) A Victorian Baronial castle of rough-hewn granite at the end of a wooded promontory jutting out into Lough Veagh, surrounded by the bare and desolate hills of a deer-forest, so large as to seem like a world apart. Built 1870 [the website tells us 1857-9] by J.G. [John George] Adair, of Bellegrove, Co Leix, whose wife was a rich American heiress [Cornelia Wadsworth]; designed by his cousin, J.T. Trench. The castle consists of a frowning keep with Irish battlements, flanked by a lower round tower and other buildings; the effect being one of feudal strength. The entrance is by way of a walled courtyard. Glenveagh has always had an American connection; after the death of Mrs Adair, it was bought by the distinguished American archaeologist, Prof Kingsley Porter; then, in 1938, it was bought by its late owner, Mr Henry McIlhenny, of Philadelphia. Mr McIlhenny, whose hospitality was legendary, decorated and furnished the interior of the castle in a way that combined the best of the Victorian age with Georgian elegance and modern luxury; and which contrasted splendidly with the rugged medievalism of the exterior and the wildness of the surrounding glen. He also made what is now one of the great gardens of the British Isles. There are terraces with busts and statues, there is a formal pool by the side of the lough, an Italian garden, a walled garden containing a Gothic orangery designed by M. Philippe Jullian; while the hillside above the castle is planted with a wonderful variety of rare and exotic trees and shrubs.” 

Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see[3]).

The website tells us:

The estate of Glenveagh was created in 1857-9 by the purchase of several smaller holdings by John George Adair, a wealthy land speculator from Co. Laois. John Adair was to later incur infamy throughout Donegal and Ireland by ruthlessly evicting some 244 tenants in the Derryveagh Evictions.

After marrying his American born wife Cornelia, Adair began the construction of Glenveagh Castle in 1867, which was completed by 1873. Adair however was never to fulfil his dream of creating a hunting estate in the highlands of Donegal and died suddenly in 1885 on return from a business trip to America.

After her husband’s death Cornelia took over the running of the estate and introduced deer stalking in the 1890’s. She continually sought to improve the castle’s comforts and the beauty of its grounds, carrying out major improvements to the estate and laying out the gardens. Over the next 30 years she was to become a much noted society hostess and continued to summer at the castle until 1916.

Following the death of Mrs Adair in London in 1921, Glenveagh fell much into decline and was occupied by both the Anti-treaty and Free State Army forces during the Irish civil war.

Glenveagh’s next owner was not to be until 1929 when purchased by Professor Arthur Kingsley Porter of Harvard University who came to Ireland to study Irish archaeology and culture. The Kingsley Porters mainly entertained Irish literary and artistic figures including close friend AE Russell whose paintings still hang in the library of the castle. Their stay was to be short however as Arthur Kingsley Porter mysteriously disappeared from Inishbofin Island in 1933 while visiting the island.

The last private owner was Mr Henry McIlhenny of Philadelphia who bought the estate in 1937. Henry McIlhenny was an Irish American whose Grandfather John McIlhenny grew up in Milford a few miles north of Glenveagh. After buying the estate Mr McIlhenny devoted much time to restoring the castle and developing its gardens.

Eventually Henry McIlhenny began to find travelling to and from Ireland too demanding and the upkeep of the estate was also becoming a strain. In 1975 he agreed the sale of the estate to the Office of Public Works allowing for the creation of a National Park. In 1983 he bestowed the castle to the nation along with its gardens and much of the contents.

Glenveagh National Park opened to the public in 1984 while the castle opened in 1986. Today as under private ownership Glenveagh continues to attract and inspire visitors from all over the world.”

Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.

The website tells us about the gardens:

The two major elements of the Garden, the Pleasure Gardens and the Walled Garden were constructed in the late 1880’s. The original Victorian Garden layout remains intact. It was for Mrs. Cornelia Adair that the gardens were constructed. Mrs. Adair had a Gardener’s House constructed at the top of the Walled Garden and employed a Kew trained gardener to lay out the gardens. Some of the planting in the Pleasure Grounds such as the purple maples and the shelter belt of Scots pine trees were planted at this time.

