Walks in Glenveagh
The 16,000 hectares of Glenveagh National Park which includes most of the Derryveagh Mountains, the Poisoned Glen and part of Errigal is a beautiful place to walk the hills and trails and is used and enjoyed by many individuals, groups, clubs and commercial guide operators (go to the 'Links'tab for further information). The park extends over a large area of north Donegal between Fintown in the south west to Dungloe and Crolly in the north west, north by Dunlewy, and almost to Muckish and Termon in the east. Walkers have free access to roam from all points. Hillwalking in Glenveagh National Park can be challenging for the novice, but there are also relatively easy trails described below for all levels within the park.
The 'Trail Walker Bus' takes walkers from the park Visitor Centre/carpark on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays at 10:00 am with drop off at the Gartan start of the Lough Insagh Walk (see below). The bus then continues via Glendowan where walkers are dropped off at the 'head of the glen' to start the walk back to the Visitor Centre along the Glen (Bridle Path) Walk (see below). The bus fare is €2/€3. The trails require sturdy footwear and suitable outdoor clothes. The surface is mainly rough gravel with some loose stone and medium gradients. Please note that mobile phone coverage is not always reliable in these remote locations and walkers should always take care to let someone know where they are and when they are due to return. Emergency calls including mountain rescue should always be to 999 or 112.
Length: 3.5km (Not a looped walk)
Terrain: A mostly flat gravel path
The lakeside offers the walker a fine introduction to walking in Glenveagh National Park. It brings the walker through the glen from the visitor centre (Location: 603941, 923189) to Glenveagh castle and gardens (Location: 602022, 920990). The walk begins at the bus shelter from where there is a fine view of the valley of Glenveagh (in Irish the name means the 'Glen of the Birches') and continues along the shores of Lough Veagh. It is possible to walk one way and return by bus by obtaining a ticket at the castle reception. A guidebook for this walk is available from the visitor centre. The walk starts through a stand of mature Austrian Pines and scattered native broadleaved trees such as Holly, Rowan and Birch. Past the wooden shingled roofed boathouse is a recently constructed bridge over the Owencarrow River. The bridge was constructed by park staff using seasoned larch and recycled plastic decking. The Owencarrow River is the main outflow from Lough Veagh which eventually meets the sea at the Lackagh Bridge near Doe Castle. The Owencarrow river is home to breeding salmon, trout, eel, freshwater pearl mussel, and otter. Beyond the bridge the path takes walkers out on to the more open landscape of blanket bog and wet heath habitat that is typical of much of Glenveagh and the west of Ireland generally. These are wet peatland habitats and although mainly treeless they are home to a range of plant and animals, many of which are unique to these habitats. As the path meanders along the glen and lake side there are beautiful views across Lough Veagh and it's scattered islets to the cliffs and open hilltops beyond. This sublime landscape offers a taste of a remote and peaceful Irish wilderness where nature comes first. Further along the walker will find examples of small native scrub woodland and mountain streams or 'burns' as they are known in Donegal. The path ends in the wonderful castle gardens, an amazing botanical contrast to the wilder surrounding landscape. The luxuriant plant collection and tasteful design of the garden is a real treat for the walker and introduction to the Castle itself. Remember, if you wish you can viist the tea room or tour the castle before returning either by foot or bus to the visitor centre and car park.
