Glenveagh National Park is located in one of the wildest parts of the Irish countryside, made up of 24,000 acres, encompassing moorlands, mountains, lakes and forests. One of Ireland's largest national parks (second only to Connemara), its central feature is the beautiful Lough Veagh, a long and deep lake fed by the River Veagh. Here in this remote area, you will find some of the densest woodland in all of Ireland.
Located not far from Donegal's main town of Letterkenny, Glenveagh park was formed from a 19th century garden estate surrounding Glenveagh Castle. Today, the park contains wonderful nature trails and walks, particularly Derrylahan Nature Trail which extends into the remotest parts of the woodland. Visitors may see some of the large red deer herd that lives here, and at times falcons are visible. Guide walks are available May through October.
The Visitors Centre features an exhibition showing the effects of the climate on local plants and animals. There is a cafeteria and a bus that runs from the visitor's centre to the castle. Access to the interior is by guided tour only, which must be booked in advance.
Note: while it is free to visit Glenveagh Park, and the exterior of the castle, tours require a fee.
The castle appears like a fairy tale dream, with turrets, battlements, and an entranceway over the waters of the lake. Its medieval style is demonstrated in the structures of the keep and round tower.
The building is in fact a 19th century mansion house with castellated (castle-like) features, and was originally the home of the Adair family.
The castle's interior is equally charming. Rooms include:
- A large drawing room with beautiful Georgian furniture
- An impressive dining-room with wonderful Landseer paintings
- A music room with a large, 19th century Irish harp dating
- The libbrary, which offers breathtaking views over Lake Veagh.
- The "blue bedroom", decorated in a New-England style, with pale oak and satinwood.
The interior of the castle can only be visited as part of a guided tour, which must be pre-booked.
The castle was built by John George Adair, an unpopular landlord who evicted hundreds of tenants and destroyed their cottages in 1861 not long after the Irish potato famine. Adair began construction of the castle in 1870, in Queen Victoria's then popular Scottish Baronial Style.
Adair abruptly went off to Texas, married American bride Cornelia, and then died in 1885 without returning to Ireland. His widow came to make her home at Glenveagh, and proceeded to turn 27 acres surrounding the castle into gardens, planted rhododendrons, and refurbished the house.
Mr. Kingsley Porter, a professor of medieval art history at Harvard University, was one of the last owners of the estate. He sold it to Henry Mc Ilhenny in 1937. Both owners performed much maintenance and restoration work on the castle, and took great care of the gardens. Mc Ilhenny lived there on and off for 40 years, collected plenty of art, and totally redecorated the house. He entertained quite a bit, and it is said that Greta Garbo slept here once.
In 1983, Mc Ilhenny gave the castle to the nation as a gift (he had sold the surrounding land to the government in 1975). The estate was opened to the public as a National Park in 1984.
Glenveagh park and castle. Image: Sean Perry.
Glenveagh Castle. Image: James Stringer