Days out in Donegal, Ireland, here's what the locals have shared with us...

Donegal is Ireland's hidden gem, the undiscovered county, with hidden gems, myths and legends, endless beaches cliffs and people that are some of the warmest and kind in the whole world. You know it must be good if it's what the locals say. So I asked a few if they would share their favourite places in Donegal, their perfect day out in this wonderful county. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their secret places. 

"A perfect day for us is to get up early on a clear balmy day, and just when the tide is turning to go out, we go down the Gweebarra on our two man canoe. Because the canoe is at water level we really feel that we are part of the river, river life and nature in general. Everything is clean, clear and silent. The water is like glass and we paddle down to the mouth of the river, sometimes we stop to explore the islands or to swim. The seals pop up to have a look and swim under and around the canoe, they're very nosey! On the way home we stop to collect fresh mussels, the water in the Gweebara is sparkling and the mussels here are just the most succulent ant juicy I have ever eaten. We make our way home and cook our delicious fresh mussels in some white wine and garlic for lunch which we eat on the deck overlooking the river. This is what I dream of when we're not here, this is paradise. I feel so lucky to live in this amazing place" 

                                                                                                           - Marie & Tony, Leitirmacaward, Donegal 

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We're lucky to live in Inishowen, we have some of the best in the country right on our doorsteps. If the day is good we jump in the car, bring our towels and togs and some buckets and spades. Within 15 minutes we can be at Shroove Beach at Inishowen Head or at Culdaff Beach, both blue flag beaches. Kinnagoe Bay is our favourite. With its red sand and huge blue/green rolling waves this beach is great for exploring and climbing the rocks. We live on the shores of Lough Foyle and so literally we can throw a stone and hit the water. There are few days in life that we don't walk over the shore, picking up unusual shells and throwing stones. I love the smell of the sea. Even though I spent many years away from Donegal, there were many days when I longed for that fresh smell of sea air. I tell my sons to savour it and always remember what it's like because no matter where they go in the world, they will always think of home when they smell the sea"

                                                                                                                                                                             - Kathy Donaghy, journalist, Inishowen.

"There is nowhere more beautiful on this planet when the sun is shining in Donegal and in the community gardens the sun melts away our worries and the warm soil gives us happiness beyond belief . My name is Joanne Butler and I run OURganic gardens, a growing network of six gardens in Donegal. Never will you meet a happier bunch of people than in the community gardens. People sharing, people caring and people smiling. We get together in different locations every two weeks and work away getting our hands dirty and our hearts filled. A contented bunch of people if ever you saw them. The healing and health benefits that come from spending time in the garden make every day a great day . When OUR gardeners garden , it's not just the plants that grow, but the gardeners themselves. Come and join us at one of our gardening sessions, you will find our location here, everyone is welcome, visitors, neighbours, friends".

                                                                  - Joanne Butler, Gardener for the people, Caiseal na gCór & Derry

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"Donegal is a never-ending adventure for us. Our favourite days out are hopping in the camper and heading out from Ramelton where we live to wherever the mood and road takes us. Sometimes that's walking the Bridal Path in Glenveagh or trekking through the Bluestacks or exploring the coastal walks around Malin Head but our go-to place more often than not is the Fanad peninsula, partly because it's so near to where we live and we can get there quickly but mainly because it always has something new to offer, no matter what time of year it is. It's the place I have been bringing visitors for the past 26 years I have been living in Donegal and the first place I showed Don when he moved to live here from America! So these long summer days, perfection for us is packing ingredients for lunch and supper, getting in the van and heading north, past Milford and Kerrykeel, skirting along the eastern banks of Mulroy Bay until eventually there is nothing but sea in front of us. We decide on whim whether to go right towards the lighthouse and Fanad Head or left towards Ballywhoriskey Pier and beyond to the tiny beaches that present like hidden jewels along the way. This is a timeless place, where you can wander out along sea worn rocks and watch  the fishing boats bobbing on the horizon or cycle the fuschia lined country roads with scarcely another human in sight. We find a beach to have lunch and maybe, if conditions are perfect, take a dip!  If it's windy we fly a kite! There's always something new to  discover. Soon we will be adding a kayak to our toys which will open up a whole new playground!  At the end of our perfect day we fix a barbeque,  listen out for the corncrake and then head to a local hostelry such as the Stores Old Worlde Bar in Portsalon, formerly known as Rita's for a nightcap. Pizza and a craft beer at Rathmullan House Cellar Bar makes another perfect end to a perfect day". 

                                                                                                               - Anita Guidera, Why Donegal

Fanad Light House

Fanad Light House

Trá Dhearg, Cruit. 

Trá Dhearg, Cruit. 

Walking at Cruit Island. 

"You start at the bridge onto Cruit. If the tide's low, walk along the strand past the two dead boats, across Coffin Island, along to Caravan Beach, cross over to 'Tra Dhearg', then carry on up the westward side of the island past lovely Lough Scalpachore, following the windswept beaches all the way to the pier at Owey Sound. Stop for a brew in the club house, then follow the path round the golf course, take the road home past Daniel O'Donnell's house (though he doesn't live there any more) and head on back to the bridge. At Tra Dhearg, you can take a beautiful diversion round Aughnish Point and add a stone to one of the many cairns. No better place! We've also been known to stop for a Guinness at Iggy's bar Kincasslagh, and if we're lucky a local seafood platter". Check out Bonners bar to for great grub!

                                                                                             - Malachy & Liz Doyle, Kincasslagh, author, artist

View from my house in Derryconor, Donegal. 

View from my house in Derryconor, Donegal. 

Personally, I love climbing our magical mountains Errigal and Muckish, or simply sitting at my house and taking in the view. I feel so lucky to wake up every morning to the majesty of the mountaints and the stunning landscape that surrounds me here in West Donegal. 

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If you're looking for a good day out this weekend the 18th July and you like history, archaeology, legends and folklore, then you might want to join us for the "The Cults of the Celtic Gods Lugh & St Comcille in the Northwest", guided by Brian Lacey. 10-4pm Saturday, leaving from Gortahork, across from the church. Check out the Facebook event here, or call Moira on 083 123 0529 for chats and bookings. 

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