Donegal (town)

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Donegal (/ˌdʌniˈɡɔːl, ˌdɒn-/ DUN-ee-GAWL, DON-; Irish: Dún na nGall [ˈd̪ˠuːnˠ n̪ˠə ˈŋal̪ˠ], "fort of the foreigners")[2] is a town in County Donegal in Ulster, the northern province in Ireland. Although Donegal gave its name to the county, now Lifford is the county town.[3] From the 15th until the early 17th century, Donegal was the "capital" of Tyrconnell, a Gaelic kingdom controlled by the O'Donnell dynasty of the Northern Uí Néill.[4]

Dún na nGall
Donegal Town, as seen from Drumroosk East
Donegal Town, as seen from Drumroosk East
Coat of arms of Donegal
Donegal is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 54°39′14″N 8°06′36″W / 54.654°N 8.110°W / 54.654; -8.110
CountyCounty Donegal
Dáil ÉireannDonegal
 • Town2.8 km2 (1.1 sq mi)
32 m (105 ft)
 • Density967.4/km2 (2,506/sq mi)
 • Urban
Time zoneUTC±0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (IST)
Eircode routing key
Telephone area code+353(0)74
Irish Grid ReferenceG924789

Donegal is in South Donegal and is located at the mouth of the River Eske and Donegal Bay, which is overshadowed by the Blue Stack Mountains ("the Croaghs"). The Drumenny Burn, which flows along the eastern edge of Donegal Town, flows into the River Eske on the north-eastern edge of the town, between the Community Hospital and The Northern Garage. The Ballybofey Road (the R267) crosses the Drumenny Burn near where it flows into the River Eske. The town is bypassed by the N15 and N56 roads. The centre of the town, known as The Diamond, is a hub for music, poetic and cultural gatherings in the area. There is a memorial to the Four Masters in the centre of the Diamond.[5]


Donegal Abbey was founded by King Hugh Roe O'Donnell in 1474
Approaching Donegal Town by sea

There is archaeological evidence for settlements around the town dating to prehistoric times, including the remains of ringforts and other defensive earthworks.

Donegal Town itself is famous for being the former centre of government of the O'Donnell dynasty, the great Gaelic royal family who ruled Tyrconnell in west Ulster for centuries and who played a pivotal role in Irish history. Their original homeland lay further to the north in the area of Kilmacrennan. From the 15th to the 17th century, they were an important part of the opposition to the colonisation of Ireland by England. The town itself contains Donegal Castle, on the banks of the River Eske, and the remains of Donegal Abbey, a Franciscan abbey which dates back to the 15th century on the Southern shore of the Bay. The Annals of the Four Masters may have been partially written in the old abbey in the 1630s. The story of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, Lord of Tyrconnell, was the inspiration behind many books and films, not least, Disney's The Fighting Prince of Donegal.

In 1601 the Siege of Donegal took place during the Nine Years' War. After the Flight of the Earls from near Rathmullan in September 1607, the castle and its lands were seized by the English Crown and given to an Englishman, Captain Basil Brooke, as part of the Plantation of Ulster. Captain (later Sir) Basil Brooke (ancestor of the Viscounts Brookeborough) was granted the castle around 1611 and he proceeded to carry out major reconstruction work and added a wing to the castle in the Jacobean style. The current plan of the town was also laid out by Brooke, including an attractive town square known as The Diamond. From the late 17th until the early 20th centuries, Donegal Town formed part of the vast estates of the Gore family (from 1762 Earls of Arran in the Peerage of Ireland) and it was during their ownership that the town took on its present appearance.[citation needed] Donegal Borough returned two members to the Irish House of Commons, the lower house of the Parliament of Ireland, until the Acts of Union 1800 came into force in January 1801. Evidence of the Great Famine still exists, including a workhouse, whose buildings are now part of the local hospital, and many famine graves.

Buildings of note

The Church of Ireland at night in Donegal Town.

Donegal Castle


Donegal Castle was the stronghold of the O'Donnells.[6] It has been restored by the Office of Public Works.[7]

St. Patrick's Church of the Four Masters


Dedicated to Saint Patrick and "the Four Masters", this Catholic church was built in the early 1930s and was completed in 1935.[8] Known locally as "the Chapel" or "the Town Chapel", it was designed by Ralph Byrne, the famous Dublin architect, in a mixed neo-Irish Romanesque and neo-Gothic style.[9]

Donegal Parish Church


This Church of Ireland church was built in a simple Gothic style mainly in the late 1820s and was completed in 1828. The main church appears to have been designed by a Mr Graham of Donegal Town. A chancel was added in 1890.[10] The chancel of 1890 was designed by the office of J. Guy Ferguson in Derry and built in a neo-Gothic style by James McClean builders from Strabane.

