20 Things To Do In Letterkenny Town (And Nearby): History, Walks, Pubs + More

Things to Do in Letterkenny ireland
Photo left: By Gardiner Mitchell via Tourism Ireland. Photo right: By alexilena (Shutterstock).

If you’re in search of the best things to do in Letterkenny in Donegal, you’ve landed in the right place.

For those of you that haven’t visited Letterkenny (yet!) you’re in for a treat – it’s a great base for exploring the county and it’s near to many of the best places to visit in Donegal.

It’s the largest town in Donegal, situated at the south end of Lough Swilly and it’s surrounded by breathtaking scenery and packed with historic attractions.

In the guide below, you’ll discover what to do in Letterkenny (without leaving the town) and where to visit nearby (without having to drive to far).

Other related Letterkenny guides

Our favourite things to do in Letterkenny in Donegal

what to do in letterkenny
Photo by Ballygally View Images/shutterstock

Home to St Eunan’s Cathedral, the Arena Seven Entertainment Centre and the Aura Leisure Complex, Letterkenny Town is within easy reach of Donegal’s wild West Coast and the beautiful North Coast beaches.

It’s also a top choice for adventurers who can’t resist the opportunity to go karting, paint-balling and climbing.

After dark, Letterkenny becomes a vibrant well-populated hub for nightlife, restaurants and pubs. Now for some specifics…

1. Fuel up for the day ahead with coffee at Honeypot Coffee House

Honeypot Coffee House
Photos via Honeypot Coffee House on Facebook

As homely as its name suggests, the Honeypot Coffee House is a grand place to tuck into an Irish breakfast, eggs Benedict and tasty lunches from salads to burgers and pizza.

Opened by chef Dee Stanislav in 2016, it wasted no time in getting noticed earning a fistful of awards including Café of the Year and TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice 2020.

Located near St Eunan’s Cathedral, it’s a top spot for craft beer, wine and some more unusual cocktails including Passoa Fresh (Passoa, ginger ale and ice) or Mimosas (bubbly Prosecco with orange juice and strawberries).

If you’re wondering what to do in Letterkenny to kick-start your day with a bang, get yourself here first thing and make your belly happy.

2. Step back in time at Donegal County Museum

Street view of Donegal County Museum
Photo via Google Maps

Those in search of things to do in Letterkenny Town when it’s raining should take note of  Donegal County Museum – a fine place to whittle away a rainy day!

Appropriately located in a former workhouse (1845), the museum is packed with 8,000 fascinating artefacts recording the history and heritage of Donegal from prehistory to the present.

Displays include archaeological discoveries, pottery, artworks, photos, film archives and other items adding to the story of this historic county. The permanent displays are complemented by ever-changing temporary exhibitions.

For kids there’s an Activity Trail and Donegal Museum Detective. It’s just goes to show that history doesn’t have to be dusty and dull!

3. Get cultured at Glebe House and Gallery

Regency style Glebe House was once the home and studio of English painter Derek Hill, from 1954. Nearby Lough Gartan was an endless source of inspiration until he donated both the house and art collection to the Irish State in 1981.

Now we can all enjoy this stunning home with its beautiful antique furnishings, gardens, tea room and lough vistas.

Decorated with William Morris textiles, the house and gallery contain over 300 artworks by renowned international artists including Picasso and Kokoshka.

A visit here is one of the best things to do in Letterkenny for those any art and history lovers, and anyone who appreciates woodland gardens and beautiful scenery.  

4. Make your belly happy at the Lemon Tree Restaurant

the Lemon Tree Restaurant letterkenny town
Photos via the Lemon Tree Restaurant on Facebook

Fresh and zesty, the Lemon Tree Restaurant is a family-run gem in the heart of Letterkenny’s Courtyard Shopping Centre since 1999.

It’s the ideal stop for a hearty calorie boost when exploring the Wild Atlantic Way. This award-winning restaurant for “Best Emerging Irish Cuisine” is open from 5pm daily and is listed in the Michelin 2020 and McKennas Guides.

The three chef brothers serve a mouthwatering a la carte menu including venison with red wine sauce, fresh hake with roast parsnips, turkey and Donegal ham and a good selection of dishes featuring local mussels and scallops. Yum!

5. See one of the largest watermills in Ireland at Newmills Corn and Flax Mills

Corn and Flax Mills
Photo by the OPW

Time for a little history with a stop at the whitewashed Newmills Corn and Flax Mills just 5km from Letterkenny. It features one of the largest operating waterwheels in Ireland with a 1km-long millrace fed by the River Swilly.

