- Location: 24 km northwest of Letterkenny, Ireland
- Attraction Type: Varied habitats, Wildlife, Trees, Castle, Gardens
- Significance: National Park
- Best Time to visit: House and Garden remain open daily from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. However, the gardens close at dusk in the winter months. The Ballroom and the Garden Rooms remain open every Sunday between 9:30 am 1:30 pm, and on Mondays between May and September. The Waterfall remains open to access roughly between 10:30 am to 5:30 pm, though timings do change with seasons.
- Admission Charges: Free for the National Park and the Visitors’ Center
Bus Tickets: Adult — 2.00 Euros
Concession — 1.00 Euro
Adult — 3.00 Euros
Group/Senior — 2.00 Euros
Child/ Student — 1.50 Euros
Family — 7.00 Euros
Timings: 10.00 am — 6.00 pm (March — October)
9.00 am — 5.00 pm (October — March)
- How to Reach: Take N56 from Letterkenny road through Kilmacrennan, turn left on to Gweedore Road or Church Hill, and go past Garten and Akibbon lakes (R251).
- Nearest Airport: Letterkenny Airport (LTR)
Great mountains looming towards the horizon with freshwater lakes gracing the bottom; varied wildlife inhabiting pristine woodlands, and all rounded off by a secluded medieval-style castle — a trip to the Glenveagh National Park in Ireland is almost like stepping into the world of a dream. Glenveagh National Park is one of the major eco-destinations in Ireland. Thousands visit it all-year-round for a close encounter with nature at its purest.
Habitat and Wildlife at the Glenveagh
The entire territory of the Glenveagh National Park can be divided into at least four different habitats, which include hilltops, bogland, woodlands, and freshwater. Each has a unique range of flora and fauna. The hilltop region of Glenveagh National Park has Alpine and semi-Alpine habitat. Most of the plants are lie low and close to the ground. The mountain hare, kestrel, and ravens are some of the animals you can expect to spot in this part of the national park.
The bogland was once home to pine and birch trees that extended the right to the foot of the uplands. However, over the years, it has shrunk much and now only a small fragment of its original vegetation remains. The habitat is typically western or Atlantic type, and some of the plants that can be found in the drier patches include crowberry, blueberry, bell heather, and ling heather. The bog is also home to the red deer, the largest species of the park. The rare meadow pipit birds can also be found in this region. The woodland region covers about 100 hectares. Most of the woodland is natural, though there is a small portion of semi-natural woodland as well. Dominant plants include oak, birch, hazel, aspen, holly, and rowan. It is a typical example of a western Oakwoods as found in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The woodlands become a hub of activities during the summertime. The abundance of foliage attracts a large number of birds and insects as well as small animals. Badgers and foxes are found in this part of the park, but the most interesting animal is definitely the wood warbler with its typical call. Some typical pinewood birds like siskin, goldcrest and crossbill and coaltit are also found in the coniferous part of the woodland.
The lakes of the Lough Veagh are the main water providers in the park. The clear, highly oxygenated water is a great habitat for sea trouts, salmons and the arctic char. The region is also an active breeding ground for waterfowls.
The Glenveagh Castle
Glenveagh Castle is the most remarkable architectural piece in the garden. Built-in accordance to the Victorian ideal of sublime seclusion, the castle is built in an anachronistic style like old Irish fort towers. Built almost completely out of granite, found in abundance in this area, the castle has a no-frills and solid look, which belies its lavish interior. John George Adair, the first owner of the castle built it with the help of his cousin and friend, architect John Townsend Trench.
The interior of the Glenveagh Castle is just the opposite of its stark and daunting exterior. Equipped with all forms of luxury imaginable and tastefully built-in style absolutely individual and eclectic, all rooms in the Glenveagh Castle is worth a visit. The eclectic and refined tastes of Henry McIlhenny, owner of the castle and former curator of Decorative Arts with the Museum of Philadelphia are expressed in every nook of the castle. It also acts as a landmark around which most walks in the park are planned and organized. Only guided tours are allowed inside the castle, and it takes about 30 minutes to complete the entire tour.
Glenveagh Gardens is one of the greatest attractions in the park. This is a sprawling Irish style garden set amidst natural landscapes. Along with the indigenous plants that are found in the region, there is a wide collection of exotic plant species collected from all across the globe, including Tasmania, China, and South America. The owners of the castle, including Cornelia Adair, the wife of the first owner of the park and McIhenny contributed significantly to the development of this garden, which has now developed as the most impressive and varied garden space in the whole of Ireland.
Walking Trails in Glenveagh Park
There is a number of walks that you can choose from, depending on your interests and physical capabilities, to explore Glenveagh Park. Remember, that the park is over a huge area and it is impossible to exhaust the entire possibilities of the Park in a single trail. Some of the popular trails that you can embark on are mentioned below. Remember, although there are clear trail signs erected at regular intervals to facilitate and guide you through your walk, it is advisable to take a travel guide along. It will ensure you make the most of your tour. You can choose from among the following:
Derrylahan Trail: This 45 minutes walk is ideal for families and is comfortable for most visitors. This trail over undulating grassy tracks provides a great view of the Glenveagh Valley.
The Garden Trail: A trail over a gravel pathway, this takes about 1 hour to complete. Enjoy the full features of the gardens.
Viewpoint Trail: A short but comprehensive trail on steep stony paths. Cover it at a leisurely pace as you take a breathtaking circuit around the Glenveagh Castle.
Lakeside Walk: Take a walk along the Lough Veagh, through the Glenveagh Valley, around the castle and the gardens. You have the option of taking a bus back. You can extend it to include the 2 hours long Glen Walk. You have to take a flat gently sloping dirt road to get spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
Apart from the above walks, experienced hikers can also opt for the hillside walk and the rangers’ walk.
Where to Stay
Letterkenny is the best place to take up accommodation if you want to visit the Glenveagh National Park. Some of the major hotels in Letterkenny include Ramada Encore, Castle Grove Country House, Silver Tassie and Clanrie Hotel. Glenrow House is one of the most popular B&Bs in Letterkenny.