Thursday 22 June 2017

Ireland's Hidden Gem: The No.1 place you think should be better known

Reader Travel Awards 2017

Fanad Lighthouse, Co. Donegal
Fanad Lighthouse, Co. Donegal
Silver Strand Donegal
Glenveagh National Park. Photo: Getty
The Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal, one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe.
Horn Head, Co. Donegal. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

It’s time to tell the world about your favourite, little-known off-the-beaten-track Irish attraction. Here's your vote...

Winner: Donegal

Where in Ireland deserves to be better known? We asked for your off-the-beaten track suggestions, and the responses left us reeling.

From Dublin’s Chester Beatty Library (“discover a Lost World”) to beaches like Dog’s Bay in Connemara, from offbeat attractions like Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Radio Museum in Howth to cliff walks in Ballycotton and Greystones, the diversity of hidden gems out there is flabbergasting.

As we worked through the results however, one word kept repeating: Donegal.

It was rarely mentioned as a single hidden gem, but rather was absolutely overflowing with them — Fanad Lighthouse, Gola Island, Ards Forest Park and the Grianán of Áileach to name but a few.

“Donegal. Yes, the entire county," as one of you said.

Silver Strand Donegal
Silver Strand Donegal

"It's hidden in plain sight, but it has the best of everything Ireland has to offer. Wild scenery, warm locals, outdoor pursuits, top hospitality. And you'll have the whole place to yourself! Absolutely worth the long journey north.”

Here are just some of your tips:

Glencolmcille: “Situated on the Sliabh League peninsula in southwest Donegal, this is a beautiful coastal place with beautiful beaches, a sense of history, hill-walking paths, a lovely village and folk museum and friendly people. It’s one of my favourite places in the world.”

Silver Strand Beach: “Always glistening, with dolphins at play, this stunning hidden beach is 10 minutess from Sliabh Liag Cliffs — the highest sea cliffs in Europe.”

The Poisoned Glen, Dunlewey: “While the origins of the name remain uncertain, there is no denying the sheer haunting beauty of this unspoiled valley. Here, within this karst rocky landscape at the foot of Errigal Mountain, you’ll find the burned stone ruins of Dunlewey Church with its remarkably well-preserved exterior walls and large belfry… a truly awe-inspiring landscape.”

St John’s Point: “A tiny Donegal beach along with some beautiful cliffs... the view is breath-taking and it’s so peaceful. Seems to receive very little advertising or publicity… but perhaps that’s part of the attraction.”

The Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal, one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe.
The Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal, one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe.

Slieve League Lodge: “In SW Donegal on the Wild Atlantic Way — no frills and no fuss, ‘Sure drop the key on the bar on your way out’. This part of the country is still a bit of a ‘no-man’s-land’, unspoilt, wild and wonderful.”

Atlantic Drive, Downings: “This eight-mile (approx.) coastal walk is only beautiful — I never tire of the sea views and the rugged rural countryside. After about two thirds of the journey, reward yourself with a drink in The Singing Pub before finishing your walk back into Downings.”

Doon fort, Portnoo: “A stone fort in the middle of Doon Lough, reachable by boat, dating back to 300 BC, very impressive and unique in Ireland.”

More from our Reader Travel Awards 2017:

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