Updated October 2021: Donegal Airport was voted the “World’s Most Scenic Airport” for the third year in a row, according to the results of a 2020 survey conducted by PrivateFly, a private jet booking platform.
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The rural airport located in Carrickfinn, which is about 45 minutes from Letterkenny and Donegal town, was awarded the top spot based on the results of the company's annual poll.
No poll was conducted in 2021 due to the pandemic and travel restrictions over the past year.
PrivateFly collected approximately 7,000 responses from its customers who considered various airports around the world the most scenic for approaches and take-offs.
Donegal Airport topped the poll based on its stunning location and the warm welcome that visitors receive upon arrival.
It beat airports in locations like Tanzania, French Polynesia, and Fiji.
Flights operate twice a day from Donegal to Dublin Airport on Amapola, a Swedish airline.
Below is a suggested 72-km (44-mile) journey that you could take upon leaving Donegal Airport (Point A on the Google Map) that includes some of the region’s most interesting and beautiful tourist attractions.
This beautiful island, a stone’s throw from mainland Donegal, is often overlooked by tourists.
Not to be confused with the Aran Islands off the coast of Co. Galway, Aranmore Island (also known as Aran Island) is the largest inhabited island off the Donegal coast and the second-largest of Ireland’s inhabited islands.
It is an Irish-speaking region, with its residents speaking Ulster Gaelic, which is closer to the Gaelic language spoken in parts of Scotland.
In June 2019, residents of the island wrote an open letter to citizens of the United States and Australia, asking them if they would like to relocate to their heavenly location.
The island is perfect for a day’s worth of exploration on foot. If you’re more adventurous, you can take to the water for kayaking or scuba diving and then, later on, kick back, relax and enjoy some traditional Irish music in the local pub.
Glenveagh National Park
Donegal’s Glenveagh National Park, which is Ireland’s largest national park, covers a total of 40,000 square miles of mountains, lakes, and natural woodlands.
It can be found in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains.
The park includes Glenveagh Castle, a castellated 19th-century mansion, as well as the castle’s Victorian gardens.
Modeled after Balmoral Castle in Scotland (the British royal family’s summer residence), it once served as a summer retreat for John George Adair and his wife, Cornelia.
Adair would later become infamous for evicting 244 of his own tenants in what later became known as the “Derryveagh Evictions.”
The interior of the house is beautiful, decorated in a flamboyant style.
Greta Garbo once visited the castle and requested to be put up in the castle’s pink candy-striped room.
Entry to the park is free.
To get a real appreciation for its beauty, drive around the lakes on the R251 and R254.
To get to the house, you will need to take a minibus from the visitor center. No cars are allowed in the vicinity of the castle.
If you want to cycle around the park, you can rent an electric or hybrid bike from a local company called Grass Routes.
You can rent out a bike for three hours or the whole day.
The cost to rent an electric bike is €18 and a traditional bike is €12.
The rental company is located in the main parking lot from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Rentals are available from mid-June through September.
Glenveagh Castle is not open at this time for guided tours. A virtual tour is offered instead.
The castle tearoom, located in the courtyard of the castle, serves up soups, sandwiches, scones, cakes, and bread. It is only open for takeaway service at this time.
If you're looking for a sit-down meal, be sure to stop at Leo’s Tavern, which is best known as the home of the traditional Irish group, Clannad, and their sister, Enya.
The Colmcille Heritage Centre
The Colmcille Heritage Centre is located in a beautiful spot right on the shores of Gartan Lough.
It is situated on the edge of the Glenveagh National Park.
Several displays throughout the center tell the story of St. Columcille (otherwise known as Columba), who is actually a patron saint of Ireland, but not nearly as well-known as St. Patrick.
St. Brigid of Kildare is also considered a patron saint.
Columba was born in 521 AD. His early years were spent in this area, and the exhibits describe his role in spreading Christianity throughout Ireland and Scotland.
Columba left Derry in 523 to make his way to the island of Iona, off the coast of Scotland. He died there in 597.
Admission for adults is €3 and €2 for seniors and students.
Glencolmcille Folk Village
The Glencolmcille Folk Village is a replica of rural Donegal that includes a cluster of small cottages that imitate life in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
Each cottage reflects a particular era and includes various artifacts, furniture, and utensils of the time period.
The folk village also includes a reconstructed schoolhouse, a fisherman’s dwelling, and a small pub-grocery. There is also a craft shop and tearooms in the village.
Admission is as follows: €6 adults; €5 for seniors, students and for individuals in groups, not amounting to over 11 people; €2.50 for children 7-12. Children under 7 are free. A family ticket for 4 is €15. Additional children are €1 each.
Sliabh League Cliffs and Visitor Centre
These cliffs, which are about 21 km (13 miles) from the fishing town of Killybegs, are Ireland’s highest cliffs.
There are two paths that will get you to the very top of the cliffs.
One of them is the Pilgrim’s Path, and the other is the more adventurous One Man’s Pass.
Both will give you outstanding views of the surrounding coastline, including glimpses of Donegal Bay and neighboring County Sligo.
For those who don’t want to hike, the Bunglass Viewing Platform, which is located close to the Slieve League Visitor Centre, is a good alternative.