( – ) is one of the traditional
counties of Ireland
located within the Province of Ulster and is
part of the Republic of
Ireland. It was named after the town of Donegal (
Throughout its history, it has sometimes been referred to as
. The former was used as its official
name during 1922–1927. This is in reference to both the old
original Tír Chonaill kingdom
County Donegal shares a border with only one other county in the
Leitrim. The majority of its land border is shared
Ireland (the counties of Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh).
This apparent economic
isolation has led to Donegal people maintaining a distinct cultural
identity and has been used to market the county with the slogan Up here it's different
. Much of the
county is seen as being a bastion of Gaelic culture
and the Irish language
holding the second-largest
area in the country with a
population of 24,504. Despite Lifford being the
County Town, the largest town is
County Donegal is famous for being the home of the once mighty Clan
Dálaigh, whose most famous branch were the Clan Ó Domhnaill, better
known in English as the O'Donnell Clan
. Until around A.D.
1600, the O'Donnells were one of Ireland's richest and most
(native Irish) ruling-families. Within the
Province of Ulster
only the Clan Uí Néill
(known in English as the O'Neill Clan) of modern County Tyrone
were more powerful. The
O'Donnells were Ulster's second most powerful clan
ruling-family from the early thirteenth-century through to the
start of the seventeenth-century. For several centuries the
O'Donnells ruled Tír Chonaill
Gaelic kingdom in West Ulster that covered almost all of modern
County Donegal. The head of the O'Donnell family had the titles
An Ó Domhnaill
(meaning The O'Donnell
and Rí Thír Chonaill
(meaning King of Tír
in English). Based at Donegal Castle in Dún na nGall (modern Donegal Town), the O'Donnell Kings of Tír Chonaill were
traditionally inaugurated at Doon Rock near Kilmacrenan. O'Donnell royal or chiefly power was
finally ended in what was then the newly created County Donegal in
September, 1607, following the Flight of the Earls from near Rathmullan.
The modern County Arms of Donegal
(dating from the early 1970s) was influenced by the design of the
old O'Donnell royal arms. The County Arms
is the official
of both County Donegal and
Donegal County Council.
County Donegal was shired by order of
the English Crown in
1585. The English authorities at Dublin Castle formed the new county by amalgamating the old
Kingdom of Tír Chonaill with the old Lordship of Inishowen.
However, the English authorities were
unable to establish control over Tír Chonaill and Inishowen until
after the Battle of Kinsale
1602. Full control over the new County Donegal was only achieved
after the Flight of the Earls
Donegal was one of the worst affected parts of Ulster during the Great Famine of the late 1840s in
Vast swathes of the county were devastated
by this catastrophe, many areas becoming permanently depopulated.
Vast numbers of County Donegal's people emigrated at this time,
especially through Londonderry
. Huge numbers of the county's people who
emigrated were to settle in Glasgow in southern Scotland.
Shrove Beach, Donegal.
Physically, the county is by far the most rugged and mountainous in
. The county consists chiefly of low
mountains, with a deeply indented coastline forming natural
loughs, of which both Lough Swilly and Lough
Foyle are the most notable. The famous mountains
or Hills of Donegal consist of two major ranges, the
Mountains in the north and the Bluestack Mountains in the south, with
Errigal at the highest peak. The Slieve League cliffs are the highest sea cliffs in Europe, while Donegal's Malin Head is the most northerly point on the island of
The climate is temperate and dominated by the Gulf Stream
, with warm, damp summers and mild
wet winters. Two permanently inhabited islands, Arranmore and Tory
Island lie off the coast, along with a large number of
islands with only transient inhabitants. Ireland's second
longest river, the Erne, enters
Bay near the town of Ballyshannon. The River Erne, along with other Donegal waterways, has been
dammed to produce hydroelectric
power. The River Foyle separates part of County Donegal from parts of both
County Londonderry and County Tyrone
Map of Donegal.
An extensive rail network used to exist through out the county and
was mainly operated by the County Donegal Railways
and the Londonderry and Lough
Swilly Railway Company
(known as the L. & L.S.R. or the
Lough Swilly Company for short). The Great Northern Railway
L.t.d. also ran a line through The Laggan, a district in the east
of the county, along the River Foyle into Derry.
Even though the railways in
Donegal are fondly remembered, the network was completely closed by
1960. Today, the closest railway station to the county is Waterside
Station in the City of Derry, which is
operated by Northern Ireland
(N.I.R.). County Donegal is served by both Donegal
Airport, located at Carrickfinn in The Rosses in the west of the county, and by
Derry Airport, located at Eglinton to the east. The nearest main international airport to
the county is Belfast International Airport (popularly known as Aldergrove Airport), which is
located to the east at Aldergrove, near
Town, in County Antrim,
around fifty-seven miles from Derry City and around seventy-five
miles from Letterkenny.
