The small, picturesque town of Ramelton in Donegal can be found on the western shores of Lough Swilly.
Thanks to its north west location, you’ll find plenty of rugged scenery around you to explore along with scenic drives, points of historical interest and lots more!
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from things to do in Ramelton to where to eat, sleep and drink while you’re there.
Some quick need-to-knows about Ramelton
Although a visit to Ramelton is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
2. A picturesque heritage town
This heritage town at the mouth of the River Lennon has 17th century origins. The name derives from the Irish “Ráth Mealtain”, which means “The fort of Mealtain” and it is in the area that was the homeland of the O’Donnells. In the 18th century, the town prospered, and many fine Georgian houses were built with some still there today.
3. A great base to explore from.
You’ll find beaches, national parks, museums, kid’s adventure worlds and more around Ramelton, which makes it a great base to explore from. Donegal has the longest mainland coastline of any county in Ireland, and you’ll be able to explore a great deal of this from Ramelton.
Archaeological evidence shows that the Ramelton area has been settled since the early Stone Age. Donegal’s ruling clan, the O’Donnells, were based in the area from the 12th century onwards and the Killydonnell Friary was built just above Lough Swilly in the early 16th century.
During the colonisation of Ulster in the early 17th century, the Scot William Stewart was granted 1,000 acres of the area and brought in Scottish families to live in the town.
Reverend Francis Makemie, who founded the first Presbyterian church in Virginia in the US, preached in the Old Meeting House in the village, which has since been restored and now contains a library and genealogical centre.
The town gained a name for the number of churches it had – eight at one point – earning it the name ‘The Holy City’.
Things to do in Ramelton and nearby
There’s a handful of things to do in Ramelton 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. Explore Glenveagh National Park (20 minutes away)
Glenveagh is one of Ireland’s six national parks and protected by EU and national law. It is set in approximately 16,000 hectares of land and its habitats include uplands, woodlands, peatland and amazing freshwater rivers and lakes.
Many of the plant species found in the park can only be found in Ireland’s north west and are very similar to what you find in western Scotland.
2. Or the often missed Ards Forest Park (35 minutes away)
The 480 hectare Ards Forest Park park includes a variety of habitats, such as dunes, beaches, salt marshes rock face and woodlands and rewards the visitor whatever the time of year.
Explore the sea via the Binngorm trail, the Salt Marsh Trail and the Sand Dune Trail, or why not “stitch together” a number of trails, so that you can take in the full circuit of the park (allow five to six hours for this).
The park is home to many species of animals ands birds, so if you visit in the colder months look out for winter visitors feeding on the salt marsh.
3. Step back in time at Donegal County Museum (15 minutes away)
Want to learn more about the history and heritage of County Donegal? Donegal County Museum is based in an old stone building that was once part of the Letterkenny Workhouse opened in 1845.
The first floor shows the story of Donegal from pre-historic times up until the 20th century, with temporary exhibitions held on the ground floor gallery throughout the year.
There’s also an events and education programme that runs year-round, taking in various themes and topics. The museum has been researching all those from Donegal who were involved in WW1 and has run events examining the part the county played in the events.
4. Soak up the views at Grianan of Aileach (35 minutes away)
Grianán of Aileach is one of the more unique landmarks in County Donegal. The stone fort sits on a hilltop 250 metres above sea level and its origins date to 1700 BCE.
The view from the top is breath-taking and, on a clear day, you’ll be able to soak up views of everywhere from Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly to a good chunk of the Inishowen Peninsula.
5. Get cultured at Glebe House and Gallery (7 minutes away)
Originally known as St Columb’s, it is a 1820s Regency-style house decorated with William Morris textiles, and filled with collections of Islamic and Japanese art, as well as 300 works by leading 20th-century artists such as Picasso and Kokoshka.
The gardens are open all year round, while the house opens in the summer months for visitors. The house and gardens are displayed informally, as if the artist was still in residence.
6. Conquer Mount Errigal (35 minutes away)
There are few walks in Donegal that can go toe-to-toe with the mighty Errigal Mountain near Gweedore. The views from its summit truly are a sight to behold and it’s well worth climbing if you are fit enough.
