Coat of arms for County Donegal
Ostensibly cut off from the rest of the Republic of Ireland in its northwest corner of the island, Co. Donegal is its own place. A border of less than 15 kilometres long offers passage between Co. Donegal and Co. Leitrim to the southwest – the only border that this isolated county shares with the Republic of Ireland.
Co. Donegal beats to its own bodhrán. With the second largest Gaeltacht in the country and producing numerous musicians, including Enya, Rory Gallagher, Altan and Clannad, the county is indisputably Irish. At the same time, its long economic and cultural ties to the city of Derry (Londonderry) and its huge borders with other Northern Irish counties have given it an unmistakable Ulster bent. But the fact remains that it really is different up there – Co. Donegal is a place like no other.
The most cliché Donegal word is "rugged", but it's difficult to describe the county any other way. Its vast mountains, including the northern Derryveagh range and the southern Bluestack Mountains, were immortalised in the traditional tune, "The Hills of Donegal", while its sea coast, with the impressive Slieve League cliffs (among the highest sea cliffs in Europe) offers hillwalking with incredible views. The Inishowen Peninsula consists of a series of rocky coasts culminating in Banba's Crown on Malin Head – the northernmost point on the island of Ireland.
The rash North Atlantic waters along the Donegal coast also present diving and surfing opportunities. Rossnowlagh was one of the first places to be surfed in Ireland and now houses the largest surf club in the country, while Bundoran is considered to be one of the best places to surf in Ireland. The Mevagh Dive Centre – the first purpose-built scuba centre in Donegal – offers year-round diving.
Beyond musicians, Co. Donegal has produced literary figures, such as playwright Frank McGuinness and philosopher John Toland. Moya Doherty, co-founder of Riverdance, was born in Pettigo, Co. Donegal.
A man making a traditional stone wall in Bloody Foreland, Co Donegal.
Killybegs Harbour, Co Donegal.
Glenveagh Castle in Glenveagh National Park lies in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains in the north-west of Co. Donegal.
Donegal mountain scenery
Bloody Foreland, Co. Donegal
Glenveagh Castle is a 19th century castellated mansion in Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal
Our team of researchers and genealogists at has put together the following '101-Must-Visit' locations and trips for you for Donegal. We only pick the best locations to visit, dine in or stay at, and the best ancestral research resources we can find in that area. Enjoy!
My Kelly-Mulheron family left Ballybofey or Lettekenny in about 1820 with at least 2 sons: Charles W. and Patrick. Son James Joseph remained behind and came years later with a wife and children. They came to New Erin, Quebec, Canada. Would love to know if any relatives remained behind. Thanks
Donegal County Council runs a pretty cool Diaspora Festival each year which is growing in numbers each year. We will post some info on it asap.
Donegal has a incredible coastline and set of hills and mountains. When you visit you will see how it was picked as a setting for a recent Star Wars movie.
Hi Jamelia - we are close to launching our 'missing ancestors' database and a new team of Irish Genealogy Services, so watch this space. Either one will help you.
My ancestors came from County Donegal to United States (McNutt) and I'm trying to find out all I can on County Donegal and my ancestors.