County Donegal can be divided up into a number of traditional
districts. In the west there is The Rosses (Irish: Na Rosa), centered on
the town of Dungloe (Irish: An Clochán Liath), and Gweedore (Irish: Gaoth Dobhair).
Both of these are formally Gaeltacht
(Irish speaking) areas, although little
or no Irish is spoken in Dungloe. In the county's north-west is Cloghaneely
(Irish: Cloich Chionnaola), centered on the town of
Falcarragh (Irish: An Fál Carrach), also in the
Gaeltacht. Inishowen, Fanad and
Rosguill are three peninsulas in the north of the
county. Inishowen (centered on the town of Buncrana) is one of Ireland's largest peninsulas.
east of the county is located the Finn
Valley (centered on Ballybofey) and a district called The Laggan (this Laggan is
usually spelled with two g's in order to distinguish it from the
more famous Lagan Valley in the south
of County Antrim. Donegal's Laggan is
centered on the town of Raphoe).
Both of these districts have very fertile land.
According to the 1841 Census, County Donegal had a population of
296,000 people. Due to famine and emigration the population had
reduced by 41,000 by 1851 and further reduced by 18,000 by 1861. By
the time of the 1951 Census the population was only 44% of what it
had been in 1841. The 2006 Census undertaken by the State's
Central Statistics Office
had Donegal's population standing at 147,264.
Culture and heritage
The variant of the Irish language
spoken in Donegal shares traits with Scottish Gaelic
. The Irish spoken in
the Donegal Gaeltacht (Irish speaking
area) is of the Ulster dialect, while
Inishowen, which became English-speaking only in the early 20th
century, used the East Ulster dialect. Ulster Scots
is often spoken in both the
and The Laggan district of
East Donegal. Donegal Irish has a strong influence on learnt
Like other areas on the western seaboard of Ireland, Donegal has a
which is of world renown. Donegal is also well known
for its songs which have, like the instrumental music, a
distinctive sound. Donegal musical artists such as the bands
Clannad and Altan and
solo artist Enya, all from Gaoth Dobhair, have had international success with traditional or
traditional flavoured music.
Donegal music has also
influenced people not originally from the county including folk and
pop singer Paul Brady
. Popular music is also common, the county's
most famous f rock artist being the Ballyshannon born Rory Gallagher,
Kilcar based indie
band The Revs also had some good success in
the Irish charts.
A well known fiddler from Donegal is P.V.
O'Donnell, though he currently lives in
Connecticut, in the United States.
Donegal has a long literary tradition in both Irish
. The famous Irish Navvy-turned novelist Patrick MacGill, author of many books about
the experiences of Irish migrant itinerant
labourers in Britain at around the turn of the 20th century, such as
The Rat Pit and the autobiographical
Children of the Dead End,
is from the Glenties area.
There is a literary summer school in
Glenties named in his honour. The novelist and socialist
politician Peadar O'Donnell
hails from The Rosses
in west Donegal. The Poet William Allinghamwas
exponents include the Inishowen playwright and poet Frank McGuinness and the playwright
Many of Friel's
plays are set in the fictional Donegal town of Ballybeg
Authors in Donegal have been creating works, like the Annals of the Four Masters
since the Early Middle Ages
Irish Philosopher John
was born in Inishowen in 1670. He was thought of as the
by George Berkeley
. Toland was also
instrumental in the spread of freemasonry throughout Continental Europe
. In modern Irish Donegal has produced famous, and
sometimes controversial, authors such as the brothers Séamus Ó Grianna and Seosamh Mac Grianna from The Rosses and the contemporary (and
controversial) Irish-language poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh from Gortahork in Cloughaneely, and where he is known to locals as
Gúrú na gCnoc ("the Guru of the Hills").
Although approximately 85% of its population is Catholic
, County Donegal also has a sizable
minority. Most Donegal
Protestants would trace their ancestors to settlers who arrived
during the Plantation of Ulster
in the early seventeenth-century. The Church of Ireland
is the largest
Protestant denomination but is closely rivalled by a large number
. The areas of Donegal
with the highest percentage of Protestants are The Laggan area of
East Donegal around Raphoe, the
Finn Valley and areas around Ramelton,
Milford and Dunfanaghy - where their proportion reaches up to 30-45
percent. There is also a large Protestant population
Town and Ballyshannon in the south of the county. In absolute terms,
Letterkenny has the largest number of Protestants (over 1000)
and is the most Presbyterian town (among those settlements with
more than 3000 people) in the Republic of Ireland.