In 1929 Lucy and Arthur Kingsley-Porter became the new owners. They were also keen gardeners and Mrs Porter introduced the dahlia seed from which was grown the unique cultivar known as Dahlia ‘Matt Armour’ to Glenveagh.

The last private owner, Henry P McIlhenny began to develop the gardens in the late 1940’s with the assistance of Jim Russell of Sunningdale Nurseries and Lanning Roper his Harvard classmate, both well-known garden design consultants. From the late 1950’s through to the early 1980’s the design and layout of the garden was developed and refined to include the Gothic Orangery, the Italian Terrace, the Tuscan Garden, an ornamental Jardin Potager and the development of the plant collection.

Glenveagh is well known today for its rich collection of trees and shrubs specialising in southern hemisphere species and a diverse Rhododendron collection. Displays of Rhododendrons are at their best from late March to the end of May. A large collection of old narcissi varieties from Donegal gardens fills the walled garden in March and April. Displays of colour in the Walled Garden are at their best through the summer months. Fine specimens of the white flowered Eucryphia adorn the gardens in late summer. Dramatic autumn colour follows in October.

April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, the walled garden of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, the walled garden of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle: the Gardener’s House.
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, Tuscan Gardens of Glenveagh Castle, Italian Garden.
April 2011, Glenveagh Castle.
February 2015, Glenveagh Castle.
November 2017, Glenveagh Castle.
November 2017, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
November 2017, The Italian Terrace of Glenveagh Castle.

6. Oakfield Park Garden, Oakfield Demesne, Raphoe, Co. Donegal – section 482, garden only

Oakfield Park, County Donegal, July 2022.

contact: David Fisher
Tel: 074-9173068 www.oakfieldpark.com

Open dates in 2022: Apr 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-30, May 1-2, 5-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30, 12 noon-6pm, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 11am-6pm, Sept 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, 29-30, 12 noon-6pm, Dec 1-5, 8-12, 15-23, Dec 1-17, weekdays, 4pm-10pm, weekends, 12noon-10pm, Dec 18-23, 12 noon-10pm 

Fee: adult €9, child €6, family and annual passes available.

Write-up coming soon!

Train, Oakfield Park.
Boardwalk, Oakfield Park.
Folly, Oakfield Park, July 2022.

7. Salthill Garden, Salthill House, Mountcharles, Co. Donegal – section 482, garden only

Salthill Garden, County Donegal, July 2021.

See my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/10/06/salthill-garden-salthill-house-mountcharles-county-donegal/
contact: Elizabeth Temple
Tel:  087-7988078, 074-9735014
www.donegalgardens.com
Open: May 1, 6-8, 13-15, 20-22, 27-29, June 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26, July 1-3, 5-9, 12-24, 26-31, Aug 2-7, 9-22, 26-28, 30-31, Sept 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-30, 2pm- 6pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child under 10 years €2, over 10 years €3 

Places to Stay, County Donegal

1. Bruckless House Gate Lodge, Bruckless, County Donegal

www.hiddenireland.com/stay/self-catering-holiday-rentals

The website tells us:

Open all year round, Bruckless House Gate Lodge is available to rent for self-catering holidays. Situated on 18 acres of parkland, the Gate Lodge is surrounded by its own garden just off the private driveway leading to Bruckless House. Guests can stroll down the avenue to reach the rocky shoreline of Bruckless Bay. They are always welcome to call at Bruckless House with its informal gardens and cobbled yard, where poultry wander between the Connemara Ponies.

The Gate Lodge is comprised of four rooms in total. Bruckless Gate Lodge has an open plan living room and kitchen with an open fireplace, a full-sized bathroom and two bedrooms. There is a television set provided and all rooms have electric storage heating. Free wireless Internet connection is also available to guests at Bruckless Gate Lodge.

Bruckless House was built in mid-18th century by a Plantation family, Nesbitt, but quickly passed into the hands of an Irish family, the Cassidys. It remained with them right into the 20th century. Legend has it that a Gate Lodge was built along with the House and that it was located at the then main entrance, near the River Stank off the present-day main road. Today there are no signs of this building – it was probably demolished to make way for the tracks of the County Donegal Railway. By 1894 the main entrance had been removed to the present location, using a bridge to cross the railway, but no Gate Lodge was built until the new century.