Industry and tourism

Donegal town centre at night

There are many sandy beaches in the area of Donegal, such as Murvagh beach, and some boasting good surfing conditions, such as Rossnowlagh. Donegal is also used as a base for hill-walking in the nearby Blue Stack Mountains. The town has many hotels catering for visitors, and nearby towns such as Letterkenny offer public swimming pools, cinemas and large shopping centres.[11]

Like most clothing manufacturers in Ireland, the size of the workforce has been in decline for many years. Some of the clothing manufacturers have survived by focusing on one particular item of clothing. For example, tailor David Hanna, who started making suits for the locals in 1924, switched to making only hats in 1964 and is now shipping them all over the world.[12][13] Donegal also has a long tradition of weaving carpets. Donegal Carpets have been made in Killybegs for over one hundred years and have been found in Áras an Uachtaráin, the University of Notre Dame and the White House.[citation needed]

On 1 December 2016, National Geographic Traveller named Donegal as the number 1 coolest destination of 2017. According to Pat Riddell, editor of the UK magazine, "It's a warm-hearted place, but wilderness always feels just a stone's throw away. And it is wilderness . . . world-class wilderness. We think it's due a big year."[14]


The Abbey Hotel in the Diamond

The Bus Éireann service number 64 Derry/Galway route: this makes several other stops including Letterkenny and Sligo (which allows for rail connections by Iarnród Éireann, from Sligo Mac Diarmada railway station in Sligo to Dublin Connolly railway station).[15] This route also allows for rail connections from Waterside Railway Station in Derry to Belfast Grand Central, via Coleraine. The number 30 Donegal Town/Dublin route which makes stops at other key towns such as Enniskillen (which provides connections to Belfast via Ulsterbus).[16] The number 490 Glencolmcille/Donegal route which makes stops in Carrick, Kilcar, Killybegs and Mountcharles.[17] The number 492 Dungloe/Donegal route connects Dungloe to Donegal, with stops in Glenties, Ardara and Killybegs.[18]

The other public bus service, TFI Local Link, provides numerous routes for Donegal, including Route 292 to Ballyshannon,[19] Route 293 to Glencolmcille[20] and Route 994 to Portnoo.[21] Route 264 from Ballyshannon to Letterkenny also has a stop in Donegal.[22]

Private bus operator, Feda O'Donnell Coaches (also known as Bus Feda), operates 2 Donegal/Galway routes: a regular from Crolly to Galway via Letterkenny and Donegal, and a Monday/Sunday service from Glenties to Galway that stops in Donegal.[23] Bus Feda has also operates 2 services to Limerick via Letterkenny and Donegal, with stops in Sligo, Knock and Tuam. On Fridays during the college term it has a regular service to Limerick City, and on Sundays during term it also has stops at University of Limerick, TUS Limerick Moylish Campus and Mary Immaculate College.[24][25]

Donegal railway station opened on 16 September 1889 and finally closed on 1 January 1960.[26] The site of the old station is now used by CIÉ as a bus depot while the actual building is the home of the Donegal Railway Centre.[27]



Donegal town is home to many amateur sports clubs. The most popular sport in the area is Gaelic football and the local GAA club is Four Masters.[28] The club also has been developing hurling. Other popular sports include association football,[29] rugby union,[30] basketball[31] and track and field.[32]

Donegal Town was host to the final stage of the World Rally Championship on 1 February 2009.[33]



The town is home to the regional newspapers Donegal Democrat[34] and Donegal Post,[35][36] and previously the local Donegal Times newspaper.[37] The Northwest Express regional newspaper is also distributed throughout the town and surrounding county,[38] as is The Derry Journal. Ocean FM, an independent local radio station from Collooney in County Sligo, has one of its three studios in the town, which broadcasts to most of south County Donegal.[39] Highland Radio, which is based in Letterkenny, can also be received in the town.[40]

Notable people






Climate in this area has mild differences between highs and lows, and there is adequate rainfall year-round. The Köppen climate classification subtype for this climate is "Cfb" (Marine West Coast Climate/Oceanic climate).

