A day spent exploring the magnificent Glenveagh National Park is one of the best things to do in Donegal.
However, many that visit do so without any real plan of action, and often end up wandering aimlessly around, rather than trying one of the Glenveagh National Park walks.
Don’t get me wrong, Glenveagh is a glorious spot for any kind of wandering, but knowing which trail you’re going to tackle in advance helps.
In the guide below, you’ll find a Glenveagh National Park map with each of the trails along with info on what to look out for along the way.
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Glenveagh National Park
So, a visit to the park needs a little bit of planning in advance, especially if you plan on tackling one of the Glenveagh National Park walks. Take 30 seconds to read the points below:
There’s a nice big car park at the entrance to the park which is open 24/7. There’s also toilets in the car park but we can’t (despite trying!) find info on when these are open.
3. Visitor centre
You’ll find the visitor centre in the car park. The centre is open from 09:15 – 17:15 7 days a week.
4. Walks / maps
The Glenveagh National Park walks are a fantastic way to see the park and there’s a trail to suit most fitness levels (see below). It’s very worthwhile spending a bit of time looking at the maps of the walks, which you’ll find below.
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 to explore on foot.
It’s the second biggest park in Ireland and it’s full of forests, pristine lakes, the Glenveagh waterfall, rugged mountains and the fairytale-like Glenveagh Castle.
There’s also plenty of wild animals such as red deer or if you’re lucky, the golden eagle (but sightings are reasonably rare).
6 stunning Glenveagh National Park walks
There are several Glenveagh National Park walks to choose from, and the vary greatly in length, so there’s something for most fitness levels.
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!
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 immerses you in nature and takes you to a remote area of Glenveagh that was once covered in Oak Forest and is now blooming with 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 outlined 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 were 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 of the Glenveagh walks 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 ramble along the route. Before the Glen Road was built, this route was incredibly rocky and wooded, making it tough to explore.
This is an excellent trail if you have a bit of time on your hands. The views are exceptional and it’s much quieter than some of the shorter walks.
- 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
- Where it ends: Arranged collection point
5. Lough Inshagh Walk
The Lough Inshagh Walk is one of the more popular Glenveagh walks. It follows a path that was once used to connect the castle to the village of Church Hill.
This is a stunning trail that’s generally pretty quiet and that’s often visited by red deer. The Lough Inshagh Walk gives you a good sense of the vastness of the park and the breath-taking scenery it boasts by the bucket-load.
Just keep in mind that it isn’t looped, so you either need to arrange a pickup at the Lacknacoo car park or make the return journey on foot.
- Time it takes: 1hr 30mins
- Distance: 7km (Not a looped walk)
- 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
Last is one of the shortest Glenveagh walks – the Viewpoint Trail. And it lives up to its name as it offers the perfect vantage point for panoramic views of Glenveagh Castle, Lough Veagh and the 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 stretches that are steep so make sure that you have adequate footwear.
The route is signposted close to the garden gates so it’s easy to follow. While it can take 35 mins, most walkers 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
Other things to do in Glenveagh National Park
Now that we have the Glenveagh National Park walks out of the way, it’s time to see what else the park has to offer.
Below, you’ll find a handful of other things to do in Glenveagh National Park, from tours and the castle to ice cream and coffee.
1. The castle
The fairytale-like Glenveagh Castle is a sight to behold. It’s one of the most impressive castles in Donegal and it’s finely perched on the shores of Lough Veagh.
The castle was built between 1867 – 1873 and you can admire it from the outside, first, before heading inside for a guided tour.
One of the more popular things to do in Glenveagh National Park is to rent a bike from Grass Routes Bike Hire. You’ll find them near the bus stop just after you enter the park.
You can rent a hybrid bike (€15) an e-bike (€20), a kids bike (€5) and a tandem bike (€25) for a 3 hour slot and head off on your merry way.
There’s several places to grab a bite-to-eat after you’ve completed one of the Glenveagh National Park walks.
There’s the tea rooms, the restaurant at the visitor centre and the coffee trailer at the castle.
Places to visit near Glenveagh National Park
One of the beauties of doing one of the Glenveagh walks is that, when you finish, you’re a short spin from many of Donegal’s top attractions.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the park.
1. Beaches galore
There’s some stunning beaches in Donegal and you’ll find many of the county’s finest 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.
2. Endless walks
So, there’s loads of walks in Donegal and many are a handy drive from the park. There’s 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).
3. Post walk food
If you fancy a bit of grub after tackling one of the Glenveagh walks, you’ve several options: there’s the various restaurants in Dunfanaghy (20-minute drive) or there’s heaps of restaurants in Letterkenny (25-minute drive).
FAQs about the Glenveagh walks
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Where can I get a Glenveagh National Park map?’ to ‘What’s parking like?’.
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.
What are the Glenveagh National Park walks like?
The Glenveagh National Park walks are exception and vary in distance and difficulty. They take you to the castles main points of interest and showcase the areas outstanding beauty.
Are there many things to do in Glenveagh National Park?
There’s the various Glenveagh walks (6 of them), countless viewpoints, the castle, Glenveagh waterfall and you can rent a bike and cycle around.
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…).