2. Castle Grove, County Donegal – hotel €€

Castlegrove, County Donegal. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.castlegrove.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 70. “(Campbell-Grove/IFR) A two storey Georgian house, repaired and modernized by Thomas Brooke (nee Grove) ca. 1825. Tripartite pedimented doorcase, with Doric columns and pilasters. Attractive early C19 conservatory of glass and wood flanking entrance front.” 

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website tells us:

Castle Grove Country House Hotel is one of the few remaining family run private estates in the North West of Ireland.  Located six miles north of Letterkenny, it provides the perfect base to explore the beautiful scenery of Donegal and the Wild Atlantic way. 

This near-original Georgian house was built in 1695 and is situated at the end of a mile-long avenue on the shores of Lough Swilly. The 250 acre grounds are made up of farmland and extensive gardens that were designed by Capability Brown.

The Grove family estate dates to 1656 when William Grove resided at Castle Shanaghan, approximately 1 mile from the current location. During the ‘Siege of Derry’, James II lauded William Grove for his military knowledge, which led to the family house being burnt down after the siege.

After the ‘Siege of Derry’ in 1690, Castle Grove House was built in 1695 nearer Lough Swilly and was later added to between 1750 and 1780. 

The ownership of Castle Grove throughout the years is as significant as the history of the house. It remained in the Grove family until 1970 when the last of the family died. 

The Grove/Boyton family played a pivotal role in the election of Daniel O’Connell to Parliament in 1828. Another famous son who left Castle Grove to achieve greatness was General Richard Montgomery who left the British Army in 1772 and emigrated to America where he later led the cavalry in the Battle of Quebec where he was slain in 1775.  His bravery was later honoured by having his remains interred at St. Pauls cathedral in New York City.

In 1970 Castle Grove passed to a relative who used it as a private home until 1989 when it was sold to the current owners, The Sweeney’s.

3. Cavangarden, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal – B&B 

http://www.cavangardenhouse.com

The website tells us:

Cavangarden House, a spacious Georgian period residence offering B&B accommodation dates back to 1750 when it was built by the Atkinson family and it still retains the character of that by-gone age, with antique furniture, majestic gardens and a private tree-lined entrance.

Located in the tranquil Donegal countryside the house is now owned by the Mc Caffrey family and is surrounded by a working farm of 380 acres.

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 81. “Atkinson/LFI1958) A two storey gable ended house built 1781 by John Atkinson. Entrance front of one bay on either side of a central bow, to which an enclosed pillared porch was later added. Attic lit by windows in gable-ends; gable-ends truncated, making the roof partly hipped.” 

Self-catering in Cavangarden Court http://www.cavangardencourt.com/

4. Dunmore, Carrigans, Co Donegal – accommodation € 

https://www.dunmoregardens.ie/our-history/

Dunmore House, County Donegal. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
The Suite, Dunmore Gardens, County Donegal, photograph courtesy of Dunmore Gardens.

The website tells us that Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976) apparently visited Dunmore and enjoyed its gardens on a few occasions as a guest of the McClintocks of Dunmore, to whom she was related through marriage! The website informs us that the siege of Derry is a key event in the history of the area and that the army of King James II may have burnt the original house as it retreated.

In 1709 the McClintocks demolished the ruins of Dunmore although the cellars remained and thus predate the existing house. The house as we know it was built in 1742.

The house was purchased by the current owner’s grandfather, and was turned into a guest house and wedding venue in 2017. There is also a log cabin for accommodation.

The bedroom suite, Dunmore, photograph courtesy of Dunmore Gardens.
Log Cabin accommodation, Dunmore.

The history of Dunmore starts with the Ulster plantations. Dunmore is situated just outside Carrigans, near Derry. It overlooks the Foyle and is just down the road from the castle of Mongavlin, where Red Hugh O’Donnell was born. After the flight of the Earls in 1607, when the O’Neills and the O’Donnells fled, the estates of these great Gaelic lords were confiscated and distributed among planters. Carrigans was a planter town. And it was the Scottish Stewarts and Cunninghams who settled in the area.

