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Glenveagh National Park: History, Walks + Map

Glenveagh National Park: History, Walks + Map

Many visit Glenveagh National Park with no real plan-of-action. The result? They often leave underwhelmed.

Which is a shame, as Glenveagh is one of the most impressive National Parks in Ireland (it’s also the second largest, covering nearly 170 square kilometres!).

The main attractions of the park are Glenveagh Castle, the history of the area and the many Glenveagh National Park walks, which we’ll cover below!

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:

1. Location

You’ll find the park in Letterkenny (yep, Letterkenny!). It’s a 25-minute drive from Gweedore, Dunfanaghy and Letterkenny Town.

2. Parking

There’s a nice big car park (here on Google Maps) at the entrance to the park which is open 24/7. There’s also toilets in the car park but I can’t (despite trying!) find info on when these are open.

3. Visitor centre

You’ll find the Glenveagh visitor centre in the car park. The centre is open from 09:15 – 17:30 7 days a week.

4. Walks

The Glenveagh National Park walks vary in both length and difficulty. The main trails are:

  1. The Lakeside Walk (easy, not a loop and takes 3.5km/40 mins)
  2. Derrylahan Nature Trail (moderate, 2km/45 mins looped trail)
  3. The Garden Trail (easy, 1km/1 hour looped trail)
  4. The Viewpoint Trail (tough, 1km/35 min looped trail
  5. Lough Inshagh Walk (tough, 7km/1.5 hour liner trail)
  6. Glen / Bridle Path Walk (moderate, liner 8km/2 hour trail)

5. The walkers bus

If you fancy a head-start, you can take the walkers bus (€3 for an adult) and get dropped off at either Lough Inshagh or the Glen Walk (info on trails below). It runs on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 from Visitor Centre.

6. Cycling

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.

7. Food and toilets

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. There are toilets in the visitor centre and the main car park.

About Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

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).

The Glenveagh National Park walks

Glenveagh National Park

Photos via Shutterstock

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

the lake walk

Map courtesy of Glenveagh National Park

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
  • Where it ends: Castle gardens

2. Derrylahan Nature Trail

Glenveagh National Park hike

Map courtesy of Glenveagh National Park

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!

  • 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

Glenveagh trail

Map courtesy of Glenveagh National Park

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.

  • 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

Glenveagh donegal

Map courtesy of Glenveagh National Park

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.

  • 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

Glenveagh National Park walks

Map courtesy of Glenveagh National Park

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.

  • 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

glenveagh park walks

Map courtesy of Glenveagh National Park

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

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

Marble Hill

Photo left: Gareth Wray. Others courtesy Failte Ireland

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

Mount Errigal

Photos via Shutterstock

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

Oyster Bar

Photos via the Oyster Bar on FB

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 National Park trails

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 I haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Can you drive around Glenveagh National Park?

If you are visiting the main section of the park, with the visitor centre and castle, you’ll need to park in the main car park and either walk or take the shuttle bus. You cannot drive further from the car park.

How much does it cost to go to Glenveagh National Park?

Entry to the park itself is free but do note that there are other charges if you want to visit the castle (€7) or take the shuttle bus (€3).

How long is the walk at Glenveagh National Park?

The Glenveagh National Park trails vary in length. The longest trail is the Glen / Bridle Path Walk and it takes 2 hours. The shortest is the Viewpoint Trail, which takes 35 minutes

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