Gweedore is one of our favourite towns in Donegal – this is an area of spectacular natural beauty that is brimming with things to see and do.
Tucked away in north-west County Donegal, the old ways have long been preserved and many residents speak Irish as part of everyday life.
A trip to Gweedore immerses you in culture as you take in the wild landscapes and welcoming villages.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from things to do in Gweedore to where to eat, sleep and drink while you’re there.
Some quick need-to-knows about Gweedore
Although a visit to Gweedore is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
The Gweedore area extends from the Atlantic coast in north-west County Donegal to the slopes of Mount Errigal, the county’s highest peak. It’s a 15-minute drive from Carrickfinn Beach, Donegal Airport and Dungloe and a 20-minute drive from Glenveagh National Park.
2. A Gaeltacht village
Gweedore is one of the largest Irish-speaking districts in the country. Irish is the predominant language spoken in schools, news outlets, advertisements, and religious ceremonies. In fact, people from across the country visit Gweedore to improve their Irish. Having said that, the vast majority of residents are bilingual and also speak English fluently.
3. A beautiful place to explore from
Gweedore has a bit of everything, making it a superb place to explore. Throughout the region, you’ll find cliff-top walks, golden beaches, mountains, bogs, loughs, rivers, and much more. Besides natural beauty, there are also several amazing villages to check out, while numerous museums and other attractions are dotted about the area.
Gweedore is a fascinating place to visit, a land with ties to the old customs and songs even today. The Irish language links Gweedore’s modern residents to millennia of history and tradition.
It’s one of the few places in which the oldest customs and most traditional songs, sports, and theatre are still practiced.
Village or town
Gweedore doesn’t actually refer to a single village. It’s more like a region that incorporates several smaller villages and parishes. Some of the most well-known are Bunbeg, Derrybeg, Crolly, and Dunlewey.
As a region, it’s one of the most densely populated rural areas in Europe, home to around 4,000 people.
Arts and Culture in Gweedore
Gweedore has produced some of Ireland’s best-known musicians, including Enya and Clannad. Traditional music can regularly be heard live in pubs and taverns throughout the area.
Meanwhile, theatre is also important, with the Aisteoirí Ghaoth Dobhair, or “actors of Gweedore” staging performances throughout the country. In terms of sports, the local Gaelic Games team is well worth checking out.
Things to do in Gweedore and nearby
There’s a handful of things to do in Gweedore and you’ll find many of the best things to do in Donegal a short spin away.
Below, you’ll find everything from hikes and walks to beautiful beaches, castles and much more.
1. Conquer Mount Errigal
Mount Errigal is County Donegal’s highest peak, standing at 751-metres. Erupting out of the surrounding boggy landscape, with its steep sides and pointed summit, it’s a textbook example of what a mountain should look like!
The hike to the top is pretty tough, with a lot of steep inclines and rocky trails, but it’s worth the effort. From the top, you can see for miles around, taking in the surrounding countryside and even the ocean.
The trailhead starts from a conveniently placed car park on the main road. From there, it’s a 4 km hike up and down, first through bogland, and then onto the slopes of the mighty Errigal itself (see our Donegal walks guide for more rambles).
2. Visit one of many mighty beaches
There’s some glorious beaches in Donegal Gweedore is ideally placed for sauntering along some of the best of them! Magheraclogher, or Bunbeg Beach, is one of the most well-known, famous for the shipwreck “Bád Eddie” which washed up in the seventies.
Port Arthur Beach is one of the best for a good stroll, stretching over a kilometre long and taking in sand dunes. Trá Dhearg, or Red Beach, is one of the best for swimming, with calm, sheltered waters and easy access from the road.
While it’s just 200 metres long, it’s normally pretty tranquil. The name comes from the type of coarse sand, which glows red at sunset.
3. Explore the Poisoned Glen
At the foot of Mount Errigal, you’ll find some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland. The Poisoned Glen, or An Gleann Neimhe in Irish, is an idyllic spot with natural wonders such as lovely loughs, cascading streams, sweeping valleys, all bordered by moody mountains.
Running beneath the Seven Sisters of Derryveagh, a mountain range that includes Muckish Mountain and Mount Errigal, wandering through the glen provides plenty of opportunities to scramble up the slopes.
