Glenveagh National Park: A Hidden Gem in the Heart of Donegal

An image of a lake and mountains in Glenveagh National Park

Are you searching for a place of tranquillity and natural beauty? Many people find it hard to choose the perfect outdoor destination. Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal offers an exceptional escape into nature.

2048px Glenveagh National Park 2579062136
Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This national park is not just any ordinary space; it’s the second largest in Ireland, covering 42,000 acres of wilderness. Our article will explain what makes Glenveagh so special, from its history to all the activities you can enjoy there.

You’ll discover why this hidden gem should be your next adventure spot. Ready to explore?

Key Takeaways

  • Glenveagh National Park is Ireland’s second largest national park, stretching over 42,000 acres in the heart of County Donegal. It offers visitors a breathtaking blend of sharp peaks, deep glens, and pristine lakes.
  • The park hosts the largest herd of red deer in Ireland and provides a sanctuary for an array of birds, such as golden eagles and peregrine falcons. Its diverse ecosystems support rare plant species and offer hikers and nature lovers unparalleled opportunities to observe wildlife in their natural habitat.
  • Historical sites such as Glenveagh Castle enrich the visitor experience with tales from the past. Built between 1870 and 1873 by Captain John George Adair, it stands as a testament to Victorian architectural elegance amidst rugged landscapes.
  • For outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure or relaxation, Glenveagh presents various activities, including walking along scenic trails, cycling through its vast expanse, fishing in Lough Beagh, or simply enjoying a leisurely visit to the castle and its beautifully manicured gardens.
  • Practical amenities at the park enhance visitor convenience, with services like shuttle bus transport between major attractions within Glenveagh National Park. Additionally, sightseers can use camping facilities for an immersive overnight stay among nature’s splendour.

Overview of Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh National Park covers 16,000 hectares of beauty in the heart of Donegal. The park boasts diverse flora and fauna, including rare plants and animals thriving across its lush landscape.

Location and size

Nestled amidst the rugged beauty of the Derryveagh Mountains in County Donegal, Glenveagh National Park stretches across an impressive 42,000 acres. This vast landscape stands as Ireland’s second-largest national park, showcasing a mix of sharp peaks, deep glens, and pristine habitats.

The park’s extensive boundaries envelop a rich tapestry of nature and offer visitors an enchanted landscape to explore.

The sheer scale of Glenveagh provides ample space for its diverse ecosystem, including the largest herd of red deer in Ireland and an array of flora that thrives within its protected boundaries.

With Lough Veagh at its heart, this wild expanse offers unforgettable scenery and a sense of remote beauty that captivates all who wander through its terrain.

Glenveagh National Park Boundary map

The boundary map of Glenveagh National Park outlines its extensive reach, covering 42,000 acres of pristine wilderness in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains in County Donegal. This expanse serves as a haven for diverse wildlife and provides ample space for visitors to explore.

The clearly marked boundaries enable hikers and active individuals to navigate through this expansive conservation area with ease, ensuring an immersive experience within this untouched Irish countryside.

Visitors can rely on the boundary map when seeking out stunning landscapes, heritage sites such as Glenveagh Castle and its gardens, and unique opportunities for spotting local flora and fauna within the designated conservation area.

A view of Glenveagh National Park
Glenveagh National Park: A Hidden Gem in the Heart of Donegal 6

Biodiversity and wildlife of Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh National Park is a haven for biodiversity and wildlife enthusiasts. The park is home to the largest herd of red deer in Ireland and provides habitat for a wide variety of bird species, including golden eagles and peregrine falcons.

Within its 42,000 acres, visitors can witness diverse flora, such as rare heathland plants and ancient oaks. The pristine habitats support an abundant range of insects, butterflies, and small mammals, making it an ideal location for nature lovers seeking to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Donegal’s wild landscape.

Moreover, the park’s rugged topography creates opportunities for hikers to spot elusive wildlife while exploring its winding trails. Indeed, Glenveagh National Park offers an unparalleled chance to experience the rich tapestry of Irish wildlife set against a backdrop of stunning scenery.

History and Heritage of Glenveagh National Park

The Derryveagh Evictions and Glenveagh Castle showcase the park’s intriguing history and heritage. Visitors can take a virtual tour to explore these fascinating aspects further.

Derryveagh Evictions

The Derryveagh Evictions, which occurred in the late 19th century, were a tragic event that saw numerous families forcibly removed from their homes in the area. These evictions were part of the larger land clearances carried out by wealthy landowners to make way for large-scale sheep farming and improve the landscape around Glenveagh Castle.

The impact of these events can still be felt today through various historical records and accounts that shed light on this dark period in Donegal’s history.