Derrylahan Nature Trail
Length: 2km (This is a looped walk)
Terrain: Gravel track, both flat and steep in places
This attractive way marked walk near the Visitor Centre is an ideal introduction to Glenveagh’s natural environment. It offers visitors of all ages and fitness levels a chance to see some of the plants and animals of Glenveagh National Park. The trail passes through a number of habitats along the route. These include both native and planted Scots Pine woodlands, and a section of blanket bog. The trail also provides excellent views of the Glenveagh Valley. The name Derrylahan is derived from the Irish Doire Leathan, meaning broad oakwood because this area was originally covered in Oak Forest. The terrain involved includes both grassy and gravel paths and visitors should allow approx. 45 minutes to fully explore the trail. A guide to the Derrylahan Nature Trail is available from the Visitor Centre. (Looped Walk start/finish Location: 603941,923189)
The Garden Trail
Length: 1km (This is a looped walk)
Terrain: Gravel pathway
Following a well-marked route the trail offers visitors a full tour of the features of the gardens. Started around 1890 by Cornelia Adair and embellished in the 1960’s and 1970’s by Henry Mc Ilhenny the garden offers great contrast with the surrounding landscape. Features include an extensive collection of exotic trees and shrubs, an important collection of garden ornaments, a colourful walled garden and a number of locations where the visitor can relax and enjoy the natural environment. The castle and garden book gives a full account of the features encountered. The garden trail takes an hour to complete and is accessible to wheelchairs although steep in one or two places. (Looped Walk Start/Finish Location: 602022, 920990)
View Point Trail
Length: 1km (This is a looped walk)
Time: 35 mins
Terrain: Steep stony path
The View Point Trail is perhaps the best short walk option in the Park. It leads to an ideal vantage point for enjoying views of the rugged scenery, with magnificent perspectives of the castle below, Lough Veagh and the surrounding landscapes. This circular 1.5Km trail starts and ends at the castle, taking the path, taking from 50-60 min at a leisurely pace. The surface is good at all stages and steep for short distances. Follow the direction of the road behind the castle, taking the path uphill just outside the garden gates. The route is signposted from here. From the top of the path returns via the lower garden, passing through a wooded gully and into the gardens where the trail returns to the castle. (Location: Start 601939, 920990, Finish 602022, 920990)
Glen (Bridle Path) Walk
Length: 8km (Not a looped walk so walkers must return or arrange a drop off or collection)
Terrain: A mostly flat dirt road rising gently over last 3km
This walk is a natural extension of the lakeside walk. It follows the shortest and most easily negotiated natural route through the Derryveagh Mountains. However, before the glen road was built, the route was so rocky and densely wooded as to be virtually impassable. Old settlements, now derelict, and native oak woodland can be seen along the walk which offers spectacular views of Lough Veagh and the surrounding mountains. A guidebook for this walk is available from the visitor centre. (Location: Start at Castle 602022, 920990, Head of Glen 597046, 915804 and return to Castle)
Lough Inshagh Walk
Length: 7km (Not a looped walk so walkers must return to the Visitor Centre or arrange a vehicle at the Lacknacoo car park at Gartan)
Time: 1hr 30mins
Terrain: Stony dirt track ending on a quiet tarred road
This pathway once connected Glenveagh Castle to the village of Church Hill. The carriages of the Lough Swilly Railway brought visitors to the railway station. From here they were transported to Glenveagh Castle over the Lough Inshagh Road by pony and trap. Today the Lough Inshagh Path remains silent except for the occasional red deer browsing on the roadside vegetation or walkers enjoying the solitude and scenery. This walk gives the walker a real feel of the open landscape of granite mountains and bogs where Golden Eagles and Ravens soar and in summer the Wheatear and Meadow Pipits are busy nesting along the length of the walk. It is an excellent walk to explore the eastern side of the Park and brings the walker to the Glebe Gallery and St Colmcille’s birthplace in Gartan. (Location: Start at Lacknacoo, Gartan 605435, 917995, to Castle Avenue 602811, 921505)
Beyond the network of tracks and trails in the valley of Glenveagh, most of the Park is mountainous and is suitable for properly prepared hikers only. If you intend walking on the hills, please plan and equip carefully, leave details with family or freinds of your planned route and expected time of return.
Please note: Dogs are permitted in the park but must be kept on a lead at all times. Dogs are not permitted entry to buildings, Castle Gardens & park buses. (Guide dogs are permitted in all areas)
Glenveagh Visitors Services are closed on Good Friday and over the Christmas period.