Some, albeit a minority who are
concentrated in the Raphoe and Donegal Town/Ballintra areas, County
Donegal Protestants are members of the Orange Order
, a religious and social
Donegal has also contributed to culture elsewhere. One Donegal native,
Francis Alison, was one of the founders of the College of
Philadelphia, which would later become the University
of Pennsylvania. The Rev.
Francis Makemie from Rathmullan founded the Presbyterian Church in
Relationship with Derry
Donegal has always had a very strong and close relationship with
the nearby City of
Derry. Indeed, before the very early 1600s, Derry
was seen as being part of Inishowen.
Many Donegal people live and/or work in the
city. Likewise many Derry City natives live and/or work in County
Donegal. In addition, many young people from County
Donegal attend schools and third-level institutions in Derry,
especially Magee College (part of the
University of Ulster) and the
Regional College (popularly known as Derry Tech).
County Council and Derry City Council co-operate on many projects and initiatives as
well. Letterkenny, in East Donegal, and Derry form the
main 'economic axis' of the North-West of Ireland.
together with Letterkenny, is also a major transport hub for County
Further and Higher Education
Third-level education within the
county is provided by Letterkenny Institute of
Technology (L.Y.I.T.; popularly known locally as 'the
Regional'), established in the 1970s in Letterkenny. In addition, many young people from the
county attend third-level institutions elsewhere in Ireland,
especially in Derry and also
at the University of
Ulster at Coleraine (U.U.C.), the University of Ulster at
Jordanstown (U.U.J.), The Queen's University of
Belfast ('Queen's'), and NUI Galway. Many Donegal students also attend the
Limavady Campus of the North West
Regional College (popularly known as Limavady Tech) and the Omagh Campus of South West College (popularly known as
Omagh Tech or Omagh College).
County Council (which has officially been in existence since 1899)
has responsibility for local administration, and is headquartered
at the County House in Lifford.
County Council runs alongside Town
Councils in Letterkenny, Bundoran, Ballyshannon and Buncrana. Both the County Council and Town Councils
have elections every five years (alongside local elections
nationally, and elections to the European Parliament), the last of which took place on the 5 June 2009. Twenty nine
councillors are elected using the system of Proportional
Representation-Singe Transferable Vote (STV), across five
electoral areas (Inishowen - 7 seats, Letterkenny - 7 seats, Donegal - 5 seats,
Stranorlar - 5 seats, and Glenties - 5 seats.
For general (national) elections, the county is divided into two
, with both having three representatives in Dáil Éireann
. For elections to the
Parliament, the county is part of the North–West
constituency (formerly Connacht–Ulster).
Gaelic football and hurling
The Gaelic Athletic
(G.A.A.) sport of Gaelic
is very popular in Donegal. Hurling
is not such a big sport in the North-West of
Ireland. Donegal's inter-county football team have won the All-Ireland Senior
title once (in 1992). In 2007 Donegal won
only their second national title by winning the National Football League
The county senior hurling team has never managed a title. There are
16 senior G.A.A. Clubs in county Donegal, with many others playing
at a lower level.
There are several Rugby Union
the county. These include Ulster Qualifying League Two side
, whose ground is
named after Dave Gallaher
, the captain
of the 1905 New Zealand All Blacks
touring team, who have since become known as The Originals
. He was born in nearby Ramelton.
Ulster Qualifying League Three sides include Ballyshannon RFC,
Donegal Town RFC and Inishowen RFC.
play in the League of Ireland
and won promotion to the
in 2007 following a 6-3 aggregate win in the playoff final. They
are now back alongside their arch-rivals Derry City F.C.
, with whom they contest the
. No other Donegal
teams have achieved the status of Finn Harps, but teams abound
across the county.
is also played in County Donegal.
This sport is chiefly confined to the Laggan district and the
in the east of the county.
of Raphoe and the
nearby village of St.
Johnston, both in
The Laggan, are the traditional strongholds of cricket within the
The game is mainly played and followed by members of
County Donegal's Protestant
Beach near Ardara, Co.
Donegal's rugged landscape lends itself to active sports like
kite-flying. Many people travel to Donegal for the superb golf
links—long sandy beaches and extensive dune
systems are a feature of the county, and many links courses have
Rock climbing is of very high quality and still under-developed in
the county. There is a wealth of good quality climbs in
the county, from granite rocks in the south to quartzite and
dolerite in the north; from long mountain routes in the Poisoned Glen to boulder challenges of
excellent quality in the west and in the Inishowen Peninsula.
