As County Donegal's largest town, with pubs, markets and a historic cathedral, Letterkenny is a lively base from which to explore. Dominating its surroundings are the crashing waves and rocky shores of Ireland's wild west coast. Pockets of this burly landscape have remained untouched for centuries, and Tory Island, off the distant tip of the Fanad Peninsula, still elects its own king! Visit any time of year to experience the untamed countryside as it rolls through the seasons.
Hostels in Letterkenny are welcoming and homely, including one with an artists' studio attached for creatives passing through. Some have roaring fires in the common room for escaping blustery days, and others have barbecues around which you can enjoy the scenery as you cook. Many Letterkenny hostels organise bar crawls in town so you can experience Ireland's pub scene with tips from a local, or stay in for drinks and a pool tournament with your dorm mates. Free breakfast is available in a Letterkenny hostel and all have free Wi-Fi too.
Central Letterkenny is focused around the shopping and restaurants of Main Street, Ireland's longest thoroughfare. Stroll between the colourful buildings to the Georgian facades of Market Square. From the hill behind looms St Eunan and St Columba Cathedral, giving Letterkenny its nickname of 'the Cathedral Town'. Bernard McGlinchey Park is on the northern edge and hosts festivals and markets in summer. A few miles east of Letterkenny, the River Swilly widens into an ice-carved fjord. Follow the coastline up Fanad Peninsula to see rugged scenery and remote lighthouses.
West Ireland's dramatic natural wonders are the main attraction here. Tackle the Wild Atlantic Way, the world's longest defined coastal route, by foot, bike or even horse. It winds along 2,600km of cliffs and beaches, passing through nine counties in its entirety. Murder Hole Beach is a hidden cove a short walk from the sleepy town of Downings. It's worth the adventure to see National Geographic's 'Coolest Place on Earth'. Glenveagh National Park is half an hour's drive from Letterkenny. Marvel at rare Golden Eagles and the 19th-century granite castle, Glenveagh.
If you're flying into Dublin Airport, take the 3.5-hour bus journey to Letterkenny – the service runs several times a day. The town's bus station is located centrally, just off Station Roundabout, and has connections to Derry and Galway. There are also local buses that travel to towns along the coast, or hire a car to get around on your own. You can navigate Letterkenny's sights and nightlife on foot, as the town centre is compact.