Glenveagh Castle

a garden with a Glenveagh Castle in the background
Glenveagh National Park: A Hidden Gem in the Heart of Donegal 7

Glenveagh Castle, a Victorian gem nestled in the heart of Glenveagh National Park, is an architectural marvel steeped in history. Built between 1870 and 1873 by Captain John George Adair, this picturesque castle offers visitors a glimpse into its rich past and stunning surroundings.

The beautifully landscaped gardens surrounding the castle provide a tranquil setting for strolls. The castle’s interior showcases elegant Victorian décor and furnishings, offering a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of the landed gentry during that era.

This historic site provides hikers and active individuals with an immersive experience amid Ireland’s captivating history while surrounded by breathtaking scenery.

Things to Do at Glenveagh National Park

Explore the walking and hiking trails, take in the beauty of Glenveagh Castle and its Gardens, cycle through picturesque landscapes, or enjoy a spot of fishing. To discover more about what this hidden gem has to offer, keep reading.

Walking and hiking trails

Discover the stunning walking and hiking trails that wind their way through Glenveagh National Park. With paths suitable for all abilities, you can explore the diverse landscapes of this 42,000-acre wilderness at your own pace.

Trek through woodland, traverse mountain slopes and soak in breathtaking views across Lough Veagh and the surrounding mountains. The park’s diverse range of trails caters to hikers seeking a stroll or a more challenging adventure.

Embark on an exhilarating hike along the Derrylahan Trail, which offers panoramic vistas of Glenveagh Castle and its lush gardens below. For a more moderate walk, wander along the Bridle Path to immerse yourself in ancient oak woods and serene lakeside scenery.

Walking TrailDistanceApprox TimeGradeTerrain Information
Lakeside Walk3.5 kmModerate
Derrylahan Nature Trail2 km loopEasy
The Garden Trail1 km loopEasy
Glen (Bridle Path) Walk8 kmStrenuousSuitable for experienced hill walkers; prepare for mountainous terrain
Lough Inshagh Walk7 kmStrenuousSuitable for experienced hill walkers; prepare for mountainous terrain
View Point Trail1 km loopModerate
Hill WalkingThe terrain is mountainous for properly prepared hikers only.

Experienced hikers venturing beyond marked paths should be well-prepared and leave details with family or friends of their planned route and expected time of return.

A map of Glenveagh national park Walking Trails
Glenveagh National Park: A Hidden Gem in the Heart of Donegal 8

Visiting the Castle and its Gardens

Explore the majestic Glenveagh Castle tucked within the park’s scenic landscapes. Wander through its elegant rooms, adorned with antique furnishings and captivating artwork, while exploring the rich history of this historical landmark.

Don’t miss strolling through its meticulously manicured gardens, which offer breathtaking views of Lough Veagh and the surrounding mountains. Embrace the tranquility as you meander through vibrant flower beds, tranquil water features, and enchanting woodland paths.

Revel in a leisurely afternoon at the tearooms nestled near the castle for a delightful treat, or take a relaxing stroll around its picturesque gardens to soak in their timeless beauty.


Cycling at Glenveagh National Park is a delightful way to explore the picturesque landscapes. The park provides cycling routes catering to various skill levels and preferences, making it suitable for 50-plus visitors and active hikers.

Cyclists can enjoy breathtaking views while pedalling through the serene wilderness of the second-largest national park in Ireland, covering 42,000 acres. Whether for leisure or exercise, taking a ride through this captivating terrain is an ideal option for nature enthusiasts exploring Donegal’s hidden gem.


Fishing enthusiasts will delight in the tranquil waters around Glenveagh National Park. Anglers can enjoy a day of casting lines at Lough Beagh, which has an abundant brown trout population.

The expansive lake offers a peaceful and scenic setting for those looking to relax and reel in some catches during their visit to the park.

Additionally, fishing permits are available for purchase, providing visitors with access to designated areas for angling within the park’s boundaries. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice seeking a serene fishing experience, the picturesque surroundings of Glenveagh National Park make it an ideal destination for enjoying this timeless pastime amidst breathtaking natural landscapes.

Practical Information

Practical Information at Glenveagh National Park includes the Visitor Centre, an informative base for exploring the park, and a shuttle bus service offering convenient transport around the site.

Various facilities, such as camping options, tea rooms, and photography permits, are also available to cater to different visitor needs.

Visitor Centre and exhibitions

The Visitor Centre at Glenveagh National Park provides an excellent starting point for exploring the park. It offers informative exhibitions on the park’s rich history, biodiversity, and wildlife.

