Glenveagh National Park
Glenveagh National Park is one of Donegal’s treasures. It can be found in the heart of Donegal and covers over 16,000 hectares making it the largest National Park in Ireland. In this brief article we take a closer look at what makes this national park one of the top attractions in the north west of Ireland.
The Glenveagh National Park can be found about 24km north west of Letterkenny in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains. With its pristine lakes, mountains, boglands, moorlands, rivers and wilderness, this remote and peaceful national park is hauntingly beautiful and serene.
The park consists of three distinct areas; the peatlands of Lough Barra bog, the quartzite hills and the Glenveagh Estate & Derryveagh Mountains.
Glenveagh Park was first established as an Estate back in 1861 when John Adair built a castle here and wanted to create an estate as beautiful as Balmoral (the Scottish retreat of Queen Victoria). To do this, he cleared tenants from the lands so as not to obstruct his plans to create a vast recreational and hunting ground. The castle and park fell into private ownership down through the years and was eventually handed over to the State by Mr. Henry McIlhenry. In 1984 the park opened to the public for the first time while the castle opened in 1986.
A good place to start your tour of Glenveagh National Park is the Visitor Centre. It’s located at the edge of the park, on the northern end of Lough Veagh. It provides an excellent introduction to the park as well as a detailed history and lots more info on the walking trails, the flora, fauna, events etc.
The Scottish baronial style Glenveagh Castle was built between 1867-73. The castle has a breathtaking location in a beautiful remote setting surrounded by mountains, lakes, woods and glens. Access to the castle is by private guided tour only, which lasts 30 minutes. The tour is well worth it to see the beautiful preserved interiors boasting original antiques and furnishings from times gone by.
Glenveagh National Park is also famous for being home to one of the largest herd of red deer in Ireland, who graze on the upper mountains during the summer months and come down to the lowlands during the winter. The park also has a number of Golden Eagles, which became wiped out in Ireland over 100 years ago mainly due to over hunting. Other animals to see in the park include the hare, stoat, badger, foxes and a wide range of birds.
Visitors to Glenveagh National Park can enjoy a number of walks either self guided or with a tour guide. The most popular trails are the ‘View Point’ trail (2km) and the Tree Trail which takes the visitor from the visitor centre to the castle.
With so much to see and do here, visitors should allow an entire day here and even at that, you will only get a glimpse at what this park has to offer.