Climate data for Donegal
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 8
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 110
Average precipitation days 19 13 16 12 12 13 13 15 16 18 18 18 183
Source: Weatherbase[43]

See also



  1. ^ "Population Density and Area Size 2022". Central Statistics Office (Ireland). Retrieved 17 May 2024.
  2. ^ "Dún na nGall/Donegal".
  3. ^ Duffy, Connie (13 February 2020). "New map of Lifford to be launched tomorrow". Retrieved 25 March 2024. Lifford is the county town of County Donegal, Ireland.
  4. ^ "Donegal Town Marks its 550th Birthday Next Year". Donegal County Council. Retrieved 25 March 2024. Its origins can be traced back to 1474, when Lady Nuala O'Donnell established a Franciscan Abbey on the shores of Donegal Bay. Around the same time, her husband Red Hugh O'Donnell the First, Lord of Tir Chonaill founded Donegal Castle. The Town of Donegal grew up around these two great buildings and became the capital of Tir Chonaill. Under the O'Donnell Lords, who were treated as sovereign princes by the Kings of France, Spain and Scotland, Donegal Town was like the capital of an independent country for 130 years.
  5. ^ "Four Masters Memorial, The Diamond, DONEGAL, Donegal, DONEGAL". Buildings of Ireland. Retrieved 25 March 2024. Freestanding four-sided obelisk/memorial, erected 1934, having cruciform-plan capping/finials to top with gabled/triangular projection to the centre of each face. Constructed of ashlar sandstone and set on ashlar sandstone plinth with chamfered ashlar sandstone coping over. Inscribed with names of authors of the Annals of the Four Masters to base; inscribed Celtic cross motif and Celtic interlacing motifs to each face and having Celtic interlacing motif to each gabled projection. Located in the pedestrianised central square in the centre of the Diamond, Donegal Town.
  6. ^ "Donegal Castle • History • Visitor Information 2024". Tuatha. 2 June 2022. Retrieved 25 March 2024. Donegal Castle was the former stronghold of the O'Donnells of Tirconell and remains an imposing landmark in Donegal Town.
  7. ^ "Donegal Castle • History • Visitor Information 2024". Tuatha. 2 June 2022. Retrieved 25 March 2024. By the 18th century, Donegal Castle had been abandoned as a residence and so it began to fall into disrepair and ruin. It came into the possession of the Office of Public Works in 1898 and the O'Donnell Tower has been largely restored. The interior has many interesting period features and an exhibition details the history of the castle and the region.
  8. ^ Alistair John Rowan, The Buildings of Ireland: North West Ulster (popularly known as the Pevsner Guide to North West Ulster), p. 238. Yale, London, 2003 (originally published by Penguin, London, 1979).
  9. ^ Alistair John Rowan, The Buildings of Ireland: North West Ulster (popularly known as the Pevsner Guide to North West Ulster), p. 238. Yale, London, 2003 (originally published by Penguin, London, 1979).
  10. ^ Alistair Rowan, The Buildings of Ireland: North West Ulster (popularly known as the Pevsner Guide to North West Ulster), p. 238. Yale, London, 2003 (originally published by Penguin, London, 1979).
  11. ^ Letterkenny Information- Letterkenny Reunion, Earagail Arts festival, Donegal rally, St Patricks Day Archived 24 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine. (18 August 2008). Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  12. ^ "Heritage".
  13. ^ Wild Atlantic Way, National Geographic Traveller, August 30, 2017, p.15
  14. ^ Digby, Marie Claire (1 December 2016). "Donegal named coolest place on planet by National Geographic". The Irish Times. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  15. ^ "64-1659602812.pdf" (PDF). Bus Éireann. 24 July 2022. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  16. ^ "30-X30-1669032698.pdf" (PDF). Bus Éireann. 24 January 2023. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  17. ^ "490-1702399417.pdf" (PDF). Bus Éireann. 10 December 2023. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  18. ^ "911.pdf" (PDF). Bus Éireann. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  19. ^ "292-Ballyshannon-to-Donegal-Town.jpg" (JPG). Local Link Donegal-Sligo-Leitrim. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  20. ^ "126482 SITT TT 293 Glencolmcille to Donegal Town" (PDF). Local Link Donegal-Sligo-Leitrim. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  21. ^ "994-Portnoo-to-Donegal-Town.jpg" (JPG). Local Link Donegal-Sligo-Leitrim. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  22. ^ "264-updated-2.pdf" (PDF). Local Link Donegal-Sligo-Leitrim. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  23. ^ "Donegal to Galway Bus Routes | Daily". Busfeda. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  24. ^ "Donegal-Sligo-Mayo-to-Limerick-Timetable.pdf" (PDF). Bus Feda. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  25. ^ "Limerick Direct Bus Routes | Bus Feda Donegal". Busfeda. Retrieved 25 March 2024. Bus Feda now operate a luxury bus service from Donegal, Sligo and Mayo to Limerick, dropping off at the University of Limerick, TUS Limerick Moylish Campus and MIC Mary Immaculate College on Sundays during the college term. We also operate a luxury bus service from Limerick to Mayo, Sligo and Donegal on Fridays during college term. We travel to Limerick via the new M17 & M18 motorway from Tuam direct to Limerick which allows us to complete the journey up to 3 hours quicker than the alternative company.