The Harveys of Malin Head, who had been merchants in Bristol, originally owned Dunmore. Their daughter, Elizabeth, married William McClintock [1657-1724], apparently in 1685.

A gatepost shows four key dates associated with Dunmore:

  • 1620
  • 1678 dh (David Harvey)
  • 1709 wm (William McClintock)
  • 1742 jm (John McClintock).
  • Mark Bence-Jones describes Dunmore House in Burke’s Guide to Country Houses 1978 as “A gable ended mid C18 house which Dr Craig considers may be by Michael Priestly. 2 storey with an attic lit by windows in the gable ends, 5 bay front with central venetian window above tripartite doorway later obscured by a porch. Lower 2 storey wing added later.  Staircase extending into central projection at the back of house.”
Entrance to Dunmore House, County Donegal. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Robert McClintock, 1804 -1859 [grandson of William], built the walls of the walled garden in the early 19th century. Certainly there was work on the walls as famine relief. There is a plague on the wall of the garden with the date of 1845.

The oldest known picture of Carrigans village shows a mill. The mill was apparently built on the ruins of Carrigans castle.

In the 20th century Robert McClintock lived at Dunmore. He was a keen and talented engineer. He built a series of interconnected ponds and a collection of sundials, scattered through the walled gardens. He also invented the Bangalore torpedo while in the British Indian Army unit, the Madras Sappers and Miners, at Bangalore, India, in 1912. They were a means of exploding booby traps and barricades left over from the Boer and Russo-Japanese Wars and were used at the Battle of the Somme.

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

5. Frewin, Ramelton, Co Donegal – B&B and self-catering cottage accommodation

Frewin House, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.Detached multiple-bay two-storey with attic level former Church of Ireland rectory on complex L-shaped plan, built c. 1890.

https://www.frewinhouse.com/

Formerly a rectory. The National Inventory tells us:

This fine and well-maintained late nineteenth-century\late Victorian former Church of Ireland rectory retains its early form and character, and is one of the most attractive examples of its type and date in County Donegal. Its complex and eclectic form with advanced bays, canted bays, gablets, gable-fronted bays, half-dormers, irregular fenestration pattern, and a variety of differently-shaped window openings helps to create a varied composition of some picturesque appeal. The deliberate asymmetry to the main elevations is a characteristic feature of many late Victorian and Edwardian middle class domestic houses and structures found throughout Ireland. Its visual appeal and integrity is enhanced by the retention of all its salient fabric including natural slate roof, a variety of timber sliding sash windows, and timber panelled door. Although probably originally rendered (rubble stone masonry), the contrast between the pale dimension stone and the extensive red sandstone and red brick trim adds textural interest to this unusual house on the outskirts of Ramelton. Interest is added at roofscape level by the tall, well-detailed red brick chimneystacks, the terracotta ridge tiles and finial, and the detailing to the gable-fronted bay and half-dormers….It appears to have been built by 1894 (Slater’s Directory) when a Revd. H.F. McDonald was the rector.

Frewin House, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Frewin House, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Entrance to Frewin House, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

6. Lough Eske Castle, near Donegal, Co Donegal – 5 * hotel €€€

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.lougheskecastlehotel.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 192. “(Brooke, sub Brookeborough, V/PB; White/LGI1912) A Tudor-Baronial castle of 1866 by FitzGibbon Louch, built for the Donegal branch of the Brookes whose progenitor built Donegal Castle. Of ashlar; two storeys built over high basement, with four storey square tower at one end. Imposing Gothic porch betwen two oriels; battlemented parapet with two curvilinear blind gables. Tower with machicolations, crow-step battlements and curved corbelled oriels. Lower two storey battlemented range with corner turret at other end of front. Sold 1894, after the death of Thomas Brooke, to Major-Gen H.G. White. Largely gutted by fire 1939; but one wing remains intact and is still occupied.” 

Lough Eske Castle hotel, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [3]).

The National Inventory tells us that after the fire in 1939 Lough Eske was unoccupied and derelict until c. 2007. Now rebuilt (2007) and in use as a hotel with multiple modern extensions to the rear (north-west) and to the south-west elevation.