Dating back over 400 years, the mill complex provides a fascinating insight into 19th century life during the Industrial Revolution.

Along with the flax mill serving the Irish linen industry, there is a corn mill. Later the complex opened a pub and a forge.

See the engine house with its belts and gears and explore the Exhibition Centre to learn more about Ulster’s industrial heritage.

6. Grab a post-adventure pint at McGinley’s Bar

McGinleys Bar
Photo via McGinleys Bar on Facebook

If you read our guide to the best pubs in Letterkenny, you’ll already know how fond we are of this Letterkenny Town institution. 

Being an adventurer can be thirsty work, so schedule a stop at McGinley’s Bar. It’s a really traditional well-run Irish pub (the way they used to be) with a buzzing atmosphere, friendly bar staff and good craic.

Downstairs is quiet and cosy while upstairs has a party atmosphere with live Irish music for a great night out with your mates.

If you’re in search of things to do in Letterkenny at night, nab a seat in the beer garden (there’s a double-decker bus kitchen!), grab one of the best pizzas in town and toast the day.

7. Kick back with a show at An Grianan Theatre

An Grianan Theatre
Photo via An Grianan Theatre on Facebook

Home to the prominent Earagail Arts Festival that draws a following across Co. Donegal, the An Grianan Theatre is the hub of the arts in Letterkenny.

It hosts events by local and visiting theatre companies providing a fantastic repertoire of performances in comedy, drama, live music and world-class productions.

Opened in 1999, the theatre has 383 seats and space for workshops and drama classes for wannabe stars. It lives up to its name (meaning “sunny place”) with a glass facade that floods the interior with natural light.

Check out the forthcoming performances and book yourself a great night of culture. This is another one for those of you wondering what to do in Letterkenny at night!

Things to Do in Letterkenny with Kids

things to do in letterkenny with kids
Photo via Lurgybrack Open Farm on Facebook

The next section of our guide tackles the different things to do in Letterkenny with Kids. Below, you’ll find a mix of chilled attractions and active adventures.

Later in the guide, you’ll find hikes, walks and scenic drives near Letterkenny Town that are well worth heading off on!

1. Spend a morning rambling around Tropical World

lemurs in Tropical World
Photo via Tropical World

Described as “Donegal’s hidden gem”, Tropical World is a fully licensed animal attraction for getting up close to wildlife in a climate-controlled environment.

Immerse yourself in a rainforest setting in the Butterfly House watching hundreds of bright butterflies hatching, flitting and feeding all around you.

This family-friendly attraction in Letterkenny has designated areas for viewing reptiles, marmosets, exotic birds and a pet area. Perfect for enjoying a day with your own “little monkeys”. 

2. …or a rainy afternoon legging it around Arena 7 Entertainment Complex

bowling in Arena 7 Entertainment letterkenny town
Photo via Arena 7 Entertainment Complex on Facebook

If you’re wondering what to do in Letterkenny Town with the kids when it’s lashing down, give this next place a go.

Anyone fancy a game of 10-pin bowling, air hockey, snooker or perhaps some of the most competitive video games? It’s all under one roof at the Arena 7 Entertainment Complex along with TVs, a coffee dock and fast food cafe.

Located on the Ballyraine Industrial Estate in Letterkenny, this complex has something for everyone including laser tag and karaoke. There’s even a bar for socialising. This is a great place to visit with family, mates and colleagues and really let your hair down!  

3. Take them around the track at Letterkenny Karting Centre

Letterkenny Karting Centre
Photo via Letterkenny Karting Centre on Facebook

If you’re in search of things to do in Letterkenny with a group of friends or with kids (this is an activity for the older ones!), Letterkenny Karting Centre should be right up your street.

There’s more competitive fun at the Letterkenny Karting Centre with up to 20 karts at a time lapping the 900-metre course – one of the largest in Ireland.

There are pacer karts for under 7s, full training and safety equipment. Book a 15, 20 or 30 minute practice session or sign up for the Grand Prix with a guaranteed minimum of 7 races, plus quarter, semi and finals.

4. …or to see the animals at Lurgybrack Open Farm

bird in Lurgybrack Open Farm
Photo via Lurgybrack Open Farm on Facebook

One of the newer things to do in Letterkenny is the Lurgybrack Open Farm – a petting farm and home to ducks, birds, rabbits, chipmunks, guinea pigs, goats and other furry friends.

While kids enjoy the indoor and outdoor play areas, bouncy castle, zipline and tyre slide, parents can head for the tea room and enjoy some tasty snacks and drinks.

Finish off the visit with a stroll along the riverside. With budget-busting family tickets, it’s the perfect day out. 

