A Guide To Visiting Glenveagh Castle In Donegal

Photos of the Glenveagh Castle and area
Photo left: By Benjamin B (shutterstock.com). Photo right: By Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

There are an almost endless number of reasons to visit Glenveagh Castle in Donegal

It’s Ireland’s youngest castle, it’s nestled on the stunning shore of Lough Veagh and it’s in Glenveagh National Park which is the second biggest national park in Ireland.

And then there is the history, the fact that it’s one of the most magnificent castles in Ireland tales of aspirations, curses and Ireland’s most hated landlord.

In this guide, we take an in-depth look into the origins of Glenveagh Castle, how to get there, what to do when you get there and a few other wee tips and tricks too.

About Glenveagh Castle

glenveagh castle in donegal
Photo by alexilena (Shutterstock)

Glenveagh National Park, which means “Glen of Life”, is located in the heart of Donegal and is 169.6 km²/ 65 miles in area size.

That is a lot of natural beauty to explore. In the national park is Lough Veagh and on its shore is where you can find Glenveagh Castle.

Built sometime between 1867 – 1873, this castellated mansion is in remarkable shape. It’s a popular attraction for a day trip, especially with the acres of natural beauty surrounding it.

 Glenveagh Castle History

Glenveagh Castle history
Photo by Romrodphoto on Shutterstock.com

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.

Planning Your Visit To Glenveagh Castle

Glenveagh national park Castle
Photo by Benjamin B on Facebook

If you’re thinking about visiting Glenveagh Castle in Donegal, the section below should prove handy, as it’s packed with essential info.

Below, you’ll find the opening hours for Glenveagh along with where to find it, ticket prices and much more.

1. Location

Glenveagh Castle is located on the shores of Lough Veagh in Glenveagh National Park, which is 24Km north-west of Letterkenny and easy to reach through the villages of Kilmacrennan or Churchill.

2. Opening Times

The castle is open from 10.00-17.00 daily from January through to December. It is closed only on Good Friday and Christmas week.

3. Admission

The park and visitor centre are free to enter however the castle has the following admission prices (Note: Sometimes, due to bad internet connection, the card readers can be down so it’s advised to bring cash.):

  • Adult: €5
  • Group/Senior Citizen: Castle Price: €3
  • Groups of 20+ Bus & Castle Tour: €5
  • Child/Student: €2
  • Family Rate: €10

The Glenveagh Castle Tour

Photos of the Glenveagh Castle and area
Photo left: By Benjamin B (shutterstock.com). Photo right: By Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

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.

Other Things To Do In Glenveagh National Park (and nearby)

After you’ve soaked up enough Glenveagh Castle history to last you a lifetime, it’s time to explore the area that surrounds it.

1. Walks

glenveagh national park donegal
Photo by Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

Glenveagh Park is full of natural beauty, boasting everything from oak woods and pristine lakes to wild animals and more. 

One of the best ways to explore the park is by choosing a walk and there are 6 in the park to choose from

2. Hikes

mount errigal hike
Photos via shutterstock.com

One of my favourite things to do near Glenveagh Castle is the Mount Errigal hike (it’s a 15-minute drive from the park to the starting point).

The tallest and steepest of Donegal’s Seven Sisters range, Errigal soars up to an impressive 2,464 ft and can be seen for miles around. Read more about the hike here.

Another solid option is to take the short 22-minute drive to the magnificent Ards Forest Park. Or, if you fancy some mighty views, take the 31-minute drive to Horn Head.

3. Food and history

food and cafe
Photos via the Lemon Tree Restaurant on Facebook

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.

When was Glenveagh Castle built?

The castle was built back in 1867 and was only completed in 1873. The last owner Henry McIlhenny made vast improvements to the castle restoring it to its former glory.

Who built Glenveagh Castle?

The castle was built by John Adair after he married his American born wife Cornelia.

Who owns Glenveagh National Park?

The castle and Glenveagh estate was given to the Irish nation by the last private owner Henry McIlhenny back in 1975, mostly due to him unable to manage because of prolonged travelling.

How far is Glenveagh National Park from Letterkenny?

It is 4 hour 21 minutes if you walked, just under 1 hour to get there by bus and 21 minutes by car.

Originally from County Tyrone, Johnny's yearning for new experiences and cultures has taken from Bundoran to Bangkok and everywhere in between!

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