David Hicks has a chapter about Lough Eske Castle in his book Irish County Houses: Chronicle of Change (Collins Press, Cork, 2012). He tells us that it was built for Thomas Young, who inherited the property from his mother’s brother, Thomas Grove, who had taken the name Brooke when he inherited the Lough Eske property from his uncle Henry Vaughan Brooke (1743-1807). As a condition of inheriting the property, Thomas Young also had to adopt the Brooke name and coat of arms, so he became Thomas Young Brooke.

The family are descended from Basil Brooke (1567-1633) who lived in Brooke Manor in County Donegal. He was granted Donegal Castle and large amounts of land in Donegal, including the land on which Lough Eske was built.

His son Henry (d. 1671) lived in Brookeborough, County Fermanagh. He was granted land in Fermanagh after he fought to suppress the 1641 uprising. He married three times and had several children. Henry’s son Basil Brooke (1638-1692) married and had a son, Henry Brooke (1692-abt. 1725). He married Elizabeth Vaughan, daughter of Colonel George Vaughan of Buncrana, County Donegal. They had a son, Basil Brooke (abt. 1705-1768), who married Jane Wray from Castle Wray, County Donegal. Their children were Henry Vaughan Brooke and Rose Vaughan Brook.

Henry Vaughan Brooke (1743-1807) inherited Lough Eske. His sister was Rose Vaughan Brooke. She married James Grove (1725-1793) of Castle Grove, County Donegal. It was their son Thomas Grove who took the name Brooke. He, however, died childless in 1830, so the property passed to Thomas Young, son of Jane Grove (Thomas Grove Brooke’s sister) and Thomas Young.

Thomas Young Brooke (1804-1884) placed the Brooke coat of arms over the front door of the castle which he had built. It was built on the site of an old Jacobean house. His architect, Fitzgibbon Louch was from Derry. The National Inventory tells us that the present edifice replaced earlier houses on the same site, which where built in 1621 and 1751. It is possible that the building retains fabric from the earlier 1751 house as the south-east part of the house occupies much the same footprint as the earlier building. The 1621 house, the Inventory tells us, “was probably built for the Knox family, who owned the Lough Eske Castle until 1717 when it passed, through marriage, into the ownership of the Brooke family.” I’m not sure about this, I can’t find the Knox family who owned the property nor can see what married this refers to.

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The entrance front of the castle is 130 feet long, and the front door is under a carved stone porch.

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory description continues:

Set back from road in extensive mature wooded and landscaped grounds to the south-west corner of Lough Eske, and to the north-east of Donegal Town. Mature parkland to the south and wooded grounds to the west and the south-west. Modern gravel forecourt to the south-east. Associated outbuildings to the rear, walled garden to the north-east, gate lodges to the east and to the south/south-west , memorial cross to the east, and two-storey building to the north. Rubble stone boundary wall to estate, now largely ruinous. Remains of earlier castle in grounds to the east. [this is an O’Donnell castle]

This rambling Elizabethan-style or Tudor Revival house, with its dramatic roofline of Tudoresque chimneystacks, turrets, curvilinear gables, machicolations and crenellated parapets, is one of the more important elements of the built heritage of County Donegal. It is well-built using local ashlar sandstone masonry and it is extensively detailed with carved and cut sandstone of the highest quality (the sandstone is apparently from Monaghan’s Quarry near Frosses, and was transported to the site along a road specifically constructed for the task). The central three-storey block with the entrance porch flanked by canted-bay windows is symmetrical, but the other elevations of the main block, the tower, and the ancillary wings are irregular, which creates an interesting and complex plan with contrasting elevations and perspectives.

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory continues: “Lough Eske Castle is a notable example of the nineteenth century penchant for dramatic architecture, and is built in a highly effective revivalist fifteenth/sixteenth/early seventeenth-century architectural idiom that compliments the spectacular site and perhaps references the history of the surrounding area (the history of the Brooke family who arrived as part of the Plantation at the start of the seventeenth century and of Donegal Castle in particular). Lough Eske Castle was originally built to designs by Fitzgibbon Louch (1826 – 1911) for Thomas Brooke. The main contractor involved was Albert Williams, and the clerk of works was a Michael Stedman. The finely carved coat-of-arms/family crest over the main doorway is of the Brooke family.”

