As the year draws to a close and the overall outside temperature begins to drop, county Donegal is transformed into a winter wonderland. From the frost covered mountains high above the shimmering Dunlewy lake to the warming hearth of a traditional Irish cottage.
I often get emails asking what is there to do in Donegal in winter months. This is mng's list of things to do:
Mountain climbing - Errigal is the tallest mountain in Donegal, I called my good friend Dr. Brian Lacey to find out what the name Errigal means. "Errigal (anglicised from the Irish word aireagal – is literally a ‘Christian’ name, derived from the ecclesiastical Latin word oraculum meaning 'oratory'. The original pre-Christian meaning of oraculum, a place where prophesies were sought from the gods! (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1998), p. 25. (Brian Lacey). Errigal was voted at Ireland's most iconic mountain by walking & hiking Ireland 2009 - Its a joy to climb no matter the season you can see the whole county and the mystical Poisoned Glen, Dunlewy below. Join one of our adventure tours, get all the stories while you're at it. And take your time, I've had many a great conversation on top of that mountain. Other mountains just as iconic are Muckish, the miners path is a great track to follow and the seven sisters.
Walking in Donegal – how lucky are we? Between the woodlands at Ards Forest, the valleys glens in Dunlewy our endless coastline of beaches, sea cliffs, islands, bird and marine life, flora and fauna. Did you know that Donegal has the longest coastline on the Wild Atlantic Way? There’s so much walking to choose from its mind blowing. Where’s your favourite place to go walking? Mine is Magheraroarty – see why in this video. The next big walking weekend in this part of Donegal is the first weekend in May - sign up for details.
Did you know that West Donegal is a super hot spot for Whale watching? Minke whales have been visiting Bloody foreland or Cnoc Fola as its known locally – for the last 3 years. All because of the herring I’m told by local seaman Gareth Doherty of Selkie Sailing. This is the man to talk to about whales and all our wild life. You’ll catch him out and about the area watching, recording and guiding. We took a group on a coastal walk this time last year as part of the Winter school and just 500 yards from the shore you could see the whales 35 feet in length. That would make a nice Christmas present wouldn’t it? Unforgettable! Rock agus Roam bring groups out on walks - sign up here for events.
Star Gazing – the sky at night in Donegal is a whole world unto itself, it takes my breath away. With the ever present Northern Lights there's a whole night time scene going on up here in the Northwest of Ireland – hot spots include Horn Head, Falcarragh and Inishowen - who have wonderful tours to experience the Northern Lights, bring blankets and flasks. What a beautifully natural adventure and free. Who needs to buy crap for Christmas when you can have an experience like this?
Photography – there is something very special and unique about the natural light here in Donegal - I hear it described as crisp and clear. With our dramatic ever changing weather, is it any wonder there is so much creativity? Art, music, local crafts, prose, literary and the stories, is there a more storied place on this planet?
The pubs - We’re blessed with authentic and traditional pubs dotted around the coast - hot spots for food and music are Leos tavern - home of Clannad & Enya, Bonners Bar Mullaghduff - Gweedore bar Falcarragh, the Loft bar Falcarragh. Sean Ogs, Derrybeg - great seafood chowder. Agus má tá suim agat sa ceol agus sa teanga téigh chuig - Teach Hiúdaí Beag, Bhun beag, Gaoth Dobhair - for one of the best Irish music sessions in Ireland. These are some of the friendliest local pubs in Ireland. Get heated up by the fire, meet the locals, enjoy a trad music session, a craft beer and experience the local lingo, we all speak Gaelige in this part of Ireland and its why this region is called 'An Ghaeltacht' which means Irish speaking. Labhair gaeilge linn!
The Music / An ceol - Scoil Gheimhridh or The Winter School is an authentic Irish music festival has been going for 20 years and takes place the 26th to the 2nd Jan in Gweedore / Gaoth Dobhair. It attracts music lovers from all over. On any day you’ll find music classes for adults and children, recitals, concerts, traditional sessions in every pub, and just to be clear, we're talking the pure finest in Irish music. There's also local walks with history and celtic mythology as well as guided coastal adventures with Rock agus Roam. You'll have every opportunity to learn some Irish with classes and of course mingling with the locals. This is a wonderful festival a truly Irish experience, and oh so authentic with the best New years parties ever for all the family. Bígí linn.
So thats mng's list of winter activities in Donegal. We'll take you from the tropical sunny beaches in the summer to the arctic like mountains in the depth of winter. Contact mng today and experience more of Ireland in one weekend than most people experience no matter how many times they visit.
"In this globalised age, authentic experiences founded on tradition and sense of place are more valuable than ever. What makes mng distinctive is that this venture harnesses Ireland’s cultural and natural heritage as living resources. Rooted in the community, it is the essence of a green business, contributing greatly to ecological stewardship.” - Finbarr Bradley, educator and co-author of The Irish Edge [Orpen Press, 2013]
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