Steeped in myth and folklore, it’s a fascinating place for nature lovers and curious travellers alike.
4. Take the kids to Errigal View Pet Zoo
Situated at An Chuirt Hotel, a visit to this petting zoo is one of the more popular things to do in Donegal for families. Sitting in the shadow of Mount Errigal, you’ll find a veritable menagerie of critters, including deer, wallabies, goats, donkeys, ponies, alpacas, llamas, emus, raccoons, and many more.
Kids can even feed their favourites! Besides the zoo, there are a number of indoor and outdoor playgrounds, a pitch and putt golf course, picnic areas, a bouncy castle, go-karts, and many other things to keep everyone happy.
For refreshments, you’ll find a cosy cafe serving up hot and cold drinks as well as snacks.
5. See the Old Church of Dunlewey
The Old Church of Dunlewey is a stunning monument that shines bright hundreds of years after it was built. Located in between the Poisoned Glen and the slopes of Mount Errigal, it’s surrounded by breathtaking beauty, a haunting setting for a now derelict church.
Built from locally mined white marble and blue quartzite, similar to the Taj Mahal, it’s a marvel to behold, especially when the sunshine hits it just right.
Despite its abandoned state, it still stands proud, with the tower reaching high and the former arched windows creating an amazing atmosphere.
6. Explore Glenveagh National Park
A haven for wildlife such as deer, badgers, and foxes, it’s ideal for nature lovers who can enjoy the many trails that crisscross the area.
Taking in some of the best scenery in Ireland, walkers of all abilities can enjoy, from the easy-going garden trail to the more laborious forest and waterfall walks.
7. Take a spin up to Horn Head
Horn Head is one of the many headlands jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. Known for its impressive cliff-top views that gaze out into the open ocean, it’s also a great place to catch a glimpse of wildlife and birds.
The drive up to the headland is superb, with winding roads and fantastic views at every turn. There’s a short car park, and from there you can take in the breath-taking surroundings (if you visit when there’s no fog/mist, that is!).
Looking back inland, you’ll see the landscape unfurl, revealing mountains, glens, and lakes. Once you’ve soaked up the views, there are some brilliant beaches and towns nearby so you can easily make an afternoon of it.
8. Explore Ards Forest Park
For those looking to explore a wilderness of marshland and forest, Ards Forest Park is a brilliant choice. Covering an area of 481-hectares of parkland, there are tons of trails to wander along, through a landscape dotted with ancient monuments and ruined ring forts.
Sand dunes and beaches blur into grassy meadows and bogs before ancient woodlands surround you on all sides. On top of the natural wonders, there are some fantastic facilities, with a cafe and well-maintained bathrooms.
Be sure to check out the amazing wooden carvings as you meander through secret woodland trails.
9. Step back in time at the Dunlewey Centre
This cosy farmstead is packed full of amazing stories and fables of the past. Join expert guides as they show you around the traditional smallholding, taking a glimpse at historic techniques for everything from sheep shearing to weaving.
In the craft shop, you can purchase some of the tweed products produced in the weaver’s cottage, home to the famous Manus Ferry. The Dunlewey Centre also offers up a wealth of exciting activities for kids and adults with energy to burn.
There’s a lovely riverside walk, boat tours of Dunlewey Lough, zorbing, rock climbing, zip-wires, kayaking, and much much more.
10. See the Bunbeg Wreck (Bád Eddie)
Bád Eddie, or Eddie’s Boat has become an iconic symbol of Gweedore. Used as the backdrop for countless music videos and photos, and the subject of many more poems and paintings, it’s well worth a look.
Originally built in France, the boat was bought by local fisherman Eddie Gillespie. Unfortunately, it washed ashore in the 1970s and has been there ever since.
You’ll find the remains on Bunbeg Beach, and while it has survived the rigours of the Atlantic Ocean for almost 50 years, the wreck is becoming ever-more dilapidated.
There are plans to preserve it as a permanent sea sculpture in the future before it’s lost forever.
Places to stay around Gweedore
There are some amazing places to rest your head in Gweedore. Here are some of the best.