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

When Thomas Young Brooke died in 1884 the castle was advertised for sale. It was purchased by Major General Henry George White in 1894, who moved his family here from Wales. His son Major Henry White (d. 1936) inherited the castle in 1906. A Celtic high cross marks his father’s grave on the property.

Henry extended the castle in 1911, adding a ballroom wing, and he modernised it with electricity and new plumbing.

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The family left the castle during the Irish Civil War, since many big houses were being burned down. The contents were sold and the house placed on the market.

The National Inventory continues: “The estate later passed into the ownership of the Knee family who ran a hotel here from 1930 until 1939. The castle was largely burnt-out during a disastrous fire in 1939, and remained derelict until c. 2007 when it was renovated and extended to form a hotel. The façade was re-created in these works using the original designs. This fine edifice forms the centrepiece of an extensive collection of related structures along with the outbuildings to the rear, the walled garden to the north-east, gate lodges to the east and to the south/south-west , memorial cross to the east, and a two-storey building to the north, and represents an important element of the built heritage and history of the local area.”

The castle was sold after the fire to Scott Swan, David Hicks tells us, who renovated and lived in one of the wings. It was sold again and lay empty for years until Donegal man Pat Doherty, CEO, chairman and founder of Harcourt Developments, who renovated it to be a five star hotel.

7. Rathmullan House, Co Donegal – hotel €€

WWW.RATHMULLANHOUSE.COM

Rathmullan House, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website tells us:

The original house was built in typical Georgian style around 1760s and was part of the Knox family estates. Bishop Knox of Derry and Raphoe built the house as a bathing place when he left the priory in Rathmullan to move to Prehen in Derry. Later in the 18oo’s it became the country residence of the Batt family who were linen brokers and founders of the Belfast bank, now the Northern and Northern Irish Bank. The Batt family townhouse in Belfast is now Purdysburn Hospital.

Thomas Batt’s substantial renovations in 1870 doubled the house in size. The three bay windows were added and the grounds extensively planted. The Batt family resided here until the 1940’s. After the war the Holiday Fellowship used the house as a centre for walking holidays until the train service to Buncrana ceased.

Bob and Robin Wheeler bought the house in 1961. After lovingly transforming the dormitories back into the original bedrooms, they opened the house in 1962 as a 22 bedroom hotel. The original pavilion dining room designed by the late Dr Liam Mc Cormick was built in 1969 with a swimming pool and a new bedroom wing added in the 1990’s. In 2004, the new regency bedroom wing opened along with The Gallery Room and the Cook & Gardener restaurant was renovated and redesigned.

Mark and Mary are now the second generation to run the house and take pride in keeping as many original features whilst adding in modern comforts for their guests.

8. Railway Crossing Cottage near Donegal town €€

www.irishlandmark.com

Sleeps two, from €350 for two nights.

9. Rockhill House, Letterkenny, Co Donegal – hotel €€€

Rockhill House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.rockhillhouse.ie

The website tells us of the history of Rockhill House:

Rockhill House can trace its roots to the 17th Century plantation of Ulster. Seat of the Chambers family for 172 years, the property was acquired in 1832 by the aristocratic ornithologist, John Vandeleur Stewart. Stewart engaged famed Dublin architect, John Hargrave [c. 1788-1833], to design a radical extension and remodelling of the house, and the new owner carried out comprehensive draining, planting and cultivation of the lands to create the lush, Georgian idyll that remained in his family until the 1936 break-up of the Estate and sale of the property and 100 acres to the Commissioner of Public Works.

A headquarters of the Irish Defence Forces through to early 2009, the Army’s exit began a period of vacancy that allowed Rockhill House to slip into disrepair and decay. The Estate, too, was a shadow of what it was during its days of care and plenty under the Stewarts.

When today’s owners, the Molloy family, got the keys in 2014, a vast task met them. When they first stepped into the house, it was possible to stand in the basement and see the roof, three storeys above!

This began a three-year labour of love for the Molloys, whose sensitive restoration, while being true to Rockhill’s rich past, now takes it into a great new heyday. Once again, the great halls and galleries of the Big House are filled with light and the colours and textures of its Georgian tastemakers.