Surfing on Donegal's Atlantic coast is considered to be as good as
any in Ireland. The Victorian seaside resort of Bundoran, located in the very south of the county, has been
'reborn' as the centre of surfing in County Donegal.
Bundoran is now the main surfing 'resort' in Ulster
Glenveagh National Park.
With its sandy beaches, unspoilt boglands and friendly communities,
Co. Donegal is a favoured destination for many
travellers, Irish (especially Northern
Irish) and foreign alike. One of the county
treasures is Glenveagh National Park (formerly part of the Glenveagh
Estate), as yet (February 2008) the only official national
park anywhere in the Province of Ulster.
The park is a 140 km² nature
reserve with spectacular scenery of mountains, raised boglands,
lakes and woodlands. At its heart is Glenveagh Castle, a beautiful late Victorian 'folly' that was originally built as
a summer residence.
The Donegal Gaeltacht
-speaking district) also attracts young
people to County Donegal each year during the school summer
holidays. The three week long summer Gaeltacht courses give young
Irish people from other parts of the country a chance to learn the
Irish language and traditional Irish cultural traditions that are
still prevalent in parts of Donegal. The Donegal Gaeltacht
has traditionally been a very popular destination each summer for
young people from Northern Ireland.
Scuba Diving is also very popular with a club being located in
Towns and villages
- Annagry, Ardara
- Ballintra, Ballybofey, Ballyliffin, Ballyshannon, Bridgend, Buncrana, Bundoran, Burtonport
- Carndonagh, Carrigans, Carrigart, Castlefin, Churchill, Clonmany, Convoy, Creeslough, Culdaff
- Donegal, Downings, Drumoghill, Dunfanaghy, Dungloe, Dunkineely
- Falcarragh, Frosses
- Glencolmcille, Glenties, Gortahork, Greencastle, Gweedore
- Laghey , Letterkenny, Lifford
- Kerrykeel, Kilcar, Killea, Killybegs, Kilmacrennan
- Magheroarty, Malin, Manorcunningham, Milford, Moville, Muff
- Narin, Newtowncunningham
- Ramelton, Ranafast, Raphoe, Rathmullan, Rossnowlagh
- Stranorlar, St.
Flora and fauna
: Morton, O. 2003. The marine
macroalgae of County Donegal, Ireland. Bull. Ir.
No. 27: 3–164.
: Fairley, J.S. 1975. An Irish
Blackstaff Press, Belfast. SBN 85640 090 4.
- (Ireland in Old Photographs series)
- Morton, O. 2003. The marine macroalgae of County Donegal,
Ireland. Bull. Ir. biogeog.soc.
- Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (Annála Ríoghachta
Éireann) by the Four Masters, from the earliest period to the
year 1616, compiled during the period 1632–36 by Brother Michael
O’Clery, translated and edited by John O'Donovan in 1856, and
re-published in 1998 by De Burca, Dublin.
- Parks, H.M. 1958. A general survey of the marine algae of
Mulroy Bay, Co. Donegal. Ir. Nat. J.
- Parks, H.M. 1958. A general survey of the marine algae of
Mulroy Bay, Co. Donegal: II Ir. Nat. J.
- Brian Lalor (General Editor), The Encyclopaedia of
Ireland. Gill & Macmillan, Dublin 2003.
- Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ulster (Paperback
Edition). Blackstaff Press, Belfast 2005.
- Willie Nolan, Máiread Dunleavy and Liam Ronayne (Ed.'s),
Donegal: History & Society. Geography Publications,
- Alistair Rowan, The Buildings of Ireland: North-West Ulster
(Pevsner Guides). Yale University Press, London 1979.
- Jim MacLaughlin (Editor), Donegal: The Making of a Northern
County. Four Courts Press, Dublin 2007.
- John McCavitt, The Flight of the Earls. Gill &
Macmillan, Dublin 2005.
- Renamed "County Tirconaill" 1922 by resolution of the county
council.(Place Name Confusion Donegal or Tirconaill, The
Irish Times, April 24, 1924). After historians and Gaelic scholars
pointed out that the historic territory of Tirconaill did not
include the whole county, the name Donegal was readopted in 1927
(Back to "Donegal", The Irish Times, 22 November
- Ireland Northwest.
- Club GAA - Donegal
Commemorative Biographical of the Counties of Wayne and Holmes,