Things to Do near Letterkenny

Photos of the Glenveagh Castle and area
Photo left: By Benjamin B (shutterstock.com). Photo right: By Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

So, as you’ve hopefully gathered, there’s plenty of things to do in Letterkenny Town to keep you occupied until the cows come home.

Once you’ve explored Letterkenny Town till your heart’s content, it’s time to explore what surrounds this corner of Donegal.

Located in the heart of County Donegal, Letterkenny Town makes a great base for exploring the area. Whether you fancy exploring loughs and rugged coastline or the national park and Derryveagh Mountains, Letterkenny is less than an hour from everything!

1. Explore Glenveagh National Park

glenveagh castle
Photo by alexilena (Shutterstock)

Just 20 minutes from the bustle of Letterkenny Town, Glenveagh National Park is a spectacular area of natural beauty with signposted trails for hikers and mountain bikers.

Start your trip at the Visitor Centre which has a wildlife museum, cycle hire and cafe. Free to visit, there’s a lake, plenty of mountain scenery, impressive Glenveagh Castle, stunning walled gardens and more.

You might even spot some red deer (largest herd in Ireland) and golden eagles on your exploits so bring your camera!

2. Soak up the views at Grianan of Aileach

Grianan of Aileach donegal
Photo by Tom Archer via Tourism Ireland

Locate 250m above sea level in Inishowen, the ancient stone fort known as Grianán of Aileach is County Donegal’s best known ancient monument.

Dating back to 1700BC, it was pretty old when St Patrick visited in the 5th century. The round stone fort has three terraces and the remains of Iron/Bronze Age ramparts, said to be where the Giants of Inishowen are sleeping.

Restored in the 1870s, this amazing site has commanding views across the peninsula including Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly. 

3. Do the Inishowen 100 (drive or cycle)

inishowen scenic drive
Photos via Shutterstock

Whether you’re exploring on foot, on two wheels or four, the Inishowen 100 is an unforgettable route along a signposted scenic drive.

The journey packs in one highlight after another from Dunree Fort Military Museum, scenic Mamore Gap, Leenan Bay, the Blue Flag waters of Tullagh Bay and so much more.

Back on the road, pass the Tidy Town of Malin, Five Fingers Strand, Culdaff village and bay, Lough Foyle and the port at Greencastle before arriving back at Bridgend.

Few travelers complete it in 100 miles as there are too many tempting detours along the way! 

4. Head for a wander around Malin Head

malin head
Malin Head: Photo by Lukassek (Shutterstock)

Marking the start of the Wild Atlantic Way, Malin Head is a dramatic landscape where Luke Skywalker and the Jedi Masters have been known to trek (Star Wars movie location).

Rolling bracken-covered mountains and crashing Atlantic waters are all part of the allure along with pristine wildlife, birds and the occasional abandoned croft.

The headland is crowned by The Tower, built as a lookout against French invasion in 1805 and further along is Hell’s Hole, a subterranean tidal cavern. 

5. Take in the views at Mamore Gap

mamore gap in donegal
Photo via Failte Ireland

Spectacular Mamore Gap frames views of Lough Swilly, the Fanad peninsula and the North Inishowen Peninsula from its 250m-high elevation.

The Holy Well dedicated to St Eigne remains a place of local pilgrimage and a small alter of statues is the focal point of an annual Mass.

Check out the powers of the gravity hill nearby (cars in neutral appear to roll uphill) and drink in breathtaking views as you descend. 

6. Take a road trip to Derry

derry girls mural
Photo by Gardiner Mitchell via Tourism Ireland

You probably didn’t expect to see ‘Visit Derry’ in a guide to the best things to do in Letterkenny Town, but here we are.

Derry City is a stone’s throw (33-minute drive) from Letterkenny Town and it’s home to a clatter of places to explore. Find our more in our guide to the best things to do in Derry.

7. Explore Dunree Fort

drone photograph of Fort Dunree Military Museum
Photo via Fort Dunree Military Museum on Facebook

We couldn’t finish without recommending a walk around Dunree Fort. Spread across the peninsula, this “Fort of the Heather” has stunning views across Lough Swilly.

The heritage museum opened in 1986 to provide interesting information, especially for those with an interest in military history.

There’s also a film and displays explaining the role Fort Dunree played in coastal defence. We think you’ll agree it’s a worthy finale to our round-up of best things to do around Letterkenny. 

What to do in Letterkenny in Donegal: What have we missed?

I’m sure that we’ve unintentionally missed out on some brilliant things to do in Letterkenny Town. If you have a place to recommend, let us know in the comments section below.

Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.

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