Original features – from cornices, ceiling roses, and spiral staircases to picture rails, ironwork and fireplaces – have been salvaged where possible, and historically replicated wherever the original has been lost to time. The Estate is springing back to life, with verdant gardens adorned with Temple and fountain; and lost woodland walks uncovered for new exploration.”

Rockhill House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

10. St. Columb’s, St Mary’s Road, Buncrana, Co Donegal

~ Tel: 087 4526696 ~ Email: info@stcolumbshouse.com

https://stcolumbshouse.com

St Columbs House B&B is a beautifully restored 6 bedroom period house located on the Wild Atlantic Way in the historic seaside town of Buncrana on the Inishowen peninsula. It has a Catholic Church across the road and on its doorstep is a variety of bustling restaurants, bars and a variety of shopping, all just a short walk away.

11. St John’s Point Lighthouse cottage, Dunkineely, County Donegal € for 3-4

SJ Schooner: “Schooner is located on St. John’s Point Lighthouse station in Co. Donegal. It’s quite a thrill driving down to St. John’s Point Lighthouse, to see it looming at the end of one of the longest peninsulas in Ireland. Stay at Schooner and enjoy all that St. John’s Point, Donegal and surrounds have to offer.” Sleeps 4. From €442 for 2 nights.

and SJ Clipper: “Clipper is located on St. John’s Point Lighthouse station in Co. Donegal. It’s quite a thrill driving down to St. John’s Point Lighthouse, to see it looming at the end of one of the longest peninsulas in Ireland. Stay at Clipper and enjoy all that St. John’s Point, Donegal and surrounds have to offer.” Sleeps 4. From €442 for 2 nights.

https://www.irishlandmark.com/properties/

12. Termon House, Dungloe, County Donegal, whole house rental: € for 3-6 

Termon House, County Donegal, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.irishlandmark.com/propertytag/cottages-and-houses/?gclid=Cj0KCQiApL2QBhC8ARIsAGMm-KFInICcRSxwLSiDxfFNk5WFytNcVrLvOQYhzJbIBes4V-M65iXz0gYaAln_EALw_wcB

Termon House, a former 18th century land agent’s house in Maghery, near Dungloe, is located in the heart of the Gaeltacht area. Sleeps 6. From €487 for 2 nights.

13. Woodhill House, Ardara, County Donegal

https://www.woodhillhouse.com

The website tells us:

Woodhill House is an historic coastal manor house dating back in parts to the 17th century. The 6th century religious relic, St. Conal’s Bell, was mysteriously stolen from Woodhill House in 1845.

The house which overlooks the beautiful Donegal Highlands is set in its own grounds with an old walled garden. It is half a mile from the sea and a quarter of a mile from the coastal town of Ardara on the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’. The house offers unusual and interesting accommodation with private bathrooms, 3 star rated. There is a fully licensed lounge bar, which has occasional music sessions for tourists and locals alike. Woodhill House is well known for its high quality and reasonably priced restaurant which accommodates house guests and the general public. The menu is French/Contemporary Irish based using fresh Irish produce, especially seafood from nearby Killybegs.”

Whole House Rental, County Donegal

1. Drumhalla House, Rathmullen, County Donegal – whole house rental and wedding venue

https://drumhallahouse.ie

Steeped in history, the house was originally built in 1789 by Dr Knox of Lifford. The house and grounds have now been beautifully restored by the present owner and offer luxury accommodation as well as a unique, private location for a variety of functions including weddings and corporate events.

Drumhalla House offers superior 5 star accommodation and is a much sought after and unique wedding venue.

Panoramic views over Lough Swilly and the renowned Kinnegar beach provide the perfect backdrop for your wedding day. The beautifully maintained grounds and lawns at Drumhalla House make it perfect for your guests to enjoy and explore.

Allow our Country Manor House, complete with 5 star accommodation at Drumhalla to transform your wedding ideas into the fairytale you always dreamed of.

All of our bedrooms are individual and unique and everything one would expect in a much loved Manor House. The rooms are very comfortable and traditional in style and filled with carefully chosen furnishings. They are located on the 1st floor of the house and provide varied views over the gardens and beach.

One thought on “Places to visit and stay in County Donegal, Ulster

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