A day spent exploring the magnificent Glenveagh National Park is one of the best things to do in Donegal.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the park, from the mighty Glenveagh Castle to when the park opens, parking info and more.
The second half of this guide details the different Glenveagh National Park walks, and explains the routes and the time each takes. So, g’wan – dive on in!
About Glenveagh National Park
Opened to the public back in 1984, Glenveagh National Park boasts an impressive 16,000 hectares of parkland that’s perfect for explore.
It’s the second biggest park in Ireland and it’s full of forests, pristine lakes, tumbling waterfalls, rugged mountains and even a castle (the youngest in Ireland).
There’s also plenty of wild animals such as red deer or if you’re lucky, the golden eagle (but sightings are reasonably rare).
The park is the perfect place for rambling, and there are a number of Glenveagh National Park walks that’ll suit most (info in a moment).
Things to know before visiting Glenveagh National Park
Although a visit to Glenveagh is reasonably straightforward, there’s a few things to know that’ll make your visit more enjoyable.
Note: the information below is accurate at the time of writing, but may change over time. Make sure to check in advance of your visit.
The park is a short, 23-minute drive from Letterkenny and is found nice and easily if you pop it into Google maps.
2. Glenveagh National Park 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.
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
6 Glenveagh National Park walks worth trying
There are several Glenveagh National Park walks to choose from, and the vary greatly in length, so there’s something for every fitness level.
When you arrive into the car par, park up and then, if you need to, nip into the bathroom. When you’re ready, it’s time to ramble!
The Trailer Walker Bus service
It’s worth noting that two of the longest Glenveagh National Park walks (Bridle Walk and Lough Inshagh Walk) are not looped, which means you’ll have to return the way you came.
If you like, you can arrange drop-off/collection with the Trailer Walker Bus which runs every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday at 10am from the Visitor Center.
You can take this bus for €3. Tickets can be bought at the visitor centre (single tickets to return from the castle can only be bought before 5pm).
1. The Lakeside Walk
As the name suggests, this walk will take you along the shores of the stunning lough Veagh until you reach Glenveagh Castle.
Starting from the bus stop, you pass through native broadleaved trees such as Birch and Rowan until you see a bridge, which was made from recycled plastic decking.
After the bridge, you will enter a wet heath habitat, few trees here but plenty of native animals to spot and the path will lead you along the glen and luscious lake side until you finally end up in the castle gardens.
- Time it takes: 40 mins (Not a looped walk but can get shuttle bus back from castle)
- Distance: 3.5 Km
- Difficulty level: Easy (mostly flat terrain)
- Where it starts: Bus stop near Visitor Center (Grid Ref: C 039231)
- Where it ends: Castle gardens
2. Derrylahan Nature Trail
This walk heavily focuses on nature, where you will get to see a remote area of Glenveagh that was once covered in Oak Forest and is now blooming with so many different habitats.
The gravel trail starts close to the Visitor Centre, with easy-to-follow signs to help you navigate along the loop. The trail will showcase a section of a blanket bog and Scots Pine woodlands!
You can expect to encounter a lot of unique plants and wild animals and there is also an option to get a guide for the trail at the Visitor Centre.
- Time it takes: 45 Mins
- Distance: 2Km (This is a looped walk)
- Difficulty level: Medium (gravel track that is both flat and steep in places)
- Where it starts: Close to the Visitor Centre
- Where it ends: The Visitor Centre
3. The Garden Trail
This is our favourite of the the 6 Glenveagh National Park walks outline in this guide, as it’s perfect if you just fancy a leisurely ramble.
This well-marked trail gives visitors a full tour of the Castle gardens, which is said to have been created around 1890 by American Cornelia Adair and embellished by the last private owner, Henry McIlhenny, in the 1960s and 1970s.
Starting from the front of the castle, there are many exotic trees and shrubs, giving the gardens a sharp contrast to the surrounding landscape.
There is also a few prime locations where visitors can rest and take in all its beauty. The castle and garden book also provides an insight into everything that you will encounter during the trail.