It is the tallest and steepest of Donegal’s Seven Sisters range, soaring to an impressive 2,464 ft and it can be seen for miles around. There are a number of different routes to take to reach the top, where you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the Derryveagh mountains and all of Donegal.
On a good clear day, you will be able to see all the way to the coast.
7. Takes the kids to Tropical World (7 minutes away)
There’s a great collection of bird species too—Lorikeets, Turacos and others from all over the globe serenading you through the exotic aviaries and the lemurs and miniature monkeys, along with racoons, meerkats and more.
Jurassic Land provides a glimpse into the world of the dinosaurs and don’t miss seeing Bug World, bugs, spiders, beetles and insects galore. The destination is 80 percent under cover, making it visitable all year round, and has an onsite café.
8. Beaches galore
There’s some stunning beaches in Donegal and, luckily enough, many are a short spin from Ramelton. Here’s a handful of our favourites along with some rough drive times:
- Downings Beach (30-minute drive)
- Marble Hill (30-minute drive)
- Killahoey Beach (35-minute drive)
- Tra Na Rossan (35-minute drive)
Places to stay in Ramelton
If you’re looking for places to stay in Ramelton, you’re not spoiled for choice. However, there’s some excellent accommodation in and around the town:
1. Oakwell Holiday Village
Want somewhere to unwind from hectic 21st century life? Oakwell Holiday Village offers shepherd’s cottages, bell tents, one of the most unique places to glamping in Donegal and more. Spend a night beneath the stars in a tent, complete with electricity, a woodburning stove and fairy lights or book into one of the huts for a unique weekend treat suited to couples.
2. Frewin Country House
This unaltered Victorian house is on the outskirts of Ramelton and set in a mature garden. It offers bed and breakfast accommodation. The deluxe double bedroom is a large ensuite room that overlooks the gardens and has a private sitting room/library that will make you feel like a proper Victorian.
Restaurants and pubs in Ramelton
There’s a handful of pubs and restaurants in Ramelton for those of you that fancy kicking back with a post-adventure pint and bite-to-eat. Here’s some suggestions:
1. Johnnys Ranch
Johnny’s Ranch is a popular food truck that parks up near the River Lennon and is available for takeaways Tuesday to Sundays. It’s known for its fish and chips and burgers – the fish expertly battered and served with plenty of chips, which brings the customers flocking and wins award, the YesChef Takeaway Finalist in 2022.
2. Steve’s Café
Steve’s Café is to be found at Bridge Street in the town and offers diners quality food served at very reasonable prices, with special marks for the breakfast on offer. It is open from 9am Mondays to Wednesdays, 9.30am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 12pm on a Sunday and offers takeaway.
3. Conways Bar
For proper craic, northern Irish style, Conways Bar is known for its atmosphere, friendly staff and pints of the black stuff. There is regular live entertainment, and it is open most nights until 11.30pm. In the colder months, gather around the log fire for proper cosiness, Irish style, and in summer, sit out in the beer garden.
4. Bridge Bar Restaurant
The Bridge Bar’s pretty exterior is matched by its elegantly plated dishes inside. There’s seafood, fish and game to choose from, including a bone marrow starter, fish and smoked mackerel pate. Reasonably priced and with a decent wine list, customers rave about the place with many people returning there time and again.
Situated at the corner of Castle Street and Back Lane, this pretty green and white exterior pub is known for its old Hollywood paraphernalia décor making it a quirky place to visit and get your Instagram-worthy pics. The name O’Shaughnessy’s derives from the 10th century Seachnasach mac Donnchadh, members of the Ui Fiachrach Aidhne clan.
FAQs about Ramelton in Donegal
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is it worth visiting?’ to ‘What is there to see nearby?’.
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.
Are there many things to do in Ramelton?
No. However, the big draw of this place is that it makes a great base to explore from. There’s also some great pubs and restaurants in the town if you’re passing.
What is there to do near Ramelton?
There’s everything from Portsalon Beach and Grianán of Aileach to the Inishowen Peninsula, Glenveagh National Park and much, much more (see above).
Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.