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Donegal is a wild escape along Ireland's northwest coast, characterised by rugged geography, golden beaches and wildlife so abundant it can feel untouched by human beings. Its beautiful natural setting means the county is famed for both its adventurous activities and its feeling of remoteness. Where people gather, however, it's with the famous Irish warmth and welcome. The food and pub scene is friendly and fun, and you're never far away from a singalong. You'll likely hear Gaelic being spoken, as around a third of the population use the language.
You can stay in a Donegal hostel at Ireland's most northerly point, in a building nestled against the county's highest peak, or in the heart of the Blue Stack Mountains. There's a hostel attached to a 19th-century corn mill and another in a former hunting lodge and listed building. Lots of hostels in Donegal have private rooms or female-only dorms and you can choose a place with self-catering facilities to whip up something tasty, even when you're miles from the nearest restaurant.
Donegal town has a history stretching back beyond the 8th-century Viking invasion that gave it its Irish name, Dún na nGall or 'Fort of the Foreigners'. It's where you'll find Donegal Castle, built in 1474, and The Diamond, full of bustling pubs and shops. Bundoran is the place to be for surfers, with its amusement arcades and funfairs making it an ideal stop for the traditional seaside experience. The Sliabh Liag, or Slieve League, peninsula has 600m-high cliffs perfect for daring hikers.
Between surfing, hiking and scaling cliffs in Ireland's most climbable location, there's plenty to do in Donegal while you catch your breath. Visit Glenveagh National Park to explore the gardens and 19th-century fairytale castle and to spot Ireland's rare golden eagles. For a day trip like no other, check out Tory Island. It's full of history and its tiny community of around 130 people (mostly artists) is led by an elected king, as is tradition. Head to The Diamond, the town's main square, in the evening to find lively bars after the day's adventures.
Buses go to Donegal from cities like Dublin and Glasgow. There are flights into Donegal Airport from Dublin and Glasgow too, then it's about an 80-minute drive to Donegal town and just under 2 hours to Buncrana. You can catch the bus to get around the county's towns and cities or hire a car if you have big bags or surfboards.