- Time it takes: 1 hr
- Distance: 1Km (This is a looped walk)
- Difficulty level: Easy (flat gravel terrain)
- Where it starts: Front of castle
- Where it ends: Back around to front of the castle
4. Glen (Bridle) Path Walk
This is the longest walk in this guide and it’s also a natural extension of Lakeside walk. The newly restored Bridle path will take you through the Derryveagh Mountains with amazing views of the valley and surrounding mountains.
You will also spot old settlements and native woodland as you go along the route. Before the glen road was built, this route was incredibly rocky and wooded, making it impossible to explore.
This is a great walk for those looking to venture into unexplored territory, guaranteed to spot native fauna and flora and maybe even a leprechaun.
- Time it takes: 2 hours
- Distance: 8Km (Not a looped walk so walkers should arrange a drop off or collection)
- Difficulty level: Medium (Mostly flat gravel path that rises over the last 3km)
- Where it starts: Back of Glenveagh Castle (Grid Ref: C019208 )
- Where it ends: Arranged collection point
5. Lough Inshagh Walk
This pathway was once used to connect the castle to the village of Church Hill and is a fairly quiet route except for a few red deer grazing along the way.
The walk is also said to be one of the best for spotting Golden Eagles and Ravens due to the open landscape of bogs and granite mountains.
In the summer, you might even spot Meadow Pipits or Wheatear. The walk is a great to explore the eastern side of Glenveagh, an often overlooked area of the park. Near the end, you will find the birthplace of St Colmcille in Gartan and the Glebe Gallery.
- Time it takes: 1hr 30mins
- Distance: 7km (Not a looped walk so walkers must return to the Visitor Centre or arrange a pickup at the Lacknacoo car park at Gartan)
- Difficulty level: Exercise with caution (Stony dirt path but ends on tarred road)
- Where it starts: Starts near Loughveagh 0.5km from the Castle (Grid Ref: C 08215)
- Where it ends: Arranged collection point
6. The Viewpoint Trail
The shortest walk in the park, the viewpoint trail really lives up to its reputation because of the perfect vantage point for panoramic views of the castle, Lough Veagh and surrounding landscapes.
On the way down, you will enter into a wooded area and then back to the castle. The terrain is relatively flat expect for a few short distances that are steep so make sure that you have adequate footwear.
The route is signposted close to the garden gates so it’s easy. While it can take 35 mins, most explorers spend much longer, often distracted by the amazing views.
- Time it takes: 35 mins
- Distance: 1Km (This is a looped walk)
- Difficulty level: Exercise caution (Steep stony path at times)
- Where it starts: Path outside Garden gates of the castle(Grid Ref: C 019209)
- Where it ends: Back to the castle
Places to visit nearby after tackling some of the Glenveagh National Park walks
One of the beauties of the park is that it’s a stone’s throw from heaps of other things to do and places to visit.
From more hikes and walks to areas of immense natural beauty and historical signifince, here are several things to see after you’ve tried one of the Glenveagh National Park walks.
1. Ards Forest Park (21-minute drive away)
If variety is the spice of life, then Donegal’s Ards Forest Park honours that adage with ease. Sand dunes? Check. Woodlands? Check. Salt marshes? Check. Wildlife?
Part of a peninsula that juts out into Sheephaven Bay, its waterside position means that you can also throw in golden sandy beaches and rocky shoreline as further reasons to pay a visit.
2. Letterkenny Town
3. Mount Errigal (11-minute drive)
With its dramatic shape and pointed summit, the mighty Errigal Mountain near Gweedore is a sight to behold.
If you’re not wrecked from one of the longer Glenveagh National Park walks, the Mount Errigal hike is well worth doing.
4. Horn Head (32-minute drive away)
The often-missed Horn Head is a short spin from the park and it’s well worth visiting on a clear day (on a misty day the views will be covered).
There’s also lots of great restaurants in Dunfanaghy (Horn Head is a stones-throw from the town) that you can nip into for a feed.