Visitors can learn about the Derryveagh Evictions and immerse themselves in the virtual tour of Glenveagh Castle. Additionally, guests can obtain practical information from knowledgeable staff regarding hiking trails, shuttle bus services, and camping options.

The exhibitions provide a comprehensive overview of the park’s offerings and assist visitors in planning their exploration of this hidden gem in County Donegal.

Shuttle bus service

The shuttle bus service at Glenveagh National Park is available to transport visitors from the Visitor Centre to Glenveagh Castle and its surrounding gardens. The service operates every 15-20 minutes, ensuring easy access for all visitors, including those with limited mobility.

This convenient and efficient mode of transportation allows visitors to save time and energy so they can focus on exploring the captivating scenery of the park.

As part of your adventure at Glenveagh National Park, you can hop on the shuttle bus that runs between the Visitor Centre and Glenveagh Castle. This will allow you to fully immerse yourself in everything this remarkable national park has to offer without any hassle.

Camping options

For those seeking an immersive outdoor experience, camping within Glenveagh National Park provides a unique opportunity to connect with nature. With designated campgrounds nestled amidst the rugged landscapes, visitors can enjoy a serene and secluded stay within the park.

The camping areas are well-equipped with facilities such as toilet blocks and freshwater taps, ensuring a comfortable and convenient experience. Offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and lakes, camping at Glenveagh National Park allows adventurers to fully immerse themselves in the wilderness while enjoying activities such as hiking and wildlife spotting.

The park’s camping options cater to both seasoned explorers and those looking for a tranquil escape amidst nature’s beauty. Whether pitching a tent or parking up a camper van, visitors have an array of choices for overnight stays that promise unforgettable moments under the starlit Donegal skies.

Tea rooms and restaurant

The tea rooms and restaurant at Glenveagh National Park offer a welcome respite for visitors to relax and refuel after exploring the park. Whether it’s a hot cup of tea or a hearty meal, the facilities provide a comfortable setting with picturesque views of the surrounding landscape.

The menu features an array of locally sourced produce, offering delicious options that cater to various dietary preferences. With its warm atmosphere and delectable offerings, the tea rooms and restaurant are an ideal stop to recharge before continuing your adventure through the park.

The tea rooms and restaurant at Glenveagh National Park are conveniently located near popular visitor attractions, providing a convenient place to unwind while enjoying stunning views.

Photography and filming permits.

Visitors looking to capture the beauty of Glenveagh National Park through photography or filming will need to secure a permit from park authorities. These permits are essential for any commercial or professional photography and filming within the park’s boundaries, ensuring that all activities align with conservation efforts.

While there may be restrictions in certain areas, obtaining a permit enables visitors to document their experience without disrupting the natural environment. Whether capturing stunning landscapes or wildlife encounters, these permits offer an opportunity to preserve memories and share the park’s splendor with others.

For those interested in securing photography and filming permits, it is advisable to contact the visitor centre well in advance of your visit. The process ensures that all necessary arrangements are made while allowing you to immerse yourself in the captivating scenery without any interruptions fully.


Discover the captivating history and vibrant culture of Glenveagh National Park, nestled in the Derryveagh Mountains in County Donegal. Set aside at least 5 hours to fully explore the park’s rugged landscapes and diverse wildlife.

Immerse yourself in the rich heritage by visiting Glenveagh Castle and its stunning gardens, a must-see for active travelers seeking more than just typical tourist attractions. Explore hiking trails, enjoy cycling or fishing, creating memorable experiences while embracing the wild beauty of this hidden gem in Donegal.


1. What is Glenveagh National Park?

Glenveagh National Park is a beautiful natural reserve in Donegal, known for its stunning landscapes, wildlife, and the historic Glenveagh Castle and Gardens.

2. Can you visit the Castle and Gardens at Glenveagh National Park?

Yes, visitors can explore the majestic Glenveagh Castle and enjoy the beautifully maintained gardens that surround it within the park.

3. What activities can you do in Glenveagh National Park?

You can go hiking on scenic trails, spot various wildlife, take guided tours of the castle, or relax in the tranquil gardens.

4. Is there an entry fee to visit Glenveagh National Park?

No! Entry to Glenveagh National Park and its enchanting Castle and Gardens is free for all visitors who want to discover this hidden gem in Donegal.

Author: Walking Holiday Ireland

Cliff Waijenberg is a passionate hiker, nature enthusiast, and the proud founder and owner of Walking Holiday Ireland. Cliff has always been captivated by the Emerald Isle's breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural history. His love for the outdoors and genuine desire to share Ireland's hidden gems with travellers worldwide led him to establish Walking Holiday Ireland.

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