The fairytale-like Glenveagh Castle in Donegal truly is a sight to behold.
Nestled on the glistening shores of Lough Veagh in Glenveagh National Park, the castle was built between 1867 – 1873.
Now home to a popular visitor centre, Glenveagh Castle is a delight to explore during your visit to the park.
In this guide, we take an in-depth look into the history of Glenveagh Castle along with what to expect from a visit.
Some quick need-to-knows about Glenveagh Castle
The Glenveagh Castle website is hugely confusing… they list opening hours on one page on then on the same page say the castle is closed. So, please take the information below with a pinch of salt. We’ve emailed them and tried to call them but have yet to get an answer.
2. Opening hours
According to their website (updated May 2022), in the summer months the park opens at 9.15am and closes at 5.30pm and in the winter it opens at 8.30am and closes at 5pm. I’d take these with a pinch of salt as there’s a lot of dated info on their website (we’ve tweeted them to check).
Admission to the castle is €7 for an adult, €5 for a concession ticket, €15 for a family ticket (no info on how many kids) and kids under 6 go free. It’s free to enter the park itself.
4. The bus
There’s a bus service that runs from the car park to the head of the Glen and Lough Inshagh Gate near Glenveagh Castle. You can buy a ticket from the visitor centre in the car park for €3. Unfortunately, their website contains zero info on when it runs.
Glenveagh Castle History
A wealthy land speculator from Co. Laois called John George Adair initially purchased several small holdings between 1857-9, eventually establishing the estate of Glenveagh.
Adair would later incur infamy in Donegal and Ireland as a most hated landlord when he ruthlessly evicted 244 tenants from their homes in the Derryveagh Evictions.
Legend has it that one woman with 6 children ended up putting a curse on the castle so that anyone who owned it would never have children. The curse is believed to have come true as some owners never did.
The construction of the castle
After Adair married his American born wife Cornelia, he started constructing Glenveagh Castle. Construction began in 1867 and ended in 1873.
It was his dream to create a hunting estate in the highlands of Donegal but tragedy (or karma) would strike and he suddenly passed away in 1885.
Disaster at Glenveagh National Park Castle
After his passing, Cornelia took over, introducing deer stalking in the estate and continually making improvements to the castle, including laying out the gardens.
After Cornelia’s passing in 1921, Glenveagh Castle fell into decay until it’s next owner Professor Arthur Kingsley Porter of Harvard University in 1929.
He initially came to Ireland to study Irish culture and archaeology however in 1933, while visiting Inishbofin Island, mysteriously disappeared.
Better times for the castle
In 1937, Mr Henry McIlhenny of Philadelphia bought the estate, an Irish American who’s father grew up a few miles north of Glenveagh.
Mr McIllhenny devoted a lot of time improving the gardens and restoring Glenveagh National Park Castle.
In 1975, Mr McIllhenny sold the estate to the Office of Public Works which allowed the creation of Glenveagh National Park, and in 1983, Glenveagh Castle was bestowed to the nation, with the National Park opening to the public a year later and the castle in 1986.
The Glenveagh Castle Tour
The castle tour is a 45 minute guided tour where you will get a wealth of knowledge about the gripping Glenveagh Castle history.
The guide will recap stories on all of the previous owners and how they helped shape the castle as well as take you inside to give you an insight into what life was like so long ago.
One really interesting fact was that the castle once hosted Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne. A tour of the amazing gardens will follow after castle.
Please note that it would appear that the tours of Glenveagh Castle are currently on hold. We’ll update this guide when/if we hear back from the email address listed on their website.
Places to visit near Glenveagh Castle
One of the beauties of Glenveagh Castle is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Donegal.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the castle and park!
1. Walks galore
So, there’s heaps of walks in Donegal and, as it happens, many are in and around Glenveagh Castle. The most convenient are the walks in Glenveagh Park, which range from handy to hard. There’s also the Mount Errigal hike (it’s a 15-minute drive from the park to the starting point), Ards Forest Park (20-minute drive) and Horn Head (30-minute drive).
There’s some mighty beaches in Donegal and you’ll find some of the best a short spin from Glenveagh Castle. Marble Hill (20-minute drive), Killahoey Beach (25-minute drive) and Tra na Rossan (35-minute drive) are all worth checking out.
3. Post-walk feed
The buzzy town of Letterkenny is just 25 minutes down the road from Glenveagh Castle and the park. You’ll find plenty of things to do in Letterkenny along with plenty of places to kick back in with a fine feed. See our guides to the best restaurants in Letterkenny and the best pubs in Letterkenny for more info.
FAQs About Glenveagh Castle
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the Glenveagh Castle Gardens to the tour.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Does anyone live in Glenveagh Castle?
No. The last private owner of Glenveagh Castle was a Mr Henry McIlhenny who bought the Glenveagh estate in 1937.
Is Glenveagh Castle worth visiting?
Yes. It’s impressive from the outside and the tours offer a great insight into its past. The park is also a beautiful place for a walk.
I was born in a quiet corner of a Gaeltacht on the Dingle Peninsula. Over the years, I’ve explored Ireland far and wide, from the wilds of West Clare to the shores of Sherkin. Particularly fond of heritage, history and hikes (and words beginning with ‘H’, apparently…).