Donegal Town is situated on the Eske River at the point where it flows into Donegal Bay. The entire Donegal Bay Area is beautifully wild, featuring rocky shorelines with magnificent views and lovely beach and dune areas that fade back into acres of unspoiled woodland.
One of the main towns of County Donegal, Donegal town has a fine array of cafes, pubs, restaurants, woolen shops, and artisan / crafts shops. Donegal castle, located at the centre of the town, is one of its prime visitor attractions.
In the town's main plaza, known as "The Diamond", a monument commemorates the creation of the Annals of the Four Masters in County Donegal. Known the obelisk, the monument was erected in 1937. The Annals of the Four Masters were compiled in the early 17th century by a Franciscan monk and three other scholars, who sought the preserve all historical records throughout Ireland, which had been created in various monasteries and houses of Gaelic nobility since the early middle ages.
The resulting "Annals" is a year-by-year list of historical events, starting from Ireland's mythical pre-history, and continuing up to the time the Annals were written. Copies of the Annals are today displayed in the National Library in Dublin, and in nearby Donegal Historical Society Museum at Rossnowlagh.
The Irish name for Donegal Town is Dun na nGall, which means Fort of the Foreigners. Historians believe that the Vikings had a base camp here in the ninth century, from which they ventured forth to pillage and loot the surrounding area.
Home of the O'Donnells
The ruling clan of the region, the O'Donnells, drove the Vikings away and took the town.
- The clan made Donegal the capital of their large holdings in Tir Chonnail -- an ancient kingdom loosely mapped to the province of Ulster today.
- O'Donnell's castle, known today as Donegal castle, lies at the centre of the town, and remains one of Donegal's prime visitor attractions.
- The last O'Donnell chieftain left Donegal in the early 17th century, under English oppression, in a famous Irish historical event known as the Flight of the Earls.
Plantation and Reconstruction
Donegal Town was redesigned and reconstructed during the Plantation period, when large numbers of Protestant settlers arrived from England and Scotland.
- The town centre was created according to the Diamond design, which originated at this time in Irish history and became the common form for building new villages.
- The diamond-shaped green remains at the centre of Donegal to this day, with all important streets radiating outward.
Donegal Town Today
Today, Donegal Town has a population of about 3,000. Always known as the centre of a thriving wool trade, this trend continues and is made visible by the many local craftspeople and the articles they create and sell.
- Tourism thrives here, with shopping among the favourite activities.
- Donegal Golf Club at Murvagh Peninsula is a very popular links course that also offers amazing views out onto Donegal Bay and the Bluestack Mountains.
- A trip to Donegal Craft Village gives visitors the opportunity to watch as crafts items are created and purchase the hand woven clothing, pottery and ceramics available for sale.
Donegal Town from River Eske. Image: Greg Clarke