1. An Chúirt, Gweedore Court Hotel
If you’re looking to pamper yourself in Gweedore, An Chúirt is the place to do it! This four-star is one of the more popular hotels in Donegal and it offers sublime comfort with numerous ensuite rooms and suites. The stylish decor retains a hint of local tradition, while all the mod-cons are catered to. There’s a stunning bar and restaurant on site, as well as a luxury spa and wellness centre.
2. Bunbeg House
The quaint fishing village of Bunbeg is a fantastic place to stay in Gweedore, and Bunbeg House is ideally located to make the most of your stay. Ferries to Tory and Gola Islands are a short walk away, as is the beach. Bunbeg House offers a range of comfy en suite rooms, many overlooking the harbour. They also do a mean breakfast, and the onsite bar and bistro is great for lunch, dinner, or an end-of-day pint.
3. Lóistín Teach Hiudai Beag
This is one of the best pubs in Gweedore, and their accommodation is also superb. They offer ensuite double and twin rooms with either a sea view or a garden view. The pub downstairs is ideal for live music and a pint. Each room is well sound-proofed, so even if you need to get an early night, the noise from the pub will not disturb you.
Pubs and Restaurants in Gweedore (and nearby)
Some of the most authentic Irish pubs can be found in Gweedore, offering up plenty of good craic and trad music sessions. With amazing ingredients on the doorstep, there are also some smashing places to eat in Gweedore. Here are our top picks.
1. Sean Óg Bar & Restaurant
This humble looking village pub does some seriously good food, with everything from mouth-watering steaks to seafood chowder and sumptuous fish pies. There are also pub classics like fish and chips, as well as some beautiful beers and wines. The cocktails are also really good, but it’s the atmosphere that makes Sean Óg stand out. Regular live music, friendly locals, and plenty of banter mean this place is a must.
2. Teach Hiudai Beag
A fantastic pub in the heart of Bunbeg, Teach Hiudai Beag doesn’t do food, but it does do a cracking pint of Guinness. Again, it’s all about the atmosphere, and you’ll struggle to find a more friendly welcome. More often than not, you’ll wander into a live trad session in full swing. Take a seat, grab a pint and enjoy!
3. Leo’s Tavern
Few pubs can legitimately boast the title of Gweedore’s most famous pub, but Leo’s Tavern has a pretty good claim. Opened by Leo Brennan and his wife Maire (Baba) in 1968, they sought to bring live music to the village. Several years later, the tavern introduced musical legends such as Enya, Clannad, and Moya Brennan to the world — all family members of Leo and Baba. Nowadays, the pub is a thriving hub of live music, great food, and an incredible atmosphere.
4. An Chúirt Hotel
You don’t have to be staying at the hotel to enjoy the fabulous dishes their restaurants produce. The Duck Restaurant is a top spot for fine dining, with a varied dinner menu focusing on local ingredients and hearty meals. Meanwhile, Fara Óg’s bar and bistro is a little more laid back, with a daytime menu featuring pizzas, burgers, and other bar snacks. Finally, PJD Lounge Bar boasts the perfect pint of Guinness, as well as delicious meals and breathtaking views.
5. Danny Minnie’s Country House
Crackling fireplaces, cosy furniture, and the aroma of sumptuous meals being prepared, what more could you ask for? Danny Minnie’s Country House offers up a stunning menu, complete with seafood, steaks, pastries, and delectable desserts. Local produce is at the forefront, with homegrown salads and veg, and Atlantic coast lobsters and crabs caught by family members. The result is sublime and a real treat for anyone staying in Gweedore.
FAQs about Gweedore
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is it worth stopping at?’ to ‘What is there to do?’.
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.
Is Gweedore worth visiting?
100%, yes! This is a gorgeous little village to explore from and you’ll find lovely trad bars, great places to eat and glorious scenery to soak up.
What are some good things to do in Gweedore?
Climb Mount Errigal, visit one of many mighty beaches, explore the Poisoned Glen, take the kids to Errigal View Pet Zoo and more (see guide above).
Andy was once on a glorious worldwide trip on his equally glorious motorcycle. After 4 years, he’d still only made it as far as Eastern Europe, before falling in love with his surroundings and deciding to settle down a while. Nowadays, he spends his time writing about traveling through the places he once explored, normally while sipping a pint.