  26. ^ "Donegal station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Retrieved 23 September 2007.
  27. ^ County Donegal Railway Restoration Ltd. homepage
  28. ^ "About the Club". Retrieved 25 March 2024. Four Masters G.A.A. Club is based in the parishes of Townawilly and Killymard, Donegal Town. Four Masters is one of the oldest and most successful clubs in County Donegal with its origins dated back to 1905 when the club was first founded under the name "Ball Dearg Hurling and Football Club".
  29. ^ McLaughlin, Rachel (3 August 2023). "Donegal soccer club to benefit from Texaco support grant". Donegal Daily. Retrieved 25 March 2024. Donegal Town FC has been chosen as one of the recipients of a €125,000 funding initiative.
  30. ^ "ABOUT". Donegal Town RFC. Retrieved 25 March 2024. Donegal Town RFC are proud of the fact that they are the longest established club in County Donegal having been founded in 1973 by a small group of rugby enthusiasts at a meeting in the National Hotel in Donegal Town.
  31. ^ McNulty, Chris (2 March 2020). "Basketball - Away win sees Donegal Town crowned League champions". Donegal Daily. Retrieved 25 March 2024. DONEGAL Town Basketball Club became League champions with a victory away to Athlone IT on Friday night.
  32. ^ "About Tir Chonaill AC". Tir Chonaill AC. Retrieved 25 March 2024. The club caters for athletes from 8 years old upwards, the oldest member being 68 years of age and for Juveniles, Seniors, Masters, Joggers, Walkers, Tri-Athletes and Fit4Life covering such events as Track & Field Athletics, Road Running, Cross-Country Running, Triathlon, Walking and Hiking in three different areas: Donegal Town, Glenties & Carrick.
  33. ^ "Cross-border counties to host start of World Rally". Irish Examiner. 29 October 2008. Retrieved 25 March 2024. Competitors will drive through Leitrim, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Sligo, and Roscommon before the final stage, in Donegal on February 1, is broadcast live worldwide.
  34. ^ "MediaLive - Regional Press - Donegal Democrat (Thursday)". Retrieved 25 March 2024. ADDRESS:Quay Street, Donegal Town, Co. Donegal.
  35. ^ "MediaLive - Regional Press - Donegal Post". Retrieved 25 March 2024. ADDRESS:Quay Street, Donegal Town, Co. Donegal.
  36. ^ "Donegal Post Magazine - Get your Digital Subscription". Magzter. Retrieved 25 March 2024. We have the best team of journalists in Donegal Town covering the latest breaking news, sport and features. If it is happening in Donegal it is happening in the Donegal Post.
  37. ^ "No further issues of Donegal Times newspaper will be published". 25 September 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2024. There will be no further issues of the Donegal Times newspaper published. First published in 1989, the Donegal Times came out on a bi-weekly basis. It was based in Donegal Town. The decision follows the sudden recent death of the editor/owner of the newspaper, Liam Hyland.
  38. ^ "northwest express | LinkedIn". Retrieved 25 March 2024 – via LinkedIn. we publish a weekly free newspaper which is distributed throughout Sligo, Mayo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Galway, Fermanagh, Donegal.
  39. ^ "Home". Ocean FM. 25 March 2024. Retrieved 25 March 2024. Ocean FM. Your local radio station serving Sligo, North Leitrim and South Donegal. North West Business Park, Co.Sligo.
  40. ^ "How to Listen". Highland Radio - Latest Donegal News and Sport. Retrieved 25 March 2024. Highland Radio is available across the North West. You should get the best quality signal by tuning to the transmitter site closest to you: North Donegal 103.3fm, West Donegal 95.2fm / 102.6fm, Inishowen 104.5fm / 104.7fm, South Donegal 104.7fm
  41. ^ Britton, Matt (1 July 2012). "Tom Conaghan: A farmer, a Mayor and above all, a father". Donegal Democrat. Retrieved 6 December 2023. Tom speaks about his early days growing up in Donegal Town in the 50's... 'I was a 'townie' born and reared on the Main Street...
  42. ^ Breslin, Conor. "Tom Conaghan announces his retirement from Donegal County Council". Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  43. ^ "". Weatherbase. 2013. Retrieved on 12 July 2013.

Further reading